The History of Going Down Swinging
Going Down Swinging is one of those special things. It was founded in 1980 by two young punks, Kevin Brophy and Myron Lysenko, who had between them no money, a typewriter, a broken collarbone, a stapler, a bike with a milk-crate basket, and a handful of clever friends. Their oft misinterpreted title referenced openness and experimental thinking. It was also a gesture of defiance – critical writing needed a shake-up, they thought, and the cover of GDS #1 featured Ned Kelly in his boxing stance, the ultimate shaker-upper, and one who went down swinging to the very last.
In the years since, GDS has shifted with the changing of its editors, their tastes, and the different guards of writers and artists who have submitted. It has taken all manner of shapes and forms, and this year will publish its thousand artist, having worked in mediums from flash fiction to comic art to animated film. Steady throughout has been a commitment to the unexpected, a hunger for interesting artwork, and an ongoing love of spoken word. Its impressive contributor list includes Neil Gaiman, The Dirty Three, Cate Kennedy, Anna Krien, Pat Grant, Angie Hart, Oslo Davis, Nicki Greenberg, The Bedroom Philosopher, Mila Faranov, Joelistics, Felix Nobis, Tom Cho, Ula Majewska, Leanne Hall, Mantra, Ania Walwicz, Mandy Ord, Ken Arkind, and PiO.
Kevin and Myron held the helm for 14 issues, with the later assistance of writers like Grant Caldwell and Lauren Williams. GDS #13 was the first to jump from the home-bound early aesthetic to a full book form, and also contained the first GDS audio CD, a special issue tribute to the recently departed Jas H Duke. Lyn Boughton then carried GDS to #17, emphasising a different artistic direction, before the brash new generation of Steve Grimwade, Alicia Sometimes, and Adam Ford took over, bringing a colourful pop-art aesthetic, and instituting the spoken word CD as a regular feature of the journal.
Of course not every experiment was a success, and not everything published was genius. Plenty of it was, though, and it is fascinating to look over GDS’s back catalogue and chart the evolution. Grimwade stayed for nine issues, as Anna Hedigan joined his early set, then Lisa Greenaway came on board from #23. Greenaway, first with Grimwade, then with her later off-sider Klare Lanson, took GDS away from its louder incarnation, and began making a reputation for the books as objects of genuine beauty. An aesthetic consistency ties Issues #25 to #30 together in pleasing fashion. They also emphasised the GDS commission program, where brand new, long-form works are produced for GDS by writers, performers, and visual artists.
From Issue #31, the game changed again, as new editors Geoff Lemon and Jessica Friedmann released an all-multimedia digital edition – crafted for tablets, and featuring short films, animation, embedded audio and interactive text along with the traditional stories and poems. It was the kind of issue that could never be put on paper, and was the first of its kind by an Australian journal. #32 was a real-world book and CD, but with a made-over look. New format, new cover, new masthead, new direction.
From today, GDS is a many-headed beast, the wrangling of which has seen Bhakthi Puvanenthiran and Emily Hollosy join Lemon in editorial. The print and CD anthology is still the cornerstone of the program, along with an ever-expanding program of events, which include the increasingly prestigious GDS performance commissions. The recently made-over website is now an online portal for GDS to share new video, audio, and visual content from performers around the world, under the direction of digital editor Vanessa Hughes. On the online literary side, GDS has also started The Blue Corner, a standalone project which will feature new and diverse content sourced from our massive community of former writers, under the stewardship of editor Meaghan Bell. Melbourne artist Tai Snaith has joined GDS as a visual arts consultant, and the internship program is now vibrant.
The most common number of editions for a new literary journal to survive is one. The next most common, two. To make three or four is a triumph. To survive 33 years of them is almost miraculous, which is why GDS will celebrate Issue #33 this year as the Jesus issue. Today, Going Down Swinging is a literary journal at the forefront of both digital and print culture, with the willingness to take to the stage wherever an audience can be found.
What is the Blue Corner?
The newest growth of Going Down Swinging that aims to allow people to connect with what’s happening all year round. In the past the Going Down Swinging community has been vast and disparate – losing touch with the changing of editors and audiences. We’d like to bring all this back together.
This is where the fierce, fresh writing lives. We will draw on our amazing list of contributors, people who saw this thing start, who were there for the first rounds, swabbing up blood and cleaning mouthguards, and bandaging fists. From these people we will draw stories and inspiration, once again we will ask them to climb into the ring, to defend our corner from all comers, just for a round or two any how…
Here you will find regular opinion columns, feature pieces, discussions and debates. Here new stories will struggle to their feet. There will be works in progress, anecdotes, forgotten publications and true gems from the archives, the back catalogue that has accrued over 33 years.
Getting inside GDS
This also means we can share with you some of the process that goes into making this journal happen. It’s a year round job that requires love from many people and now you can find out what’s been happening, what we’re planning and how the production cycle works. Not to mention stories of the way things have been done over the years by other people…
Podcasts and Videos
From now on we’ll be recording any GDS performances in either high quality audio, high def video, or both. The results will be streamed online, with periodic updates as well as links to videos and tracks from previous writers and performers. We’ll also be partnering with some other events to bring further live words and music to your eyes and ears.
If nothing else, here is where you will find regular content about writing and literature.