Report by A. FORERO –
Squawk Back Talks Back
In Parentheses talks to Zak Block, 27, editor-in-chief of Squawk Back magazine, about the best and the worst of “publishing the unpolished.”
Squawk Back identifies itself as a “free semiweekly online literary journal of transgression and alienation.” However, when Squawk Back began in the summer of 2011, Zak Block was not sure what the magazine would become.
Block shared, “I like to tell people we were baptized by fire, mainly because we didn’t know what we were going to be when we began publishing content. The themes and voices upon which we would eventually focus more acutely only became apparent after a few months of seeing what we were offered, what we could make publishable.”
Since its founding Squawk Back has been exclusively published online with updates every week. According to Block, the magazine won’t be hitting a PDF or paper published form any time soon, by choice. The magazine wants to avoid the “kitsch” elements of having an online magazine in the form of a flip-able flash format—and so far it has worked for Squawk Back. Still, the magazine has seen its share of difficulties.
After beginning in 2011, a spurned contributor devoted a site in its entirety to slandering Squawk Back complete with accusations of being a “scam literary site” that showed no discrimination between what was published or rejected. Block is undeterred. He shared, “There’s a certain breed of ‘internet nerd’ that prides itself on being very quick to detect these little fledgling publications that would deign to show their face in public without already being 75 years inveterate. I think there’s something extremely unappealing about ‘new things’ in this genre.” And if Squawk Back is anything, it’s new to the literary playing field.
Today Squawk Back presents some of most uncontrived writing that can be found. The pieces published are often described as outsider literature or alternative but Block describes it as something else altogether—writing with an emphasis on reversion to the tradition of honest indiscriminate writing and reviewing. “We’re ‘interested’ in reviewing emergent literary voices in the manner abandoned by the literary establishment 75 years ago: reading anything by anyone for any reason. And not merely pretending that we don’t operate on extreme class, race and sex based hatreds in curating Green Mountain literary matter,” expanded Block.
On the other end of the paradox, and in true Squawk Back style, Block doesn’t support the notion of ‘good’ and ‘honest’ writing when it’s been taken there by force. Block affirmed, “I don’t think one can consciously affect being good. I think good comes naturally. Bad is the affectation. Honesty is good. Most writers aren’t honest. Nor is the establishment bolstering them honest. Nor are the consumers of lifestyle products honestly involved in anything you or I might consider spectatorship of literature.”
In essence, Squawk Back is a platform for any and every type of literature. It seems that Squawk Back has become associated with alternative forms of writing within the literary scene because it gives fringe literature a platform. Because Squawk Back accepts uncommon as valid, it flourishes.