On Publishing & Rhythm – Adam the Intern

Introducing our latest intern Adam Jaschen. A few of his thoughts on publishing.

I grew up surrounded by musicians, and it always felt like a beat was present, either in the air or in the way the people around me moved, worked, and spoke. To me, the beat was a unifying principle, an agreed-upon structure that allowed a group to act creatively together, while inviting an audience into the act of creation itself. Lofty stuff, I know. But after a delightful adolescent stint as a punk rock cover-band guitarist, I decided to buckle down and study music theory and jazz, and see if I could explore the idea further. Eventually it became clear that my jazz chops weren’t the hottest around, but I held on to the ideas about collective creativity, and how it could expand to encompass other art forms. This is what led me to writing, or rather, ideas in language.

Growing up, the access one has to various syntaxes is extremely limited. Chances are you pick up one or two up from your region, some from your TV programs, and a few from your music choices, and perhaps developing a voice all your own. I’m using ‘syntax’ widely here, just to describe the different possible systems of organization that words can take in a single language. All things phrasing and rhythmic fall here, and it seems intuitive that we recognize their wide range of uses. A country song is undoubtedly a country song. Langston Hughes’ blues poetry mirrors the musical form. “A rose is a rose is a rose.” And literature, in its esteemed written form, has a noticeably different ring than conversation, mysteriously more adept, able to refine its movements over time, as if every sentence knew exactly where it was supposed to end. I began to use this study of syntax as an exploration into better writing. This is controversial, as the conversation about what makes good art can easily fly into the abstract realms of ‘what is creativity,’ but I personally think that there is a strong aspect of craft present in writing. The rhythm of a sentence, the images within, and the relationship to other peripheral rhythms are just a few ways that good writing can be brought out of the abstract and made available to anyone.

My hope is that I can hone my literary eye and ear to help bring different voices, and what makes them unique, more clearly into the world. The role of the publisher has always interested me for this reason. I imagined them as the DJ’s of the literary world, spinning books and ideas out to their audiences. But it’s more than that. The act of editing, taking a work from a single source and suddenly expanding it, is an extremely intimate and precise process. As an editor, I dedicate myself to finding the beat of a work, that subtle, overarching principal that the writer is creating within. When I understand the groove they are coming from, or trying to create, only then do I feel comfortable giving feedback and constructive critique. As I begin this internship with Ice Cube Press I look forward to learning how expansive the collaboration is to bring a book into the world, and what I can do to help it along. Whatever they are willing to teach me, I’m all ears.