Theme - Objet Trouvé--'The found object'

Reviewed by Alison Littlewood

Sein Und Werden is an A5 photocopied magazine with black and white illustrations. It looked as though there may have been a little trouble with the trimming of the publication, as it seemed a bit chewed down the edge of my copy. However, after a first flick through, I soon became engrossed and couldn't stop reading this collection of experimental writing.

First, to the fiction. The Things You Find By The River by Richard Strachan is a beautifully written story, full of vivid description, that touches on themes of trust and acceptance. The main character has the choice of opening her mind to the mysteries of the world and going with the flow or questioning and railing against it. Whichever course she chooses, she appears to find what she deserves.

Jesus Was a Salvation Eater by Jessica Daigle Vidrine is another strong story, this time touching on the nature of belief--the things we put our faith in, and why. There is a sense of human powerlessness and desperation here, albeit that is crying out to be something otherwise. Some light relief is offered by The Road To Damascus, Steve Redwood's highly entertaining account of what might await a human time traveller, stumbling headlong into the future.

Dissonance by Peter Tennant contained one or two images I could have done without being put in my head, but is without a doubt the most powerful piece in the collection. It is full of the fragments of a decaying civilisation that are redolent of creation myth, of godhead, of the need for belief, for sex, for birth and continuance that is thwarted and gone bad. Terrific stuff--this is all at once exciting, forceful, unflinchingly honest, and completely, utterly mad.

There were other stories I didn't get at all, although in this type of publication I felt it must be better to either love or hate a piece than to feel indifferent. One such was City of Rotting Street Lights by John Allen, which failed to really engage. Keeping Angels, the first of a four parter by Cameron Pierce, was all a bit too surreal for me and I couldn't quite manage to care about what happens.

Mark Howard Jones' Token Blonde didn't quite come off; the alien presence was introduced too late for it to be other than jarring, almost unintentionally comic. It had quite a good ending, but it's a pity the rest of the story was a little uneven.

I rarely enjoy really short fiction, but here at last in Sein Und Werden is the piece to change my mind. The Iris by Christopher Morris was my favourite story in the magazine. A man loses his wife and child, only to find new life springing up in the place of their death in the form of an iris. What becomes of it I shall leave for you to discover; suffice it to say, this piece has a neat ending and a killer last line. And all in under 500 words. Yes, I counted.

I also enjoyed a second short piece, The Flayed God Under the Supermarket. This thoughtful story by Brian Collier is full of images of ancient sacrifice and blood ties to the land, hiding beneath the banality of a grocery store.

When poetry rears its head I usually mutter something about not being fit to judge that sort of thing, but found the vivid imagery, startling turns of phrase and sheer joy in word play in Sein Und Werden a real pleasure to read.

Your Pain Sculpture by Juliet Cook is an intense exploration of emotion where pain takes on physical form, complete with hooks and knives. Cucumin Melo by Jim Benz seemed all a bit too random in places, yet it had some really memorable lines. It is summed up by the lines "images/play/for me, the painter." The stanzas are interspersed with almost indecipherable computer speak, such as "memory dump of mapped file". The meaning seems to be deliberately elusive, but the poem holds the interest well enough to make you keep on looking for it.

When the Light Slowly Spreads on the Sea is a thoroughly beautiful poem by Guiseppe Agosta. Reading this made me slow my pace, and at the risk of sounding like a hippy, to feel the peace. I love the title--it was one of the things that made me volunteer to review the magazine in the first place. The last stanza wasn't perhaps as strong as the rest, but all the same, you know a poem works when it demands a moment of reflection, preventing you from moving straight on to something else.

To sum up: the content in Sein Und Werden is terrific. This is a magazine that definitely has guts, and isn't afraid to put them on display. The production quality, though, has a little catching up to do.

Sein Und Werden edited by Rachel Kendall and Spyros Heniadis. A5, 60pp, £3.50/$6.50 or £14/$26 for 4 issues (for postal addresses in UK and US, and for payment options see website).

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