Paper Darts

-Reviewed by Roy Marmelstein

Paper Darts is a strange but ambitious beast. Based in Minneapolis, it’s a beautifully-illustrated but sometimes difficult to browse website that sets out to showcase exciting art, poetry, music and prose.

Now, the problem with this sort of thing is that the qualities of the different arts aren’t really the same. What makes a piece of visual art fantastic isn’t the same as what makes a song or a poem great. As competent and as passionate as curators and editors can be (and the editors of Paper Darts sure seem passionate), it’s unrealistic to expect them to be as knowledgeable about every form of artistic endeavour.

So, is Paper Darts a jack of all trades and master of none? Far from it. The art showcased is hugely impressive. Much of the prose is very well written. The poetry is rather hit and miss. The music isn’t very good at all…

Let’s discuss these in a bit more detail:

*Art* – Paper Darts knows its art. All the works showcased were fresh and of extremely high calibre with Ruben Island’s eery creations being a personal highlight. It’s also the easiest area to browse on the website, with the editors simply presenting us with a profile and a gallery for every featured artist. Definitely worth bookmarking and checking for updates.

*Music* – The music part is by far the weakest aspect of Paper Darts. The section instantly attacks you with a frustrating and badly-designed Flash carousel. It’s slow and difficult to browse and the actual music is mediocre
at best. I much preferred the art, prose and poetry sections…

*Prose* – The fiction part of Paper Darts features 24 short stories, their excellent selection feels a bit like a treasure trove. The ones I read were all fantastic. Standouts were Elizabeth Sowden’s “Final Notice” that perfectly captured youthful poverty (reminiscent of Knut Hamsun’s Hunger), OneThirtyFive’s short polaroid stories were pretty entertaining and “The Living Water” By Sara Aase, like the best short stories, was deliciously mysterious and left the reader wanting more. In comparison, the non-fiction area of the site seemed a little less exciting with well-written but rather dull contributions (with the notable exception of an intriguing flash non-fiction competition Paper Darts ran on Facebook).

*Poetry* – In a bit of a crude generalisation, students and teenagers who first dabble in poetry like to be a bit emo, attempt to shock the reader with sex-related imagery, experiment with unusual forms  and try to make a political point. It’s completely natural to start with bad but personal poetry and many will grow out of that initial phase to write really great poems. My issue with much of the poetry on Paper Darts is that it’s still in that embryonic teenage phase.

For example, this section from “On Their Eighteenth Birthday” by Sergio A. Ortiz

“–First she thought she was a Tapir,
then a pole.  I stuffed a butt plug in her mouth,
but she asked for a loincloth.
She fell in love with my skin, wanted to peel
it, peel me–Our lady of the Broken Condoms,
Latina Americana gringa wanna be
with the sagging implants. ”

or “Fly Over Poem” by Matt Rasmussen

“Your jet contrails stream
across my face of sky

like a money shot
in slow motion.”

Now, I’m not a prude and there’s nothing wrong with sexual imagery when it’s used for good effect. In fact, one of the better poems in Paper Darts‘ selection is Show Me Your Breasts by Niels Hav, a beautifully odd and rhythmic longing for a Russian woman and Russian culture.

There’s definitely some wheat in Paper Darts‘ poetry selection, but unfortunately there is quite a lot of chaff too.

Considering Paper Darts is completely free and online, there’s no reason not to check it out and it’s a great way to spend time on the internet. The art and fiction sections are particularly well done and you may find some good poetry in there too. As mentioned, the editors are a passionate bunch and I’m certain Paper Darts will continue to improve with future updates…

[Ed: Due to time constraints this is a review of the website’s blogzine rather than the print issues produced by Paper Darts but in the advent of it being shortlisted for a Saboteur Award we will judge issue #3 as the most recent issue at the time of review].

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