Oct 10 2015

(Last) Letter from the editor 2015

Greetings wonderful reader,

First of all I would like to say that after 10 years of presiding over this wondrous journal of art and letters I am resigning. It’s not that I don’t love the editing process, I actually do. For reals: I edited my undergrad lit journal, The Atlantis, and my grad school journal, The Cold Mountain Review. Then when I moved out to California in 2000, I began editing the Homestead Review out of Hartnell College in Salinas, where I accepted a position on their faculty.

Then Magnus Torén asked me if I’d like to take on Ping-Pong, a small scholarly publication that had been dormant for 10 years. I said no for at least a year or two, then I finally said I’d do it, but would change the format to be an international journal of art, poetry, fiction and lots of translations–if some like minded folks would sign up with me, and they did. The original crew consisted of Dan Linehan as managing editor; Jerrold Simon, as creative director; James Maughn as poetry editor; and Jessica Breheny as fiction editor. I would be jack-of-all-trades and oversee everything as the EIC. It’s a lot of work. Everyone from the original crew retired early on to work on their own writing and have since published incredible books. What all writers know and what almost no one else does is just how much time it takes to produce a work worth publishing. It’s not the writing, we all write, it’s the time it takes to edit something you’d be proud enough to share in a cohesive collection, at least for me. I am now carving out a bit of that time for myself.

I am quite proud of the work I have done in support of other artists. My heroes have always been those artists who have supported other artists: Anaïs Nin, Jean Genet, Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, even that crazy fuck Ezra Pound: we are not as large a community as one might think.

And I have not given up the desire to publish those whose voices need to be heard. With the launch of Ping-Pong Free Press in 2016, the Henry Miller Memorial Library will begin to publish full-length manuscripts, and I will serve as Editor-in-Chief of this enterprise. I think it will afford me a bit more time to work on my own writing. I am not in a hurry. It’s only that I have so many of my own pretties that need my attention.

I would like to thank all of the writers we’ve published over the years, and also the editors who have made this publication one of the best ever produced: Christine Hamm, River Atwood Tabor, Jennifer Lagier-Fellguth, Joanna Fuhrman, Shelley Marlow, Buffy Hastings, J. Hope Stein, Jenny Donegan, Katherine Hargreaves and Brooke Hankins. You are all super talented and generous to everyone you meet. It’s been a rare privilege to work with you.

I have included their work in an Editor’s Folio here. Enjoy!

Hot frogs,

Maria Garcia Teutsch

To purchase please go here: Ping-Pong 2015


Jan 22 2015

Cheyanne Gustason wrote a wonderful review of Ping-Pong 2014 for this issue of NewPages. This issue of Ping-Pong focused on Free speech as we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the free speech trial of Henry Miller’s book, Tropic of Cancer.




Review by Cheyanne Gustason

If you have ever visited the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur, California, you likely noticed a ping-pong table. This table, nestled amidst towering redwood trees, brings the library’s many visitors together in a single place, with a single purpose: ping-pong. It is appropriate, then, that the Library’s literary journal, Ping•Pong, unites a wide array of voices and works in a single volume, and to common purpose.

The 2014 issue of Ping•Pong centers on topics of freedom and censorship, themes central to the life and legacy of Henry Miller himself. Editor-in-Chief Maria Garcia Teutsch begins her opening letter with the statement, “speech is not free, someone has paid the tab for you.” (iii) While the journal contains a variety of poems, artwork, short stories, and more, there runs throughout its pages an appreciation of those who paid the tab and paved the way.

Some of this appreciation is obvious, like the discussion and inclusion of works by Russian poets including Anna Akhmatova and Vladimir Mayakovsky, who were mercilessly persecuted in early 20th century Russia. Works by these two, and some of their peers, have been translated into English included in this issue of Ping•Pong. These pieces, surrounded by modern works, raise questions about the nature of censorship and its cost, to both individuals and society. Many of the translated Russian pieces have a surreal slant, which makes it all the more biting when they depict cruelties and violent ironies that are all too real. In an excerpt from “Wild Honey Is a Smell of Freedom,” Akhmatova writes “Wild honey has a scent – of freedom [. . .] But we have learned that// blood smells only of blood.” (100) Written in Leningrad in 1934, one can hear the echoes of revolution, of strong spirits and stronger institutions, and the realities of censorship and the importance of the creative voice are made all the more resoundingly clear.

The issue is not all heavy-handed. Quite the contrary. There are many pieces that are not only thought-provoking, but artfully elicit smiles and laughter, both bitter and mirthful, as well. Yet even these lighter pieces explore themes of censorship and material that might be condemned if not for our forefathers of free speech. Jeanine Deibel’s poem “A-Team: Swinging the Lead” is a delightful trip through the possibilities of alliteration. Some favorite lines: “My power animal is an antelope/ I worship Angus idols/I curse in my alphabet soup.” (36) Even this- to curse in alphabet soup, is that not a subversion of a comfortable classic? Is such subversion necessary, imperative, even just plausible, to bolster artistic freedom? Throughout Ping•Pong, even moments of levity harbor serious and thought-provoking undercurrents.

Resting at the end of the issue is an interview with poet Alice Notley. It is a fitting finale, as Notley discusses many themes pertinent to the other works and the issue in general. She mentions her work with Allen Ginsberg, who was no stranger to issues of censorship and artistic freedom. She discusses her process, sharing her work (or not), and differences between France, the United States, and Germany in both language and acceptance. At one point she claims, “Sometime [sic] I suspect the French of not liking poetry at all.” (196)

Ping•Pong is host to many styles of writing and expression, and a wide array of authors, which makes it a dynamic petri dish of creativity (and a lot of fun to read). Some pieces brought tears to my eyes (I won’t say which, you’ll have to guess). Others had me shaking my head, or my fist, at either the content, or the way it would once have been (or still might be) suppressed. There is humanity, beauty, heartbreak, and elation, as well as (sometimes disturbing) profanity, sexuality, and violence; and all have a voice in the poems and fiction seen here. The art included in this issue is also intriguing and thought provoking, fitting nicely with the themes and emotions displayed in the written pieces. In fact, I would look forward to seeing a bit more visual art included in Ping•Pong’s next issue.

Appropriately, this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that made Henry Miller’s classic Tropic of Cancer legal to read and sell in the United States. While Miller’s persecution may not have equaled that of writers like Ahkmatova and Mayakovsky, it is also not so long ago that Miller’s work was verboten in our “land of the free.” Ping•Pong, much like the library that publishes it, perpetuates the legacy of Henry Miller’s work, which includes the freedom of all writers and artists to be seen and heard. This edition of the journal explores and expands on these themes, making it not only an enjoyable read, but an important one as well.

Originally published on NewPages here.

Henry Miller Memorial Library blog here.

Author Bio:

Cheyanne Gustason is a writer and artist living in Los Angeles, California. She has written for Backstage Magazine and is currently working on her first children’s book. She has Bachelor of Arts degrees in Film & Media Studies and History, and recently earned a Juris Doctor.

Oct 30 2014

Dear Reader,

Let me begin with a meditation: speech is not free, someone has paid the tab for you. This year we mark the 50th anniversary of the 1964 overturning by the Supreme Court of an earlier ruling which found the Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller to be obscene. Henry says:

It may be that we are doomed, that there is no hope for us, any of us, but if that is so then let us set up a last agonizing, bloodcurdling howl, a screech of defiance, a war whoop! (Tropic of Cancer)

In 1957, Allen Ginsberg’s, Howl would triumph over the censors in yet another landmark case for free speech. Our world is again in a period of censorship, from perhaps the most absurd act being a push to do a kind of color coding of college books in an effort to be “sensitive,” to the more pervasive evil of state censorship. I say, fuck all that. Read More >

Jan 11 2014

Dear Reader,
Once again you’re doing that thing that’s most important, reading this literary journal. Some smart people say that print journals are a thing of the past, but I say–as I listen to a blue vinyl Radiohead album–not so mon frère. Those of us who love paper, who love words, who love the crack of a spine will always reach for a book. Not to disparage all the multimedia at our fingertips. I have a teenage son, I know what’s up with all that stuff, and I love being able to slip a tiny electronic device into my carry-on when I’m flying all over this blue marble. Sometimes all I need is to read a poem by someone whose voice I need to hear that day on that island or on that train. Read More >

Jan 10 2014

Dear Reader,

Thank you for picking up this magazine. Inside you will find a world of wonders. If you are like most people you will flick through and look at the art first. We are proud to feature gallery prints from iconic photographer Kim Weston. The art editor and I met Kim a few years ago at the Henry Miller Library over dinner, and have been trying to get his beautiful photographs in our magazine ever since. It is thanks to the dogged tenacity of River Tabor that we are able to feature work by an astounding member of the Weston dynasty. Read More >

Jan 9 2014

Dear Reader,

If you are reading this you are already doing the thing most desperately needed by artists: supporting them. At the Henry Miller Memorial library we are dedicated to supporting free speech, enhancing our global dialogue through the arts, and maintaining a space where redwoods can continue to suck water from the air and live. Read More >

Jan 8 2014

Dear Reader,

This issue marks our fourth offering of Ping-Pong. It is as singular as those in years’ past. We remain committed to publishing the best of what’s out there while maintaining our artistic bent. We publish those works embodying the spirit of Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller. We are also honoring the legacy of the Henry Miller Memorial Library which has as its raison d’etre a commitment to artists way out on the cliff’s edge. Read More >

Jan 7 2014

Dear Reader,

I am finally, in 2009, full of that dopiest of emotions: hope.  That is not to say that the artists contained herein are offering you hope, though there is always something to hope for even when one finds oneself at the bottom of a steep, sheer-faced climb.  The honesty of these offerings creates a sense of something beautiful one can recognize, even if it’s the prism of an oil slick reflecting off a sea-tossed stone. Read More >

Jan 6 2014

Dear Reader,

I was thinking about the amazing artists in this issue and what it says about the culture we live in right at this moment. This year we have letters written from Sudan by Brandi Walker. She has devoted her life to creating programs to eliminate gender-based violence as a tool of war in conflict areas by empowering the female victims to create their own frameworks for rebuilding their lives and their countries. In order to eliminate violence against women we also have to recreate the gender norms that perpetuate it in every country. This summer she heads to Panzi Hospital to work with Dr. Mukwege in the Congo. Read More >

Jan 5 2014

Ping-Pong Magazine, Henry Miller Library, Big Sur, California
Dear Reader,

I am writing at the end of an amazing year. What you are holding in your hands is the culmination of an idea which began in a little cabin next to the Pacific where Henry Miller’s best friend, Emil White, decided Henry’s work was worth a memorial.

Henry Miller wrote volumes and volumes of letters, some of which are archived at the library. He was, if nothing else, prolific. This got me thinking about writers and writing. Why do we do it? Who will see it? Does it matter? Anais Nin’s unexpurgated diaries were published posthumously, as well as most of Emily Dickinson’s poems. A writer, it seems to me, is an artist who will write whether anyone ever sees it or not: this is secondary to the form. Some writers are published in spite of themselves, by people who believe that what they have to say needs to be heard. Others struggle for years to get their work into the public eye, only to be shut out by mainstream publishers who are becoming more and more homogeneous. Read More >