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Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life

This is the fattest Corpse I've ever seen! When I started this journal in January 1983, I had no idea that nineteen years later, we would still be kicking ass. It began as a skinny twelve-page newsletter, elegant enough to be literary and rough enough to resemble a newspaper. The idea was to provide the urgency of news to literature, as if poetry, art, fiction and impressionistic reportage were as fresh and current as the world seemed to be in the dailies. The placement of stories, like those in the daily fishwrapper, was chosen for its burning actuality. A new book of criticism by Helen Vendler or a new poem by Anselm Hollo were as important to us as earthquakes and fires. The interest and controversy that animated the first Corpse are still, amazingly, present in this issue. In the nearly two decades of its existence, the Corpse became a complex and various creature that, like any living thing, went through phases and moods. We started belligerently and never lost our adolescent energy, but we grew inevitably to become part of the culture we mostly rejected. We had our scandals and tantrums, but also our long periods of sheer Olympian greatness. The Baltimore year (1983-1984) was gawky and lucky, the early Baton Rouge period (1984-1986) was roughly engaged in a campaign against mainstream boredom, the Laura Rosenthal years (1986-1996) were gracious and sexy, driven by the Lectrice's acid wit and deep respect for genuine art, and our years in cyberspace (1997-2002) were marked by the Mark, Mark Spitzer, whose macho readiness was distinctly bellicose and in your face. Hundreds of writers came into their own in the pages of the Corpse and have continued to write for us even as they went on to stellar careers. Three anthologies from the pages of the Corpse became required reading for students of contemporary literature: The Stiffest of the Corpse (City Lights, 1996) and Thus Spake the Corpse, volumes one and two (Black Sparrow Press, 1999, 2000). The Corpse changed formally when it went from print to cyberspace in 1997, but its contents remained solidly Corpse in their nature. The demands of the new medium were many, but the chief benefit was the ability to increase our volume. We published more writers than ever before and even added, briefly, a lively café, where discussions went on day and night among writers and readers from all over the planet. Cyberspace made our sensibility available to millions of readers who had never seen the paper Corpse. We never grew respectable, though the number of our readers is most respectable. We are now entering on a new period, with the departure of Mark Spitzer. Mark Spitzer is taking off to be a professor at Midwestern Muskellunge University in Missouri, mazeltov! He will continue to be involved in our next projects, a compact disk and a new anthology, but the day to day tending of the Corpse will pass on to other hands. I rarely indulge in laments for the past, mainly because I am not sure what separates it from the present, but this time I am quite convinced that we are at the end of an era. Do stand by, though, we are still armed and dangerous.

     - Andrei Codrescu.

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