Local literary institution Going Down Swinging’s bumper 40th edition is a timely reminder of the power of art.
If you are involved with or interested in the Melbourne literary community, then you are likely to be familiar with Going Down Swinging. As one of the country’s longest running and most respected literary journals, Going Down Swinging has supported the development and publication of new and emerging writers and creators in print, digital and audio for what is now coming up on 40 years. In its latest anthology edition, Going Down Swinging brings together favourite pieces from past editions alongside new work from writers, artists and academics. The 40th edition is a celebration of those who have made Going Down Swinging what it is today, and a look forward to those creators shaping the Australian literary landscape, hosting articulate, thoughtful pieces on topics such as the nature of diversity and representation in the literary sphere; graphic explorations of femininity, sexuality and the body; the apathy and isolation of a failed novelist trying to teach writing to students who just want to watch films; and a heartbreaking reflection on a past traumatic experience, to name just a few.
This anthology is best consumed slowly; as with many collections from different authors, in order for each individual piece to have its desired and also its necessary impact, it must be held as separate from its companions, while still remaining cohesive as a part of a greater whole. For the most part, the anthology achieves this; it is most effective when its pieces are connected in tone if not genre or indeed style – it’s where the collection deviates from this structure that would make sitting down and reading it in a linear fashion frustrating, although arguably that is not entirely the point.
And while at times the presentation, layout and print design of the anthology makes the structure disappointingly hard to follow, this edition shines for its contents, clunky trappings aside. Some names featured in the 40th edition will be familiar: Tony Birch, Amal Awad, Oslo Davis, and Anna Krien, all of whom are writers with multiple publications to their name, among others. The pieces from the more established writers such as these are undoubtedly the strongest, but they are rightly not the sole focus, nor are they singled out, whereas the emerging writers featured show unmistakable raw talent. While the cadences of these writers’ works are far from perfect, they show genuine promise and potential, and it is heartening to imagine what their respective futures might have in store. This is what Going Down Swinging is for, and what the 40th edition was designed with in mind; supporting, celebrating and developing new voices in Australia’s literary space, respecting their work, and finding a home for it. Lately, we need publications like Going Down Swinging more than ever, particularly in the current political climate. With arts funding unfortunately and dramatically slashed yet again, I urge readers to support organisations like Going Down Swinging and the developing writers it nurtures. For, as Stephen King once put it, art is a support system for life, and we need it now more than ever before.
2.5 stars out of 5 ★★☆
Going Down Swinging Vol. 40
Publisher: Going Down Swinging
Categories: anthology, Australian, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, short stories
Release Date: November 2019