A colorful chorus of voices

Paul Constant

April 07, 2017

Individually, these pamphlets are not much to look at— a page or two of color paper, printed neatly, folded in a tight crease down the middle, and stapled. Bundled together in stacks of five, though, they’re quite substantial. On the back of every individual pamphlet is the name of the publisher (Mount Analogue,) the publication credit (“Risograph printing by Paper Press Punch,”) a website (www.mount-analogue.com,) and the date of publication, as well as this disclaimer:

The political pamphlet series is published periodically in batches & volumes, and is open to minorities and marginalized communities. Harkening back to the original conception of the political pamphlet in early American politics, this series is meant to serve as a tangible, transparent, and safe DIY thought-space for productive political dialogue that leads to real action & strong communities.

These pamphlets are hand-made and distributed for free, both physically and on Mount Analogue’s website. Each of the four batches of pamphlets published so far are on different color paper. December 2016 is pink, the two batches published in January of this year were bright green and marigold, and February 2017’s batch is bright blue. So far, too, each batch has been held together by different means: string, a paper clip, a band of cardboard, a pair of pipe cleaners wound together.

Of all the various projects that Mount Analogue has embarked upon in its short life as a publisher, the pamphlet series is perhaps the most important. This is a compelling use of print to address our horrific times: immediate, responsive, and employing multiple perspectives and approaches. Pamphlets may come from a very old tradition of political discourse, but in our digital media age, they feel brand-new again. Somehow, these unbound collections of thoughts feel more appropriate to the time than magazines — they feel lighter and more portable than a magazine, and easier to pass from hand-to-hand. The editorial intrusion is less pervasive; these pamphlets can be read in any order, and mixed and matched to a reader’s satisfaction. Magazines are acts of curation; Mount Analogue’s pamphlets are acts of communication.

But enough about the form: how about what’s printed on those pages? These pamphlets are varied enough that just about everyone can find something of value in each batch. They contain poetry, comics, essays, lists, and other literary forms. You will not agree with every piece, but the next pamphlet will likely contain a idea you'll find compelling.

The first batch includes poems by Nigerian poet Gabriel Eziorobo, Seattle-area poet Carolyn Agee, and self-described “gay Puerto Rican poet” Sergio A. Ortiz. Agee’s collection, titled “Ever Silence Menacing,” includes an autobiographical poem titled “In Response to the Apology the Democratic Party of Washington Never Sent”:

I was proud to caucus, to participate in democracy,

but without ADA access, pride turned to regret, rage, resolve.

Titanium frame gripped by three sets of foreign hands

Up three flights of dilapidated stairs

Also in the collection is a pamphlet titled “A Half-Blood Approach to Self-Care,” which is a collection of mini-essays about self-preservation in the age of Trump under headlines that read like affirmational statements in self-help books: “I’m Going to Work Like I Don’t Need the Money,” “I’m Going to Have a Healthy Sex Life.” And then there’s this:

“I’m Going to Stop Letting People Touch My Hair”

I’m mixed. I have crazy curly hair and red/brown skin. All my life, people have asked to touch my hair. Most of the time, I have smiled and let them. I know my curls are different and cool but they’re also attached to my body. If I were white with blonde hair, I’d feel creeped out if someone wanted to run their fingers through my hair. It’s creepy. If you ever feel tempted to ask a crazy-haired person if you can touch their hair, remember that the world is not a petting zoo. Look, don’t touch. Compliment, don’t touch. I’m creeped out by it and I should be.

In the second batch, a standout is Alison McKay and Julie Cochran’s poetry/comics collaboration “Election +,” an account of the time after Election Day, when creeps felt newly emboldened to marginalize and harass women in the street. Kristin Ramsey includes a recipe for a vegan twist on Creole étoufée: “Try one vegan meal,” she urges the reader. “See that it does not threaten you or your safety in any way.” And Megan Harmon’s “A Technical Guide to Speaking Out and Standing Up” contains easy-to-follow directions for how to become a more useful political communicator in public spaces through screen printing and wheat-pasting.

One pamphlet in the third batch is an anthology in itself. Quail Bell Magazine contributed a collection of short essays by various authors in “A Pamphlet for Self-Care and Rebellion Under the Trump Administration.” That pamphlet features two incredible essays about sexual assault. Christopher Sloce contributed a compelling essay on sexual assault, Billy Bush’s complicity in the Donald Trump Access Hollywood tape, and film critic Devin Faraci’s hypocrisy for acting outraged at Trump’s admission of assault while ignoring his own alleged history of grabbing women. And Morgan Barbour contributes a harrowing essay that begins, “On June 4th I was raped. On November 9th I woke up to a Donald Trump presidency.”

The most recent batch of pamphlets includes a remarkable work of literary criticism. Titled “National Black History Month Speeches: A Comparison,” the pamphlet merely places the text of President Barack Obama’s 2016 Black History Month speech next to President Trump’s Black History Month remarks. In their own words, the difference could not be any more stark between Obama:

Refusing to accept our nation’s original sin, African Americans bound by the chains of slavery broke free and headed North, and many others who knew slavery was antithetical to our country’s conception of human rights and dignity fought to bring their moral imagination to life. When Jim Crow mocked the advances made by the 13th Amendment, a new generation of men and women galvanized and organized with the same force of faith as their enslaved ancestors.

and Trump:

Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I noticed. Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and millions more black Americans who made America what it is today. Big impact. I’m proud to honor this heritage and will be honoring it more and more. The folks at the table in almost all cases have been great friends and supporters. Darrell — I met Darrell when he was defending me on television. And the people that were on the other side of the argument didn’t have a chance, right?

There’s so much more in these pamphlets than what I’ve shared: tips on how to maintain your privacy from government intrusion, a speech by James Baldwin, a comic book about how to step in when you see minorities being harassed in public. Part of the joy of this project is how overwhelming it is: so many voices, so many experiences, waiting to be discovered. Find one that you love, and commit it to memory, and then pass it on. Experiences aren’t worth anything when they’re jealously guarded. Experiences are best when they’re shared.

Books in this review:
  • Political Pamphlet Series
    by Various
    Mount Analogue
    December 18, 2016
    Provided by publisher
    Read free online

About the writer

Paul is a co-founder of The Seattle Review of Books. He has written for The Progressive, Newsweek, Re/Code, the Utne Reader, the Los Angeles Times, the Seattle Times, the New York Observer, and many North American alternative weeklies. Paul has worked in the book business for two decades, starting as a bookseller (originally at Borders Books and Music, then at Boston's grand old Brattle Bookshop and Seattle's own Elliott Bay Book Company) and then becoming a literary critic. Formerly the books editor for the Stranger, Paul is now a fellow at Civic Ventures, a public policy incubator based out of Seattle.

Follow Paul Constant on Twitter: @paulconstant

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