Once every two weeks

Tired of the same old writing at the same old sites? Try Try


LIT I have a stack of Try magazines on my lap as I write this. The pages are white, marked by the black of letters and photocopied pen marks and the gray shades of color photos or aged pages filtered through Xerox. Some of the pieces in issues are printouts of e-mails, or maps of sites in Oakland going into foreclosure. Others are copied from typewritten pages — or bank receipts. There are numbered lists, unnumbered lists, exquisite corpses, poetic critiques of programs, hidden sonnets for the public, and mash notes from poet to poet. There are images of Peter Lorre, and images by Dean Smith. One of my favorite poems in Try is "Flipper Turns 25," by Alli Warren. Another, by Stan Apps, is partly about Big Star. One of my favorite issues has writing about Contempt (1963) and Overboard (1987). Cover stars include one of Jeff Koons' Michael Jackson and Bubbles sculptures, at least one member of Ralph Eugene Meatyeard's Crater family, and an erect David Wojnarowicz wearing an Arthur Rimbaud mask. It was in Try that I learned that no book by Jack Spicer is under copyright. The names of the contributors to an issue of Try are usually found on or near the back cover.

SFBG Why Try?

Sara Larsen Working with what you have at hand. Just because we don't have much money, that doesn't mean we can't put out a magazine every two weeks or so. Also, we looked around us one day and realized we are surrounded by brilliant writers and artists. And that all of them really should know what the others are currently working on, that this knowing is generative and produces more work.

David Brazil We've seen so many people assume that it's impossible to get anything done in the arts without institutional support, grants, or other kinds of fundraising. We intentionally designed our project to be as inexpensive as possible to produce and also to be free. We're trying to give the lie to a whole set of assumptions — both about how something is made, and what it could be for.

SFBG How do you manage to print biweekly/bimonthly? How have Try's content and the submissions changed over time (if they have changed)?

DB We usually manage to print by the seat of our pants. There's invariably some logistical or financial obstacle. We've tried to learn the lesson of incorporating setbacks as constraints governing the production of the product — a sort of chance operation. And as it's turned out, issues we've produced in this way have often been far better than what we imagined in the first place.

SFBG The particulars: when did you begin publishing Try, what are your frameworks or structures for it, and how many issues have you done to date? What do you like about the folded 8 1/2 by 14-inch (or 2 by 7-inch) format?

DB We began publishing Try in the spring of 2008 and developed our framework as we went along. We're in the habit of breaking rules as soon as it becomes apparent that they are rules, but we've done every issue staplebound on legal size paper, so that's become habitual. I'd guess we've done 28, but we date them rather than number them, so sometimes even we lose track.

SL The 8 1/2 x 14 paper we fold over to make Try gives a spacious page and it's easy — every copy store has it.

SFBG Do themes or similarities ever emerge within an issue due to happenstance?

DB As time has gone by and our slush pile has expanded, we've gotten into the habit of curating our issues around not themes exactly, but motifs, which can show up in subtle ways.

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