This is a review of Paper Darts by Rafael S.W.




I have difficulties with art. The world already has too much movement, too much beauty. I don’t want to have to see more and to juggle what I’m feeling with what I’m expecting to feel, what I’m expected to feel, what the woman behind me with the glass of champagne and lipstick the shade of Dismissive Frown, what she might be feeling. But on a website all this changes. I don’t have to feel anything. And at the same time everything is chosen precisely to keep me looking, least they lose me to doing the next inane Buzzfeed quiz. Paper Darts, with their blend of visual art and creative writing, drew my eye across the site like it had a hook through it. Snippets like this helped especially:

Little preview bars with all kinds of stunning images run along the side of the site. I look at these and feel things, but I am unable to name what they are. Perhaps love, perhaps fear.

The writing is eye-catching too, aided by humorous allcaps titles like: ‘LOOK OUT FOR THE SHARK’ or ‘AN ALGORITHM FOR FLOWERING THE ROD’. You want to read them sometimes not just because they sound awesome, but to work out what the hell they’re talking about. The pieces that aren’t immediately funny still have ways of drawing you in. ‘ANNA MARIA'S GUIDE TO RESURRECTION’, by Sara Seyfarth starts:

“Anna Maria cradled the empty soup can between her palms and knelt at the base of the crooked oak behind the trailer she now shared only with her father. The tree was dead, like her mother.”

Being written for an online audience, the pieces all strive to be engaging from start to finish. Some attempt to do so by being crass or evocative, but this can work fantastically if it suits the theme, as shown by Tom Weller:

“Jimmy plucks a few yellow leaves shaped like fists. He passes them around for inspection, to Bumpo, to No No, the kids who never seem to leave Jimmy’s side, the moons that orbit planet Jimmy Dawson. He snatches the leaves back, tears them up, rolls them into a scrap of notebook paper, seals his creation with his spit, a kiss along the seam, strikes the lighter he filched from the gas station, and smokes. “

However it doesn’t always work. ‘THE EYE’ is one example of a surreal and well-written moment, but while we get a good idea of the narrator through his actions of stealing his Uncle’s glass eye, the story feels cut a bit before it gets to its point. Likewise, ‘BANGED BY AN ALIEN AGAIN’ is a fun idea, but I felt it didn’t quite justify its length. ‘NINE WAYS IN WHICH PAC-MAN SPEAKS TO THE HUMAN CONDITION’ is another piece where I wished that the execution was as brilliant as the original idea.

There are times when the poetry isn’t as punchy, perhaps because it can get away with it - these pieces don’t have to try and sustain a reader because they ask for only a minute of their time. ‘THE ELEPHANT’ meanders a little around a relationship metaphor of lion/elephant, but rewards us with the ending line:

“You have orange fire
around your neck Your words
and your tears have teeth
My hide is six feet deep”

In contrast, ‘SPRING NIGHT’ has multiple beautiful images, but a quite uninspiring ending line: “steadily advancing, the uncontrollable need to pee”.

Sometimes images in writing can be more or less effective – and it is a similar case with the artwork that accompanies the pieces. For the most part, those at Paper Darts have got it right, especially when the style of the pieces meshes with the style of the images. The story ‘MRS. CINNAMON’ is one example, with the gorgeous watercolour perfectly fitting the shadows of Dead Man’s Woods and the complex sadness of children.


Illustration by Meghan Irwin.

The nonfiction is incredibly broad, with reviews and interviews and added ‘culture’. Some of the interviews, such as that with TRICIA KHUTORETSKY and JENNIFER DAVIS  weren’t necessarily my thing, but though I don’t necessarily understand or empathise, I do appreciate it –

“I can assure you; while visiting carousels was fun it was not a vacation.”

Thankfully,there’s enough depth of material available that once again you will be drawn in. While I might complain about art in general, Caitlin Skaalrud’s comments on the passage of time hit home for me, as it seems the fear of not producing work is one shared by any kind of creative person:

“I'm well aware of how young I am,” she states “but the sensation of losing time to all these things has scared the hell out of me.”

My own feelings about inspiration were reinforced too by the interview with ANIS MOJGANI:

“I liken my creative process to running down a hill. The more I run, the more my speed is taken out of my control and controlled by gravity implementing itself on the force of my kinetic energy. The more I write, the more I can write. I am inspired by the act of writing and pushed by it itself to continue forward.”

If I had to pin down a common theme of Paper Darts it would be entertaining surrealism.  If weightier themes are explored, they are done so through different perspectives or with a humorous bent. While there is the occasional idea that feels slightly gimmicky, the writing is consistently strong. Even if it might not appeal right away, there is enough variety of both themes and styles that there’s bound to be some words here that prick you until your lips bleed sharks.


Rafael S.W writes short stories and poetry and is a founding member of ‘Dead Poets’ Fight Club’. He’s been published in The Big Issue Fiction Edition, Voiceworks, and Award Winning Australian Writing. A regular contributor to Going Down Swinging online, he also enjoys poetry slams and giant-sized chess games.

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