A New Beginning: PHR Field Notes
Dec 10 ● BY Clayton Bradshaw
I feel as though I have lost track of the number of times I have rebuilt my life. Like the stories and poems I write, I undergo constant rewriting and revision. Even after successes, Fortune’s wheel cycles me back to the bottom to begin the revolution again. I felt lost in the shuffle between divorced parents before I ended up homeless and joined the Army. After I returned from Iraq, I found myself married, and, after Afghanistan, I became a new sergeant with a young child on his way to Ft. Hood. As my battle with post-traumatic stress grew, my German wife and my son returned to their home on another continent. It took another year for me to leave the Army, an embattled Staff Sergeant with a DWI under his belt. Four months later, I was in the Travis County jail cell reading Hemingway.
The current transformation began there. Sitting on a bunk in Del Valle, I read my go-to in times of depression, Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. This particular read shattered the impurities in my cement foundation and left my scars bare and ready to build on. Compressed by concrete walls, I began to understand what Hemingway was talking about with all the bullfighting stats. Despite his friends, Jake Barnes remains in good standing with Montoya, the hotel owner, because he eternally pursues his passion for bullfighting. In this story, he is just a spectator, but he tracks and records the struggles of those around him. Maybe, in finding a pursuit to be passionate about, I could find redemption for my mistakes. This redemption can only be found in the pursuit, so I must perpetually run after this passion. If at any moment, I feel redeemed, I have lost. So, I landed in Huntsville, went to Sam Houston State, earned my BA in English, and found my redemptive passion in writing and literature. These days, I am self-aware and self-critical, peering inward with a mirrored microscope even as I telescope outward in my attempts to understand and change the world around me.
I only tell you this story to reinforce the idea that identity and consciousness evolve over time. We are constantly evolving, always finding new ways to fit into our surroundings or molding those surroundings to fit the people around us.
Porter House Review is no different. We have a new name, a new identity. We are working to use this platform to shape the world around us, even as we find our place within it. We are taking the lesson of “Bartleby, the Scrivener” to heart. We must participate in the world as we create change from within. Literature is about revolution and evolution, not about becoming static and hitting the same notes.
So, we begin anew, but with the lessons of old. We have found a way to hit the restart button on the old Nintendo, drawing from the success of others while finding what works for us. As Field Notes rolls forward, we will adopt a new identity, one based in critical honesty instead of blanket praise or rejection.
In order to find relevance in the world, we must ask what we are seeking from it. Field Notes pursues change inside and out. We do not want to bore the world with articles that appease the sensibilities of other writers. We want to challenge the systems and structures around us. We want to mold the world of writing and make it more democratic.
Field Notes will challenge writing itself. How can Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey be twisted and shaped into something that creates agency in a character? How do we prevent ourselves from fetishizing writers of color? Should we break completely with the overly white masculine academic concept and completely reject writers like David Foster Wallace and Johnathan Franzen or should we find concepts within such writers to pull into our own work?
Field Notes will challenge the literary world. Is the MFA the only route to becoming a successful writer? Why must an artist be starving to find success? What are the effects of the white male-centric workshop model on women, the LGBTQIA* community, and writers of color? How do we break oppressive structures in the academic context? Can we completely break from the canon of old white men or do some of these authors have value in contemporary writing?
Ultimately, we are seeking to challenge ourselves and the world around us as we move forward. Hemingway’s redemptive pursuit means a perpetual push that never yields. Field Notes will assault the boundaries and scope of the conventional literary journal while still allowing for internal reflection. We hope you enjoy the ride.