a manifesto (always in progress)

To be fluid; to constellate.

Based in the UAE, JARA Collective will make four projects of writing a year, sometimes more and sometimes less. The essay, a poem, an essay that is a poem, a story, a story in verse, a list, a statement, a proposal.

To know that literature is a made thing, an active thing. To make difficult work; work not easily consumed; to stretch language to its limits. To make familiar work that makes neighbors. To settle into language like home.

A book passes from hand to hand. Sometimes it is for sale. A writer may not need to make money from writing. Writing can happen in the cracks and crevices of life.

To question innovation: how does “innovative work” work? Who can be innovative? Is it a thing to aspire to or a thing to challenge? Can a writer dare to be subtle? How can a plain word change the way we see? We love the word “subtle”! Is thirsting after clarity, a story, boring? Sometimes we love boring texts!

To be a form, to be a sentence, parts and not always a whole. Can a dot be read? Can a drawn and straight line be read? What composes a writing? We refer to writings as pieces. Pieces of what?

Who is literature for? Who is missing and who is included?

Publishing doesn’t have to be fancy, rare, over-designed, struggle. Writers write and publish in community. We have some sister presses in order to expand our networks and pay homage to a whole community of chapbook publishers and poets. Are we networking beyond poetry? Is there a “beyond poetry”?

We don’t expect writers to speak for a place. Writers write about whatever they want. A place can be dimensional: not always physical, sometimes imaginary. We explore where language lies and in relation to what.

What does it mean to be “mutli-lingual”? Are we? Yes, of course! We will start with the languages we “have at hand” and see what emerges. If our logo says that Arabic makes the body, what does this mean? Poetry puts all language outside and inside the body at the same time. Strange and familiar. Poetry makes all language an “other.” This is pleasing, playful, decentering, confusing, painful, generative, exclusive, inclusive. Where are we looking for language? Is language always composed of words?

A beautiful thing: a chapbook. Hand-bound, colorful, quiet, loud. The language does the work. Can a chapbook be instructional? What does it mean to use our hands to make things that other people will read? Will they also read the lines on our hands?

Culture is made and remade, as Gayatri Spivak says. Can a work be rough, layered, repeated, and bound in its first draft? This manifesto is always in progress.

August 2020 | Shamma Al Bastaki, Sarah Almehairi, Jill Magi