April 11, 2008

A Racine poetry magazine to read in The Bathroom

Cover illustration by Sonya Ferdinand

Samir Husni, the academic world's "Dr. Magazine," who keeps track of this sort of thing, recently reported the birth of 715 magazines during the past year.

Well, now there are 716. Welcome, please, The Bathroom ("A Good Place to Read"), a new poetry magazine published by Racinian Nicholas Michael Ravnikar.

A couple of caveats up front: This is not the poetry of Robert Frost. Nor is it a magazine like, say, George Plimpton's Paris Review, that you actually could carry into the bathroom.

This is the '00s, after all: we're already well into Web 2.0 and the paradigm has shifted. Still, The Bathroom has all the attributes you'd expect in a poetry magazine these days: free verse, (what, rhyme is a dirty word?), no payment for contributors, no ads. There's no actual physical magazine either: The Bathroom is an internet-only publication, so unless you carry your laptop everywhere, or print out its 13-page .pdf, you'll have to read it elsewhere.

Its editor is a 2006 UW-Parkside grad now in his final online semester for a MFA in creative writing at Naropa University's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics (that's its real name according to Wikipedia, which lists Naropa U. as "a private, liberal arts university in Boulder, Colorado, founded in 1974, one of the few major accredited Buddhist-inspired universities in North America." Go to Wiki yourself to learn how Kerouac got his name on the door.) Ravnikar writes in the first issue of The Bathroom:
"The Bathroom is edited by Nicholas Michael Ravnikar from the comfort of his apartment/office in Racine, WI.... It should be safe to say that The Bathroom will be the last incarnation of Ravnikar’s troublesome aspirations to publish writing that amuses him.

"Frequency of The Bathroom will depend on the volume and urgency of submissions I receive. It will take me a long time to get back to you unless (a) I communicate with you on a regular basis, (b) you harass me via email, or (c) you’re one of them famous poet-types and I really want to get on your good side."
Judging by the contents of this first issue of his e-magazine --a dozen poems (none from my era of Poetry Appreciation 101) -- this editor and I amuse ourselves differently. Still, I was young once and was as upset by incestuous platonics as contributor David Arenas is in his poem, "PLUST."

And what can one add to this verse from Adam Coben's, "ARTAUD’S DUMMY":

Note also the format: I asked Ravnikar why the poems looked as though they were pecked out on an old Royal, after a night of drinking, and he said: "I wanted the magazine to pay homage to the old mimeo press magazines of the '60s and '70s, and the off-centered typeface was definitely part of that. Most of the writers I really admire came out of that culture of mimeo mags, and I really think that the blog or Web 2.0 or Open Source revolution thing that's happening now is along those same lines. It's another way to get information and other junk into people's brains. but there's nothing great or all-mighty about it, other than it might save on some paper."

I posed a few questions to Ravnikar via email, and he answered them all (and many others). Here are his answers to what could have been our Q and A, if I'd asked all the right questions:

Q: Are you related to Carly-Anne Ravnikar, who recently ran for a seat on Racine Unified's board?
A: Yes, I am married to the wonderful Carly-Anne Ravnikar.

Q: Are you a published poet?
A: I've had some of my own poems published in different places: Logan Ryan Smith's now-defunct Small Town magazine, the Columbia Poetry Review, Kerri Sonnenberg's magazine Conundrum and a few other places. In 2005, Armand Capanna, who runs Detumescence Press out of San Francisco, was kind enough to publish an eBook of some poems of mine called Just Talkin' Shit. And I've had a poem selected by a new journal called FF>> that's being put out by some fellow Naropa grad students, for which I'll also be serving as graphic designer.

Q: What connections to the arts do you have in Racine?
A: I'm heading up an effort by local youth to put together a citywide talent show, called YESSS Presents: Ray-Scene from the Streets which RacinePost has already run a story on. (See HERE.) I also helped start the Film Seed program of the Arts council: a Saturday program in which local youth learn the basics of video production. We've done two films so far. Hotlines Magazine is another project I helped get started, with David M. Hanes (whose work appears in The Bathroom #1) and a cadre of committed youth. Hotlines is a magazine of creative writing and visual art by local teens and it comes out semi-monthly. Ramping up our advertising has been a slow process, and printing costs are just out of this world; that's part of the reason I put The Bathroom up online. I'm also working on a digital video documentary about the Racine Arts Council's Quilts on Barns project, with Mark Fornal.

Q: What are your goals?
A: Ah, goals. Well, I'm in it for the money. Seriously, I'm currently making ends barely meet by donating plasma; it's a good chance to read. Part of the problem with being an artist or a writer is that people expect you to be able to hold down a 9-5 or at least a part-time job. I can't tell you how many times I've heard my family say something along these lines: "You've just got to find a good job so you can make your art on the side." That's screwy. Maybe it's just me, but I'm disgusted by the concept of wage labor. I think it's absolutely dehumanizing, but I do it just like everybody else when I have to. I hope to go on to teach composition and maybe creative writing part-time at one of the fine local colleges that we have around here, while I keep working on my writing and turning out page after page of unsalable dreck.

Q: What caused you to start a magazine?
A: I started The Bathroom simply because I think literature is a pretty good thing -- actually, one of the few arguably great things that our species has done in its time on this planet. So, I wanted to be part of that conversation. I think of poetry and literature as a branch of the cognitive and social sciences -- of art as a part of those things rather than as a separate discipline. Too often I think people see the humanities as as "out there," off to the side of science and politics; but artists are pretty much in the trenches as much as anybody else.

Q: Is The Bathroom just for Racine poets?
A: The Bathroom is not a publication that I intend to have any particular local focus, outside the fact that all writers are local to somewhere. The reason it (proudly) displays Racine, WI, on the masthead is simply that I wanted to rep the city I live in. I'm not from here originally; I grew up in Kenosha, lived in Chicago a spell, but moved here after I started teaching a poetry workshop at the Racine Youthful Offender Correctional Facility last Spring. I'm certainly going to be including work of local writers who send me work that I think is good and, if I can use a contemporary cliche, "edgy." But I'm not limiting myself to exclusively publishing local writers. I think that's a project that the Wisconsin Arts Board should probably look at, though, and I know there's been some talk among local writers about getting something along those lines going.

Submissions to The Bathroom may be emailed to Ravnikar.


  1. The past that others made
    come creeping out of darkness
    The Great Lake hell spawn comes home.
    The multi armed one brings forth it's former foe sword in hand She waits to harvest souls at It's whim

    Awake children of Dunwitch, father has brought you toys.

  2. Please check out the Bathroom POetry Project for like-minded hard-core reader-writers.


  3. Check out the magazine @ http://bathroommagazine.wordpress.com

  4. http://bathroommagazine.wordpress.com
    Read this- it is obscenely cool and artfully funkadelicized. I'm not joking Otis Henry.