The goal of Sein und Werden, as stated on its website, "is to present works that evoke the spirit of the Expressionist, Existentialist and Surrealist movements within a modern context," an approach founder Rachel Kendall refers to as "Werdenism." In late 2004 she created an on-line version of Sein und Werden; and in 2006 added, with Spyros Heniadis' help, a separate print edition.
The third issue of the print version of Sein und Werden is called The Collaboration Issue, in which two writers (on one contribution five writers), or a writer and an illustrator, work together on a project.
The collection opens with The Birth of Athena: Redux by Paul Bradshaw and Peter Tennant, the best tale in the issue, and in fact the perfect beginning for this collection, since it signals by its extreme language and imagery that "everything is permitted" in these pages. The story starts with a son beating his father to death, then deciding to have sex with his girlfriend while both are virtually on top of the corpse. Things get more depraved with each new plot twist. Part of the game of reading is trying to imagine what will happen next, but in this particular game, Bradshaw and Tennant are so far around the next corner before the reader, you go down the pages with one surprise after another popping out of the paragraphs. Athena stands as an excellent example of how an idea, no matter how bizarre, can be developed into a full plot. It should be required reading for all aspiring authors.
The idea of collaboration is carried forward in an ingenious way in the next selection, Adam and Eve. Here we have Matt Williams transforming one of Juliet Cook's prose pieces into a poem, after which Cook turns one of Williams' poems into a prose piece, two writers' different talents entwining around each other, braiding; the dual triangular heads flickering with some terrific lines: "I had to force myself to look at her breasts and see them as evil apples."
The poem Ghazal, the product of five authors, is a meditation on Cleveland, effectively ending each couplet, with a 'Nevermore' constancy, by using the city's name: "your past industrial might, now just a shadow/the river is healing as in a fog you creep, Cleveland."
In the pair of poems that follow, Witches of the West by Ellaraine Locke and Gypsy on the Boards by Patrick Carrington, the theme of collaboration is carried forward in a less traditional manner, each author creating their own poem, set side-by-side on the page, collaboration here meaning two poets who both write poems with a strong sense of place, and who are now working on a joint collection based on their shared approach to poetry.
Career Path by Dominy Clements and DF Lewis is a short, haunting piece about a brother and sister who suffer separate misfortunes. He falls off stage scaffolding, becoming paralyzed, after which, wheelchair-bound, he gradually gains a great deal of weight; she, while snow skiing, pushed by the angle of the slope against a razor fence all the way down the mountain, is lacerated beyond cosmetic recovery (giving us the charming image of her, post-recovery, "smoking cigarettes and puffing the smoke through the perforations in her cheek.") This story can in fact be seen as a metaphor for the issue itself, in that both protagonists then create a third person, collaboratively.
To me, the best-written story in the collection, on a sentence level, where you admire each word choice made by the authors, is Atom Bomb, by Willie Smith and Paul Kavanaugh. Here's the first sentence: "'Leche fesses,' sings this queer mellifluously, dressed in lederhosen, extremely tight shirt, count the ribs in his chest, nipples erect belly button like a little clit, still reeking of Dresden." The observation "belly button like a little clit" reminds you, after so many 'like' and 'as' atrocities by others, just how powerful and apt a simile can be, and how graceful alliteration can be.
Along with several other stories and poems, including part three of Cameron Pierce's Keeping Angels, the issue also features a number of collaborative efforts between writers and artists. The best of these is editor Kendall's collaboration with illustrationist John Brewer, which plays with the idea of the exploration of a lover's bare back expressed in terms of cartography, producing a hush of words spread across a rear view of a torso and what looks like a reversed image of Great Britain.
Spyros Heniadis is the Print, Layout and Design Editor of the print edition. His vision contributes quite a bit to the "feel" of the magazine. The design of the previous issue, with its black brick wall, reminded me of something dangerous that might be
rolled-up and slid into a pipe in a public bathroom, to be retrieved by someone
looking over their shoulder while they needlessly flush the toilet. The present cover is a pale swirl of blue and white, like wallpaper in a hotel bedroom, in which faces and out-reaching hands can be discovered in the quiet patterns, every number dialed on the bedside phone producing an unending rhythm of unanswered rings.
Rachel Kendall is clearly trying to do something different with Sein und Werden. Of all the genres, horror has consistently been the one that achieves its best effects through the distortion of "reality" (the one word in the English language, according to Vladimir Nabokov, that should always be encased in quotes). Her exploration of the exaggerating techniques of Expressionism and Surrealism is exciting and, as evidenced by this issue, worthwhile.
I highly recommend the magazine.