Writers read. Full stop. No exception. End of story. A writer who doesn’t read is like a painter who never opens their eyes. Is there a musician out there whose headphones aren’t crunching with punk history, or brimming with symphony, who doesn’t slip the turntable their latest LP and lie down to wait for the chromatic transports of the needle? If you write, you’re a junkie for the word, wherever you can pick up the next hit. And luckily, the drug is everywhere. It’s stitched into the battered leather covers of volumes you ease off the shelf in a gilded haze of dust, the classics whose pages breathe out the weather and melody of ancient sentences. It’s loaded on link after electric link, the latenight screen set alight with glinting rivulets of now. It pops up in ads, banging hardsell lines into your brain. It’s inked around the toilet stalls, dirty clues to our psyche’s deep graffiti. It’s packed into the graphic punch of zines. It’s stamped on the back of endless planet-choking packets, a landfill of plastic language, a best-before hell. It shouts from streetsigns, it whispers from notes slid along the desk in class. It zings between besties, a fast track of texts, trading plans and goss and ohmygods, or weaves between lovers, a trail of coded want, shortcuts of heartbeat. It jams your letterbox with red lines, sales that must end, payments overdue. It posts its status in flashes of self-satisfaction, or updates of lonely sob. It looms in the leaves of the dark tale that spellbound you in childhood, luring you to where the wild things are, where language first taught you to listen for its feathers and claws. It spills out your course-reader, if you open it, and don’t just pay Campus Copy for nothing. If you’re a writer, you read everything, because you want to see language at work, everywhere it goes. You want to pay attention to how it travels, how it shapes and hides, how it heals and hurts. You want to see it in action, you want to scope its moves, break down its m.o. You read like a hunter, you read like a heroine on a dark quest, you read like a noir private eye (so what’s a beautiful word like you doing in a lousy joint like this…). You never quit. You’re addicted to language, however you can get it, its gift, its trick, its nectar, its fix.
For this kind of reader, another edition of Mayhem is a rare thrill, a one-stop shop of sensory wonders. It’s full of the kick of language, full of writers who share this hunger, this urge for words’ energy and entropy and rush. It’s an issue made of writers who push, on limits, on meanings, on yesterdays, on relationships, on genders and genres. It holds the magnifying glass of words up close to the body of experience and everywhere the light strikes finds us ‘highly combustible,’ our contemporary lives made of ‘intense heat’ (see Rebecca Hawkes’ ‘Would I recognise the garden if I saw it’). It tips the lines of convention on their side and sets adrift a lonely silhouette to wander ‘the depths of the left-hand’ margin littered with vagrant loveliness and longing (see D.A. Taylor’s ‘-ve space’). It vandalises the house of fiction, to ‘turn on all the taps full bore and open up the windows,’ strobing a new prose form into lush poetic shape through use of the fragment and the flash (see Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor’s ‘Amber’). Perhaps above it all it wants to make felt the links between language and the body, to jam the lexicon of binaries and doublebinds that have reduced and ensnared our flesh, and let the physical revel in the ‘shuddering call and response’ of unleashed language (see the work of Essa Ranapiri). It reads skin, it reads bloodbeat, it reads ‘the violent reality’ of ‘nerves hit on nerves,’ to bring alive a stunning imprint of who we are and who we need to be, who we should be free to be. Mayhem 5 reads us – we hope it brings you joy to read it back.