Dan Nielsen’s 5x5x26: A Fives & Faces Alphabet is part stand up routine and part somewhat confessional poetry. His prose jumps between Steve Wright like one liners: “Never go grocery shopping when you’re hungry and never go energy drink shopping when you’re tired”; to darkly funny almost confessional poetry: “It’s best not to show too much emotion when you’re alone.”. His readings at monthly shows like Bonk! elicit both laughter and amused groans. Nielsen’s upcoming book, Dumb Poems for Smart Readers, promises more of his wit. He kindly granted me an interview to talk about what ‘Zine culture means to him. Given the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus, we conducted the interview by email.
How would you define a zine?
I’ve never used the term “zine” to describe anything I do. Zines back then were for hobbyists, or fans of a band or genre of music. I published Blank Gun Silencer: words and images for the hyperactive nihilist, in the early and mid-90s. I called it a small press literary journal, or magazine, or mag, but never zine.
Here’s a copy of BGS on Amazon. You can own it for $50 plus shipping!
Who or what are your influences for starting your zines?
Mark Giese (you know him) published a magazine called “The something.” We were friends and he used some of my art and poetry. He published a few local people but also writers from all over the country and world. Dustbooks Directory of Poetry Publishers was the key. You needed a copy to know where to submit, and you needed your magazine listed there to receive submissions. I decided to start my own magazine. I filled out a form, was accepted for inclusion, and when the next edition came out, the submissions came in, slowly at first, but soon the mailbox was crammed.
Describe the process of making your zines.
This was before personal computers. I worked with scissors and rubber cement. I’d self-published a poetry chapbook in 1973 so I knew how to do it. Copies at Office Depot back then were around 2 cents a side, so it was pretty cheap. I was an artist as well as a poet so BGS looked good and was fun to read. Bukowski liked it and was a regular contributor of poems and drawings. New work of his in each issue allowed me to sell issues and attract subscribers and break even.
What makes the zine community particularly meaningful to you?
I mostly write FLASH fiction (1,000 words or fewer) and submit to online journals. There are thousands of these. They come and go at an alarming rate. With a little persistence, everything that is even pretty good gets published somewhere. I’ve had more than eighty pieces of fiction published since 2012. It keeps me writing, and it makes me a better writer, but that’s about it. I have very few readers.
Has the zine community changed over the years? Where do you see it going?
When the small press print journals began to disappear, it took me a few years to adjust to submitting online. It was certainly easier and less expensive. Actually, it was too easy and completely free. The thrill was gone. The first time I submitted a poem, it was accepted within minutes, and published later that day. The thrill was gone.
What do you hope to accomplish in the coming year?
As of this morning, I’d like to survive the coming year. As a writer-artist-musician-standup comic, I hope to get better at all of these and perform more frequently for tiny audiences in obscure places. I’ll continue to submit fiction to online journals, rewrite the rejections, retire the acceptances, and keep careful track of everything for archivists and biographers.
This is my website with links to stories and art and interviews and PDF chapbooks.
This is the Sugar Whiskey website for the band I share with my partner Georgia Bellas.
If you use Spotify, search for Dan Nielsen and Sugar Whiskey and listen to a few selections.