The Peculiar Mormyrid is an online surrealist journal that gives surrealism an online home. With the goal of reacquainting the population with surrealism and its philosophies, the journal explores the trueness of human thought through text and visual submissions.
This purely passionate endeavor began in March 2015. The Peculiar Mormyrid is a journal that currently does not make a profit, but exists to serve "as a beacon of insight and inspiration...to facilitate discussion and debate...[and to] open minds." The Peculiar Mormyrid accepts submissions from surrealist writers around the world, with the first online publication dated for June 2015.
I interviewed with Angel Dionne, the founder and editor of the Peculiar Mormyrid, to explore the passion and drive behind her creation of the online journal.
Thank you, Angel, for taking the time to share your journey! Make sure you read our interview, and explore the journal here:
Q: For those who aren't familiar, can you describe surrealism?
To say that surrealism is merely an artistic movement would be wrong. It is a philosophical movement, a political movement, and cultural movement all at once. Surrealism seeks to explore the subconscious.
It seeks to enlighten, disturb, and reveal.
It is meant to be unnerving so as to stimulate the subconscious mind. It is free-flowing thought, automatic creation, and stream of consciousness. (Read more at bottom of blog.)
Q: What interests you about surrealism?
I believe surrealism represents the true function of human thought. To me, this is fascinating. The ability to create works which mirror my often dark and unsettling thoughts has always been appealing to me.
Q: How were you inspired you to create this journal?
I accumulated a small collection of surrealist works I had labored over for a few months. I wanted to find a home for them and after much searching I deduced that most journals just weren't open to surrealist texts. Even some of the experimental journals seemed to favor fantasy, magical realism, etc. It was hard to find a place for stream-of-consciousness writing and fragmented collages. That's when I realized there were so few surrealist journals left, many of them having gone defunct years ago. The few which still exist tend to be solely print publications. That's when I had the idea to start my own journal, an online venue where surrealists around the world could have their work seen.
Q: What is the importance and relevance of surrealism today?
I hope you don't mind that both my editors and I pieced together a statement for this question. We felt as though the statement should come from the group as a whole.
The cause of surrealism is to liberate the human mind, to challenge the rational and every day.
As previously stated, our society tends to favor the ultra-rational mindset which allows for no freedom and only a restricted sense of creativity. Surrealism as a movement is especially relevant in today's society. Surrealism is needed, if we allow for capitalism and rationalism to become the sole heir to the human spirit the ultimate result will be the death of the imagination. We as a society are so entrenched in the rules and expectations set forth that we often repress the natural play of thought. We fear the unsettling because we don't want to be upset, we don't want to go against the majority. Surrealism seeks to abolish the restraints society has placed upon our minds and our spirits.
The younger generations may be more open to embracing certain components of surrealism due to the prevalent internet culture and the ever expanding exposure to different view-points and means of thinking. Even popular culture tends to borrow some elements from surrealism.
About The Founder and Editor, Angel Dionne
Q: What does your typical day-to-day look like?
A: When it comes to rituals I do have one quirky routine. I cannot work on the journal or judge submissions without a steaming cup of black coffee and some Edith Piaf playing in the background. Something about the combination of caffeine and Piaf's voice just causes the proverbial juices to flow.
I try to make time to check submissions and perform updates every day. Due to my day job this is sometimes impossible. However, I feel I am awarded more freedom since the journal is only in its beginning stages. Once the first issue has been published and the second submission period opens up I feel as though the time constraints may become tighter. Thankfully I do have a great group of editors who are willing to help perform updates and weed through submissions. I don't predict that this endeavor will become suffocating. Besides, it doesn't feel like work if you're passionate about what you're doing.
Q: How often do you read? How often do you write?
A: I try to read a bit every day. Sometimes this means hours of free reading. Other days this may mean a quick read squeezed in twenty minutes before bed. Sometimes I even read in the car before heading into work. I feel it is important to read in order to continue expanding the mind, and to learn more about your craft. Writing is a bit more difficult to fit in. Most of my academic writing, research, and article writing is done on weekdays during lunch breaks and after work. I save my weekend for my own personal writing.
Q: What books inspired you? What would you recommend to viewers?
A: I've always enjoyed reading. My tastes tend to be quite eclectic when it comes to literature. I've read and enjoyed books ranging from classical literature to contemporary literature and everything in between. However, when it comes to surrealism I can say that one of the most life-changing works I've ever read was Andre Breton's Nadja. For those interested in surrealism I would recommend first reading Breton's Surrealist Manifestos the first of which can be found on our web page. The Manifestos were the documents which basically gave birth to the French surrealist movement. I would also recommend the works of Leonora Carrington and Philippe Soupault. For those who enjoy contemporary literature with some surrealist elements I would recommend the works of Haruki Murakami. Surrealism is so multi-faceted though, interested individuals should not only approach it from one angle. Explore the visual works and written works. Explore the film and philosophies. Explore the psychological and cultural aspects of surrealism. Dive-in head first.
Q: What are your life goals?
I hope to eventually obtain my PhD in interdisciplinary studies from the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. I'd like to go on to teach literature and art at the University level. Beyond that, writing has always been a passion of mine. It would be great if I could get my work seen by a larger audience. I am currently working on a surrealist novella which I hope will be published within the next upcoming year or two.
Q: If you could give any piece of advice on pursuing your passion, what would it be?
If you have an idea just go for it. You may not have a solid plan right now, you may not have all of your ducks in a row. However if you're passionate about your idea I would suggest you just dive in. Consider the details later. Fine-tune your idea after you've already laid down the foundation and stacked the bones. You don't decorate a house before having built it.
About The Journal
Q: How did you get your group of editors together? How did you recruit people to be a part of your journal?
When I first became interested in surrealism I joined a web page and Facebook group entitled Surrealist Revolution. The group was started by Steven Cline (now an editor and web designer for Peculiar Mormyrid Journal). I've been a member for quite awhile now and have always enjoyed the discussions and works posted by fellow surrealists. As such I knew which individuals would be excited by this endeavor, and which ones could bring unique insights and talents to the journal. As of now we have editors from both the US and Canada. Steven Cline, Casi Cline, David Nadeau, Patrick Sampler, and Jason Burleigh have been indispensable. In a very short amount of time they have contributed website content and resources, helped drum up submissions, and have helped to advertise the journal.
Q: What keeps you motivated to continue despite the fact that it makes no profit?
Honestly this journal is a labor of love. I know that sounds horribly cliché. Although I am fairly new to the surrealist movement compared to other individuals, surrealism has quickly become a passion of mine. I'm excited about offering a venue for interested individuals to showcase their work, bring their own unique views, and perhaps learn a little bit more about the movement. I wouldn't mind if we never made one red cent from this endeavor, although it would be nice to someday be capable of offering monetary compensation to the talented individuals whose work we accept, and to the editors.
Q: What is your plan for this journal in the future? How did you create your plan?
I have to admit there was no plan at first. I sort of jumped right in without much thinking. The web page, Facebook group, and twitter were all created and published in a single afternoon approximately two weeks ago. As time went on I consulted with more experienced individuals (my wonderful editors) who helped to create a plan and fine-tune the content on the web page. It truly is a group effort.
Ultimately I hope this journal serves as a beacon of insight and inspiration. I hope it allows people to realize that surrealism is not dead and is instead a flourishing movement. I hope this journal will facilitate discussion and debate. I hope the philosophies present in the journal will open minds. Our society tends to prefer and enforce highly rational and rigid mindsets. I want our journal to help abolish that. All we hope for is to further our ideas and philosophies.
Q: Is this your passion? How did you discover it?
I remember first being introduced to surrealism my junior year of High School. It was an English course and I don't remember why, but the instructor had us view a picture of Rene Magritte's The Importance of Marvels. It was such an unsettling and strange painting. I was immediately drawn to it. As time went on I became interested in experimental art and literature, but remained woefully ignorant of surrealism as a movement. It wasn't until I discovered Andre Breton's work by change that I started digging a bit online. Online articles led to books and books lead to my discovery of the current surrealist movement.
More about surrealism:
The movement as we know it today was born in 1920's France (the French surrealist movement) after Andre Breton published his Surrealist Manifestos. Breton took inspiration from Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams. The surrealists used Freud's methods of dream interpretation and free association to help liberate the mind. The movement was meant to be a rebellion of sorts; a backlash against ultra-rational thought and bourgeois society. The surrealists believed that ultra-rational thought not only was a contributing factor in the first world war, but was also a plague upon society. They sought to free the mind through creation. It's not surprising that the movement drew much criticism and controversy, as I'm sure it still does today. It was not merely a movement but was also a revolution and it quickly spread across the globe.
The influences of the original French movement can still be felt today. The work stemming from this period have influenced many contemporary artists and have furthermore influenced contemporary groups of surrealists all over the world. This is clearly evident when considering artists such as Jan Svankmajer.