Editor’s Note | Punk

It’s rare to find writing that convincingly represents the world of punk—of show-going and show-playing; of earnest and eager youth; how formative and life-giving it can be to sing and dance in a room of crowded people—but the pieces published in this issue engage with music in a way that feels reliable, lived in. Jennifer Solheim’s “Like No One Else” is expansive as a novel, rendering the excitement of starting a band in high school and the heartbreak of watching it dissolve. In Ian Lockaby’s poem “[While Reading Vallejo Before The Gories / Timmy’s Organism Show],” the speaker tells us, “But when I think about that / Time in my life now…sitting around / The Spill House when the first / Vexx practices flared up—the / Soundtrack is all wet fuzz.” “wave of song” closes with the beautiful image of a “voice [that] rises clear out of car window / scattering invisible stars across landscape,” and Keegan Lawler’s “On Queer Rage, or Laura Jane Grace Forever,” offers a heartfelt reflection on queer representation and belonging in DIY spaces. 

But these pieces engage with the uglier side of independent music, too. Amid teenage whimsy, Lindsey Berg’s “Emo Night” renders the pervasive potential for violence coming of age as a woman in male-centric concert spaces. Emil DeAndreis’ “The Nameless” sees its protagonist living through the tail-end of a music career alongside developing complications in parenting. Priya Subberwal’s “Born in the USA” considers how “the rock scene has largely replicated the same systems it rebels against” before paying homage to the music and ethos of indie rock supergroup, boygenius. Which is to say these pieces tend to engage with punk in considered, mediated thought, recognizing both the ecstasy and troubles made possible in a music community. 

Punk serves as background music in vital moments of these narratives. “Something to Live For” opens: “It’s the late nineties but we’re listening to music from the late seventies. Snarls from Joan Jett and Cherie Currie seep through the speakers of Sally’s 1970s Plymouth Duster.” “Hey Man Nice Shot” begins with the speaker being stopped at gunpoint before weaving through childhood in a deep exploration of the speaker’s relationship and history with a violent brother—while intermittently tying the essay’s namesake, a Filter song, into the thematic and atmospheric register of the essay. “Diptych,” meanwhile, maintains a voice as energetic and controlled as a band’s frontman, ending on an image where, every time I read the poem, I imagine a different song playing in the background. 

I am grateful to the editors at MQR for allowing me to guest edit this issue, and especially to Elinam Agbo for being so helpful and encouraging. These pieces are full of heart, and I’m excited for you to read them. 

Josh Olivier

Josh Olivier is a writer from Redlands, California. When he isn’t working on fiction, he’s busy writing twee anthems and heartbreak songs for his band, No Better. He really is trying his best.