Year of the Toad

Mark Spitzer

Since our national debut last year, the Toad has been on fire! Those two oddly juxtaposed words on our cover pulled people in like an electro-magnet at the AWP Bookfair in D.C. And since no one walked past our promo sector without a chuckle, we provided a shot in the arm for morale. After that, it was our local launchapalooza off Toad Suck Square in downtown metro Conway, with t-shirts, live music, and pe rformances by contributors. Then came the Arkansas Literary Fest, where our panel performance of Ferlinghetti’s mocudrama blew the socks off Little Rock. This was followed by two bandfest fundraisers (Toadzilla in spring & Profzilla in the fall) at our friendly neighborhood watering hole. So we’re making good on our pledge to not just publish “the most cutting-edge works in the Universe,” but to also be a major player in building an action-packed literary culture in Central Arkansas (and beyond).

Distributionwise, we’re on Amazon, in Barnes & Nobles, still trucking with SPD, and stocked in independent bookstores across the country. We’re bigger than before, and shinier too. Subscriptions are up, and the rave reviews keep trumpeting the fact that we are Visionary Innovators of a Unique Arts Spectacle!

Meanwhile, the highly agreeable John Vanderslice has stepped up to bat as Associate Ed and our Design Guru Rex Rose has migrated to Webmastery. As for layout, I’m doing that for the time being, while overseeing the project in general.

So “Obey the Toad” (or don’t)—as our front cover suggests in its homage to Futurama’s Hypnotoad à la Shepard Fairey. And speaking of America’s most celebrated polemical graphic artist/free-ranging guerilla muralist, that’s what our back cover is all about, straight from the streets of Pittsburgh. Since we figure it’s only appropriate for provocative images to frame provocative works (provocative in the sense that they provoke the imagination), you’ll find plenty of provocation in this issue. Ie., the anti-illustrious Charles Bukowski, the revolutionary and polemical Amiri Baraka, the spontaneously combustible Anne Waldman, and the historically phantasmagoric Louis-Ferdinand Céline, mad doctor and Bane of France!

Note, however, our supporting cast of luminescent literatos! Like the Dirty Poet, dazzling our lung-ways; the cripplingly brilliant Kate LaDew; the whimsically sharp Mike Topp; the comicly keen Nat Hardy; the complex & acute Brenda Mann Hammack; the syllabically savvy Tim Dardis; the modernly Romantic Patrick Hicks; and master craftsman of pigular poetics Craig Paulenich. We are proud of this avant-garde pack of high-octane poets injecting American verse with a healthy dose of Tabasco sauce!

Prosewize, Karen Lillis has it going on with her portrait of the world’s most infamous bookstore. Kirby Olson, on the other hand, illuminates as he masticates, dining with Mike Topp—while Roy Trask scintilates, a diamond-dust rooster tail dissipating in his wake. And as Angie Spoto osseointegrates, and as Juned Subhan fictionates, and as Dan Chaon resonates, the Toad Transcends!

We also have two brand new sections. The first is called “Translatio,” starring Andrew Hill, traducer extraordinaire, along with the villainous Vincent Cellucci interpreting the Bengali poems of Debangana Banerjee. Karen Bennett is also here, translating João Cerqueira’s Castroific tragedy from the Portuguese. Without question, this highly multi-cultural bunch (avec the Rumanian film critic Ileana Ioana) elevates this review to an International Forum of Phosphorescent Philology!

Our second new section is entitled “Eco-Edge,” where we’re glad to serve up Alan Britt’s salute to New World Dementia, B. Frank’s Derridian screed on “motor-heads,” Court Merrigan’s snapshot of a civilization in decline, M.Benedict’s magical realism odyssey, and Katie Fallon’s ceruleomorphizing of wanton warblers (from her new book reviewed by our own Francie Bolter)!

As for Critical Intel, we have an essay by Richard Kostelanetz which we expect to trigger some reactions (so send us a diatribe for our larval letters section, if ye dare). And once again, C. Prozac gives it to us straight, no B.S. whatsoever—just like Kelvin Krill!

After that, we hone our spotlight on Arkansas talent, starting with Conor Woody, who we declare to be “the Rimbaud of the Ozarks.” Thomas Cochran is also present, utilizing a postmod cut-up technique straight from the great god Dada as Gary McCullough flexes the arc of Realism like Vladamir Putin bending a frying pan with his bare hands.

Add to this Frank Thurmond, grounding us in scholarship with a Southern pinch of good old fashioned history. Then here comes Terry Wright with his hybrid poetics “graphed” from diverse and unlikely texts.

But wait! We also have some red-hot news to announce: Our progressive new MFA in creative writing will be launched in Fall 2012 at UCA, so we’re looking for a few good grads to become pioneers of the Arkansas Writers Workshop! This will be a highly specialized studio program (designed by writers for writers) with an emphasis on publishing and pedagogy. Meaning all our graduates will be trained for careers in editing and teaching. Plus, assistantships are available and we’re eager to offer a Design Editor internship for this very journal. So if you’ve got that special Toad Suck Spark, check out our ad in the back of this issue and apply pronto—because the Toad wants you!

And independent bookstores, please know we want to partner with you by offering some crazy-ass discount deals. Just write us for more information.Note, however, that we’re running in the red—which is why we’re ready to sell out by offering space for advertising (half-page $50, full page $100). Or if you’re looking for a tax write-off, we could definitely use some underwriters.

That said, onward with #2 and 2012—aka the Year of the Toad!

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