Review: Dot Dot Dash – Quicksand

We Melbourne literary types like to think that the world revolves around our four-seasoned city, but it really doesn’t. Look to Sydney’s recent offering to the word gods, Cutwater, and be astounded, inspired, or downright aggravated as per Sam Cooney. Unfold Brisbane’s Small Room. Or go out on a date with Perth’s newest hot young thing, Dot Dot Dash.

A words and art journal disguised in glossy format with doodles, photography, and full-page colour advertising, Dot Dot Dash makes Harvest look like a frumpy old maid. It’s young, it’s slick, it’s something someone from a Three Thousand launch party might carry around in their latest-designer-you-haven’t-heard-of tote bag. I feel distinctly old when I read it. There’s pages that feel like photographed zines: poems typed, cut up and rearranged around a paper moon, Mills & Boon cover ravishment, and a whimsically childish fifty-word collaboration on scrunched up paper (avec doodles).

The editorial introduces the issue’s theme quicksand, that ‘symbol of “liminality”…”in-between”, “being on a threshold”, or “in transition”…’, and is followed by drafts and redrafts of office love poetry, surreal narrative/grammar/banality-defying prose by Jude Bridge, Justin Lowe, Allan Boyd, and non-fiction about the transience of street projecting and war-ravaged Berlin. The featured artwork is often provocative: sleeping babies as dangling bait for fish monsters, Adam and Eve incest, cartoons discussing religion, and a collage of a refugee family with the caption: ‘In with love, out with hate. Make cash, not war.’

For such an elegantly slim-looking magazine, Dot Dot Dash packs in a heap, usually as small bursts of poetry, artwork, or fiction. Most of it is to theme, though occasionally some pieces feel out of place. Amy Bachrach’s ‘Guilty’, a conventional story about the quicksand issues of sexual abuse, seemed an inappropriate choice for a journal that seems to favour more experimental, somewhat playful work. It’s a small criticism, one that might be easily rectified with a few tweaks to the poetry/fiction/non-fiction ratio. (I would have liked to see less poetry and more non-fiction so that conventional pieces such as ‘Guilty’ and ‘At the Third Stroke’ get along better with their neighbours.)

Nevertheless, it’s a commendable first effort from SJ Finch and Co. and Dot Dot Dash excites me in a way literary journals haven’t in a long time. Maybe I’m nursing a need to look cool by reading something hot on the train. Maybe I’m drooling over the possibilities of potential youth markets yet to be exploited. Maybe I’m just delirious from my cold. Whatever the case is, I might just subscribe to this hot little quarterly.

Dot Dot Dash's Issue One - Quicksand (courtesy of dotdotdash.org)

Addition: And for those who like writing exercises, Dot Dot Dash post regularly at Pardon My Ducks.

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