PARATEXTUAL PLAY with Holly Melgard
with Holly Melgard
A two-week online workshop held over Zoom.
Wednesdays: May 11 and 18
Even though writers and publishers spend exorbitant time and money composing paratexts to guide readers to and through their work, standards in mainstream publishing strategically mask paratextual labor to appear invisible and unobtrusive to readers. Paratexts are things like blurbs, synopses, book covers, even separate author bios and interviews, all of which are peripheral dimensions of text that designate boundaries for its reception in discourse, as Gérard Genette theorizes in Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation (1987). Meanwhile, competing for the scarce resources of attention, recognition and material support, poets for over a century have designed unconventional paratexts that disrupt information flows and reveal invisible architectures of capital undergirding the “Literary” category.
Paratextual Play studies the conventions of literary packaging by exploring paratexts as sites for creative expression, experimentation, self-authorization, and mischief-making. Our first meeting reflects on a century of paratextual play (by Tan Lin, CAConrad, Kamau Brathwaite, Theresa Cha, Hannah Weiner, Bernadette Mayer, and Gertrude Stein among others) and deliberates over ways Genette’s theory can be updated to better reflect 21st century born-digital paratexts like hashtags. Our second meeting examines paratextual labor in several recent collective practices (Black Took Collective, Gauss PDF, Troll Thread, and some Ugly Duckling publications + ephemera), concluding with time to workshop your own paratextual creations for framing your work—however conventional or unconventional—with the group. Here, we’ll utilize the resource of our hivemind to process these invisible forms of frame-writing we commonly practice, but never call “the work.”
* This is an online workshop (Zoom link & information will be sent to registered participants by email)
* All writers/readers welcome
* Bring a paratext that you wish to work on and/or a curiosity to experiment with making them
* Enrollment limit is 15 participants on a first-come, first-served basis
* Other pricing options are available at sliding scale for those in need upon request. Please write to email@example.com for more information.
Holly Melgard: After a decade of self-publishing on the experimental publishing platform Troll Thread, which she co-founded, designs, and co-edits, Melgard has just released Fetal Position (Roof Books), her first book with an outside publisher. She is also the author of the Poems for Baby trilogy, The Making of The Americans, and Black Friday, among other works (Troll Thread). Selected Poems (Ugly Duckling Presse) and Inner Critic (Kenning Editions) are forthcoming. With a PhD in Poetics from SUNY Buffalo, she currently lives in Brooklyn, designing books and teaching writing at NYU and CUNY.