With 2020 coming to a close, I’ve gotten retrospective about this first year of Ope!, about the eight zines we put out (7.5 is more accurate, because one is very wee, but I’m rounding up). I’ve been writing without an audience for a long time, under the wavering theory that someday it would come to make sense, simply because I meant it. And while it is still a crazy mix of sense and nonsense, this year has been an incredible shift in what it means for me to make literary art.
As someone who is also a mad hatter for music—these zines are the closest I’ve come to understanding what it means to create a song. Because when I look back on the collective whole of these eight zines, it’s like Ope!’s first album, these eight separate and tangible entities that tell a story and paint a scene with each turn of the handstitched page. But when you put them all together, bumping shoulders and shuffling feet, they become something more. A whole narrative of ideas and visions and thoughts and words from people living in this Midwestern place, on either side of the Mississippi River. Everything about these zines comes from right here, now. Prisoners in Minnesota, artists in La Crosse, writers out in the Wisconsin bluffs. In basements, in barns, in cluttered apartments, in prison cells—people who need to create as part of their experience of being human. It’s not just me, writing to myself. It’s a whole, wild cacophony of effort.
And when we finally get all the pieces in place—the rounds of edits and the arguing over word choice and the need to italicize something and which color and where the images all fit—we give it over to the printer man down on 3rd Street, and for a few days, we hold our breath. Then it’s usually Roxanne who goes to pick up the boxes, sweating on the details, and then, THEN, if all systems are go, we find a day or two to sit down in her living room and collate pages. Fold pages. Poke holes, thread needles, stitch the zines together. In that time, we run our mouths, give our ears, banter, bitch, bullshit, watch episodes of some bingeworthy show you can dip in and out of. We do this for hours. Her living room becomes a carpet of printed words and images, unfinished and finished. And then, when the sky has gone long dark, we’re done. It all fits back into the boxes in tight, neat, beautiful rows. One song.
A month or two later, another.
And then another.
Until nearly a year has passed, and suddenly, there are eight. And the most Wisconsin thing I can say about that is the same thing that slips past my lips when I briefly catch a toe on a tree root.
So cheers to you readers who have found us in one way or another. I sincerely hope the Ope! grows.