A salon can be defined as a reception room, a space for grooming, or a gathering of individuals interested in art and ideas. As I join sx salon, I offer here a purpose statement of sorts for the sx creative space. A purpose statement outlines a project’s goals, their significance and implications, and how you hope to achieve them. It is, then, part aspiration and part practicality. I hope this note does all of this, while also conveying my excitement about being the new creative editor for sx salon, the innovative online literary platform of the Small Axe Project, which also produces Small Axe, one of the premiere journals of Caribbean studies.
First, I would like to acknowledge the hard work and enthusiasm of Andrea Shaw, sx salon’s first creative editor, and thank sx salon founder and editor Kelly Baker Josephs for inviting me to join a team of bright, forward-thinking individuals who frequently refer to themselves as either a community or a family or both.
There are many excellent venues for creative writing from and about the Caribbean: online journals such as Anthurium and Moko: Caribbean Arts and Letters; print journals such as Callaloo, The Caribbean Writer, and Sargasso; and non-Caribbean-specific journals that publish a good deal of Caribbean content, such as Wasifiri, Aster(ix), and SABLE LitMag. With so many great existing publications, I was inspired to use the sx salon platform to showcase a particular type of Caribbean literature, specifically, Caribbean digital literature.
And what might Caribbean digital literature be? I hope we will discover that together, but it could be described as literature for which a digital or electronic component or aspect is integral to both the structure and the meaning of the piece. In a useful blog post, scholar Leonardo Flores defines e-poetry as “a poetic practice made possible by digital media and technologies.”1 More specifically, digital literature (also known as electronic literature, or e-literature) can include literature that incorporates audio, video, or hypertext (text with embedded internet links); kinetic text (text that moves on the screen); or literature that includes electronic slides or images. Digital literature might be created by or in collaboration with people who are computer programmers, but it can also be created with easily accessible applications such as Microsoft Word, Prezi, Power Point, and GarageBand or with any number of other standard or open-access applications.
Digital literature can be found online at the Electronic Poetry Center, “a central gateway to resources in electronic poetry and poetics”;2 at the PennSound audio archive; and at a number of other sites that feature digital fiction or poetry.3 However, these spaces rarely include work that reflects Caribbean aesthetics or experience—with the notable exception of work by Kamau Brathwaite, who for more than two decades has used his “Sycorax video style” to incorporate different fonts and text styles into a poetry that engages the eyes as well as the mind and the ear. Indeed, digital literature in, of, from, or about the Caribbean is certainly related to digital literature of and from other places, but Caribbean work traces additional lineages. Caribbean digital literature is a natural extension of the innovative work of Caribbean writers such as Brathwaite, Franketienne, and M. NourbeSe Philip (all of whose work has been discussed in sx salon), particularly their explorations of font manipulation and white space to represent Caribbean language and experience. The works of Aimé Césaire, Wilson Harris, Severo Sarduy, and Édouard Glissant can also be considered precursors of Caribbean digital literature because of the ways they encourage us to see the world differently and help us to realize the seamless disjunctures of the Caribbean experience.
This purpose statement is an encouragement for and a provocation to Caribbean writers to experiment with hyperlinks, animation, and so on, with a purpose not to embellish or to illustrate the text but to make the digital an integral part of the literature, inseparable from it. In other words, I seek to share literature that not only incorporates digital elements but does so with a profound or innovative intent, as any great literature does. sx salon will provide a space for this work to live and will provide readers for it. I hope that sx salon will showcase those already creating great Caribbean digital literature, but I also look forward to including writers who might be trying out hypertext fiction, kinetic poetry, or other digital literature for the first time. And as we publish digital work alongside more traditional fiction and poetry, sx salon will continue its commitment to publishing accomplished authors alongside “emerging” ones.
Digital literature is not without its drawbacks. Depending on the piece, it may require more bandwidth than is available to some readers. In addition, Caribbean digital literature is likely not printable in a way that is true to the intended reading experience. Furthermore, the texts may not be narrative in a traditional way. All of these traits may make Caribbean digital literature less accessible than more traditional 2D, narrative texts. But neither sx salon nor Small Axe has been content to always be safe; our readers will find here both traditional and digital literature that pushes boundaries. I hope sx salon readers will accompany us on this journey and will enjoy the ride. Welcome to the gathering.
Rosamond S. King’s poetry is collected in Rock | Salt | Stone (2017) and appears in over two dozen journals and anthologies. A creative and critical writer and performer, King is also the author of the award-winning book Island Bodies: Transgressive Sexualities in the Caribbean Imagination (2014). With this issue, she joins the Small Axe Project as creative editor of sx salon.
1 Leonardo Flores, “What Is E-Poetry?,” I ♥ E-Poetry, 1 April 2015, iloveepoetry.com/?p=11968.
2 “About the EPC,” Electronic Poetry Center, epc.buffalo.edu/about (accessed 3 March 2017).