I want a literature that is not
made from literature.
—Bhanu Kapil


“I want a literature that is not made from literature.” I want a literature. That is not made from literature. I want. A literature. That is not made. From literature. I want a. Literature. That is not made from. Literature.

When I think about TCR’s Narrative Issue, I cannot escape Bhanu Kapil’s epigraph. Those words ring through my head. Again and again. Perhaps I cannot get away from them because they perfectly describe the contents of the issue. Perhaps I cannot get away from them because they describe exactly what I want, too. I want a literature that is made from something else.

For a while now, I have been fascinated by literature that has been constructed or assembled. Partially, I am captivated by the methodology required for that kind of work to be composed. But I am equally interested in the source material.

In “how it is,” a recurring poem sequence, Mercedes Eng writes a poem that is informed by the geography of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. TCR’s Narrative Issue published a section of that poem, “how it is (January 2012),” but other sections of that poem exist elsewhere. “how it is” is not made from literature. “how it is” is made from the street. In fact, the poem itself is represented in TCR’s pages as only a fraction of a whole. The whole poem, of course, may never be complete because it is made from something that is not as a finite as literature. “how it is” is made from something that has no end.

Similarly, Kyla Mallett’s work in TCR’s Narrative Issue is not made from literature. Mallett’s work is made out of the ephemera that surrounds literature. Mallett’s work is made from the pieces that we are trained not to notice. And, for me, the things we ignore are sometimes the most important aspect of a literature that is not made from literature.

Even in my own work (“Argiope lycosidae”), the writing is not made from literature. The writing is constructed from pieces of a textbook called Explanation of Terms Used in Entomology published in 1906. As a writer, my challenge was to create something out of the electronic detritus after the book was pushed through an app that randomly inserted line breaks and then randomized the order of the newly created lines. As Derek Beaulieu keenly observed in TCR’s web folio, my writing could easily be described as “the study of what is engraved and cut to pieces.”

And isn’t that the common thread in our work? The willingness to talk about the things that have been cut to pieces? There is a literature that is not made from literature, and it is being sutured together fragment by fragment.