In his January 6th blog update, former Verbicide Magazine columnist Mark Huddle wrote, “I loved writing for Verbicide. I am going to miss it. I’ve felt badly for Jackson and his publishing life-partner Nate Pollard. They’ve put a ton into this enterprise and the ever-trite designation of ‘labour of love’ doesn’t begin to do their efforts justice. But they are both immensely talented people. There will be new projects coming down the pike and I know that they will both make me proud. God bless them.”
It’s always sad when a magazine dies. Well, not always: yoga magazines, automotive magazines and magazines about fish, it’s not sad if those kind of rags die.
As I sit in the luxurious Broken Pencil office surrounded by lonely cardboard boxes, plastic army men and countless packages addressed to people who are no longer with us, I wonder what the fuck is the point? I mean, there is a point, I guess, to recreate, share, download, crop and byline year after year after year. It’s part of the social norm that is publishing, even if the only reward is a small bottle of water once a month and a half-pellet of food.
When the news came in that Verbicide, our comrade to the south, went belly-up, I was shocked. Verbicide was grungy, fun, full of weirdos and a good little dog. At the onset of 2009, the US-based magazine released its 25th and final issue. Like Broken Pencil in many ways, Verbicide was quirky, all over the place and dedicated to a lot of independent artists. Each issue had an indie author spotlight, (Hal Niedzviecki, Brian Joseph Davis and Chandra Mayor to name three in recent issues) independent music and film and original fiction and poetry were also showcased. That’s sorta been Jackson Ellis’s idea from the beginning.
Verbicide was no yoga magazine. It didn’t deserve the same fate as Canada’s Ascent or other magazines that collapse haplessly and die. No, Verbicide was a curious creature, a fun arts magazine that seemed to originally hail from Vermont. To give you an idea of what it was like, Verbicide was a mixture of an indie zine, with a dash of Punk Planet and a pinch of Broken Pencil. A pretty hefty pinch. They liked their wacko fiction as well, and featured stuff by Joe Meno and Rick Jankowski.
Ellis started the magazine in 1999, making the first issue by hand and cut and paste in the summer following his freshman year of college. At 12 pages, with some poetry, a few photos, some rants and “some stupid pictures I clipped out of comics and cereal boxes,” Ellis says it was nothing too impressive. Over the next year or so, he began collaborating with some friends until they had enough for what would be a more evolved version of the magazine.
Ellis says most of the writing was done by his friends Christopher Connal and Leanne O’Connor, as well as Jackson himself. “In fall of 2000 I made Verbicide issue two, another cut and paste job, and on election night of 2000 I met Douglas Novielli at a Rancid show in Boston. He was a friend of Chris Connal’s. He happened to run a literary webzine, Terraspatial, and we decided to join forces.”
Shortly thereafter, the collective formed Scissor Press, the media company umbrella under which several projects are published, and in June of 2001, issue three of Verbicide was printed–the first professionally printed issue. “It was poorly designed, rife with errors, and was only 48 pages of newsprint, but it was a big step for us.”
Jump forward to 22 issues and a half-decade and some change and the magazine had reached its last mile. Ellis says the publication of Verbicide has been a true labour of love, and Scissor Press will continue to release things in the future. “So far we are planning to release two benefit compilation CDs [to be co-released with GC Records], as well as a comic book or two.”
Currently at the Scissor Press web-store, all 25 issues are on sale for $3.95, including my favourite issue, focused entirely on unsigned bands. You can peruse some of the articles online as well as take a peak at some of their music side projects.
“Once things settle down in the next month or so we’ll decide exactly where to go with that,” says Ellis. “We might start cranking out some new projects to fill the void left by Verbicide. I always hoped we’d keep Verbicide in print indefinitely, and I certainly didn’t want to be forced to retire the magazine due to financial reasons, but I am hoping that from the ashes something better will rise.”