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Brooklyn Bridge | © Wes Hicks/Unsplash
Brooklyn Bridge | © Wes Hicks/Unsplash
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'Triangle House Review', Brooklyn's Literary Journal Producing Timeless Art

Picture of Matthew Janney
UK Books Editor
Updated: 9 February 2018
If you research the current state of literary journals, you’ll hear competing arguments. Some say they’re a dying art while others maintain they are more vibrant than ever. One publication that supports the latter is the Triangle House Review, a new Brooklyn-based journal now into its second issue. We caught up with its editorial director Becca Schuh, to hear about the review, its origins and aspirations, and why art is so important to our existence.

Culture Trip: In one sentence, can you outline the purpose of Triangle House Review?

Becca Schuh: To showcase rigorous work that might get lost in the narrow definitions of what is considered ‘publishable’ by the literary internet, to create a vessel for innovative work and a new form of artistic community.

CT: What was the motivation behind the Triangle House Review and how does it differ from other small-scale literary journals?

BS: The three of us found through our early conversations that we have very similar taste when it comes to the writers we admire and the work we adore. Of course there are publications that have some overlap with that taste, but with creating a new journal we wanted to really hone in on it with specificity. In terms of other online literary journals, one of the main differences is that we don’t impose any length limits on our writers. And while we are fairly selective in terms of choosing writers that we all have a strong passion for, once we agree on a writer, we are very dedicated to giving that person the freedom to publish whatever they’re chewing over at the moment: perhaps something nontraditional or something that they’d had rejected elsewhere. In terms of other outlets publishing criticism and interviews, we wanted to step away from the ‘timeliness’ aspect that permeates the literary internet. We want to publish reviews and interviews regardless of whether they’re focused around a book that’s coming out, or give someone a chance to talk more about their book or publish an excerpt even if it’s a few months post-publication.

CT: In the first issue, you included a wide range of literary formats, including criticism, essay, fiction, poetry, interview as well as a letter from the editors. Is there a literary form that you feel is given unfair priority in digital or print publishing? Why did you feel it was important to take this more egalitarian approach?

BS: I don’t know that we think there’s a form that’s given unfair priority. There’s so many journals out there, and with each prioritising a different form, I think it ends up with a good level of form-diversity. We’re all passionate about the idea that any form of literature is art, even criticism and conversation, so that was certainly a factor in the egalitarian approach. We also want to encourage writers to work cross genre, say giving a fiction writer the opportunity to experiment with poetry or letting a critic publish fiction they’ve been toying with.

Becca Schuh at the <em>Triangle House Review</em> launch party | © Miles Goodrich
Becca Schuh at the Triangle House Review launch party | © Miles Goodrich

CT: The first issue was thematically quite varied though each piece appeared to combine the political and the personal in nuanced ways. In your experience, to what extent is political and personal anxiety more interconnected than ever before? How does this manifest in art?

BS: The personal and the political have always been inherently intertwined, but I think the difference with both our own publication and the nation in general is that it’s becoming impossible to deny that connection whereas in recent years it was easier to pretend that you could be apolitical and get away with it. Writing about your race, gender or sexuality may seem personal, and it is, but when the government tries to restrict people’s rights based on those things: race, gender, and sexuality, as it is doing now, you see that the personal is inherently political. I hope how this manifests in art is that people quit demeaning work by calling it personal; but it’s hard to say if that hope will manifest!

CT: In response to someone asking you what the point of the Triangle House Review was, you answered: ‘The point is art.’ In Luis Sagasti’s latest work Fireflies, he muses: ‘Without the slightest doubt, art is the answer. What we can’t be sure about is the question.’ This is perhaps an unfair request, but can you offer any personal thoughts on what this unknown question might be?

BS: All I really know is that art has been the key element in processing my life and helping me move forward through both trauma and joy. Not to throw shade, but I encounter a lot of people who don’t seem to be very into processing their emotions (with negative results) and those are often the same people who say that they don’t understand why I’m so into art. So maybe the question would be something grandiose like ‘How to live?’ or something emotional like ‘How do we survive in this wretched world?’ I guess those questions are actually mostly the same.

CT: Triangle House Review’s roots are firmly based in Brooklyn. Can you say more about the worlds – both physical and abstract – that the journal seeks to uncover?

BS: One thing I love about Brooklyn is that it’s full of people who have prioritized their personal interests over tradition. It’s not always art or writing, but you find so many people who are just throwing down and dedicating themselves to perhaps ridiculous pursuits, but just accepting that they’ve made that decision. I travel a fair amount to see old friends in other cities, and I’m struck by the same things everyone else is – how shitty my apartment is, how little people walk, et cetera, but there’s also a certain very specific lifestyle difference – here, laser focus while neglecting shit is totally accepted, for better or for worse.

That’s all to say, I think that what Triangle House Review embraces about Brooklyn is the sense of obsessive focus on one’s singular passion.

Guests at the <em>Triangle House Review</em> launch party | © Becca Schuh
Guests at the Triangle House Review launch party | © Becca Schuh

CT: Last year we saw a rise in new regional literary journals, including the launch of Gordon Square Review in Cleveland, signalling there is still high demand for this type of publication. What role does the literary journal play in society right now?

BS: The ideal literary journal is one that fosters community both online and in the physical world, and I think a regional literary journal has special power to enforce that dynamic. I feel so lucky to live in New York where literary culture is surviving and thriving, but I remember when I lived elsewhere how meaningful it was to find other people who cared about writing, and how much those connections motivated me eventually moving to New York. Online writing is really such a great way to connect with other weird minds and literary journals are one of the main sources of fostering those connections.

While, as mentioned earlier, we’re based in Brooklyn, we see the Review as a way to feature writers from any region, and add to the dynamic sense of non-grounded spaces that literature can create online.

CT: What hopes do you have for Triangle House Review in the future?

BS: We’re still a very young publication, and I hope that stuff elapses that we can’t predict! But that being said, I think the main goal, simply put, is to continue to publish rigorous work by authors we admire.

CT: … And I ask everyone this question. What are you reading at the moment?

BS: I’m actually reading a very dense book about how cities will be affected by climate change, so a bit out of the Triangle wheelhouse! Next on my list is the original book version of Call Me By Your Name, and after that I’ll probably have to get back to my regularly scheduled programming of reading forthcoming books to prep for reviews and author interviews.

***

Triangle House Review is published monthly by Triangle House. It is run by Becca Schuh (editorial director), Bryan Woods (publisher) and Monika Woods (editor), all of whom are based in Brooklyn, New York.