by Rebecca Kallemeyn
The cult known as Tarpaulin Sky is headquartered in sleepy Grafton, Vermont, just shy of 700 residents as of 2010. The Rituals of the Tarpaulin include “resurrecting” fiction and poetry and exhibiting “hybrid monstrosities.” Publishers Weekly calls their work “hallucinatory…trance-inducing,” and The Nation calls it “warped from one world to another.” Christian Peet, the founder of the press, “now divides his time between the office, the woodshed, the garden, and the temple, as well as various locations in the astral matrix somewhere between 15th-century Germany and Litchfield County, Connecticut.”
Once a tiny online site dedicated to heretical works of literary transmogrification, Tarpaulin Sky has grown into a propaganda machine conglomerate, disseminating its anti-genre agenda online and in print in a variety of forms. Tarpaulin Sky Literary Journal has run online since 2002 and in print since 2007. Peet founded the press itself in 2006, initially to spread the Tarpaulin word in book as well as pamphlet/chapbook form. Peet went to Borough Hall in Brooklyn to obtain the press’ business license, then to the newsstand across the street to get the documents notarized. “The newsstand guy is also a notary public for all of Kings County,” Peet told WordRiot. “Go figure.”
The first manuscripts, sent in by Initiates Jenny Boully and Max Winter, were edited on MS Word. Soon Peet wanted his message to reach a larger, more diverse, more persuadable audience, and so began Tarpaulin’s open initiations for those whose literary work also worships monstrosities and seeks to wreak havoc on the mainstream literary global congregation.
Membership in the Family of the Published Tarpaulin has swelled to include Joyelle McSweeney, Johannes Göransson, Joanna Ruocco, and Noah Eli Gordon, to name a few. Influence of the Family has reached VICE, NPR Books, HuffPo, The Rumpus, Publishers Weekly, and Bookslut.
Like most small religions, Tarpaulin Sky doesn’t take out ads, except for swap ads and possibly blurbs announcing initiation periods. “When’s the last time you bought a book because you saw a quarter-page ad in The Chronicle or in Poets & Writers?” asks Peet.
Peet has since allegedly retired his official cultmaster duties, but mail to the press still goes to a P.O. Box in Grafton. Resh Daily, which seems to be a pseudonym, is credited as managing editor, but Peet, the website cautions, is still “behind the curtain.”
“Lovely monstrous hybrid texts, Amen.”
For educational purposes, excerpts of material are included below. Many gods are named. Excerpts are brief, to guard against induced trance states.
Excerpts from the online ritual prayers and chants, as of December 2014:
From “Atrophies,” by j/j hastain:
I vow to always eat my atrophies as a way to make more ground in me in which to lay prostrate, in which to lay me down as seed.”
From “DEUS EX MACHINA/Gertrude”, by Jennifer Pilch:
“Chorus: There was a child who died.
She takes what is no longer given then takes what is no longer given then takes what is
no longer given then takes what is no longer there.”
From “Pleasure Objects” by Steven Teref:
Panty Sniffing13 10
Pedal Pumping 16
Plump Teen (18/19) 50
Excerpts from literature circulated at large:
From Haute Surveillance, by Johannes Göransson:
“I write this for the mute actress and the dead girls and the Virgin Father who speaks in this mausoleum and Mother Machine Gun who carries my body through the tumultuous crowds.”
From Nylund, The Sarcographer, by Joyelle McSweeney:
“Zeus here designed as golden hair. A wax clad easter egg in easter ed. A dividing district. How it is dividing into units and doubling in force. The yolk exerts itself outwards: becomes a gold egg. Parthenogenesis.”