August Highland

I began writing poetry in high school. In college I wrote several short stories and shortly after graduating, I completed the first draft of an experimental novel which later turned into a series of 5 volumes entitled "The Infants." In 1999, I published and edited an online literary journal. The journal grew into something much bigger than planned. By the third issue, I had several foreign assistant editors helping me discover new writers from different countries for publication. During this period, I took up learning some basic computer programming languages and experimenting with using them to produce new methods of writing. This opened the door to new possibilities that I wanted to pursue.

When I found myself producing an increasing number of diverse styles of writing, I decided on presenting them under the names of ficticious authors, or "personae." This eventually turned into an online literary performance which a critic called "Metapoetics Theatre." I added new personae to the project and divided them into groups according to their styles. As time went on, I recognized that the distinctions between some of the groups were significant enough that I could highlight their differences by creating fictitious literary movements which the various groups could belong to. There ended up being 60 personae, 20 groups and 3 literary movements. Each literary group possessed a website of its own, with a headshot and bio for each writer and excerpts from bodies of work by each individual author.

During the last two years of working on this project, I had found a way to compose text in a visual format. I discovered this by pure accident one day while I was just having fun. I enjoyed making the visual pieces, but it was just a thing I did on the side when I was not editing the journal or doing my serious work on the literary project. I had always been reluctant to submit my own work for publication out of fear of rejection. But because I was making the new visual literary pieces just for the fun of it, I felt I had nothing to lose and that my poor, sensitive ego would not get too badly hurt if I were to send out some of the pieces to a few places and be rejected, which is what I expected was sure to happen. I told myself that this would be a good learning experience for me, a rite of passage that would prepare me for when I was ready to submit my "real" work. I think it was the very next day after emailing my work to several places that I got a phone call back from one of the media outlets I had submitted my experiments to. They told me that they wanted to feature me in their next issue and that they were going to circulate my work around to other people in the industry. I was so amazed and thankful that I sent flowers to them!

I have always been more interested in creating the work than in getting noticed, but a year or so later, when Harvard invited me to be a keynote speaker in a lecture series on ground-breaking contemporary writers, I began to take myself a bit more seriously and to recognize the importance my work had for some people.

Twelve years later, I am still discovering new possibilities in my work and facing new challenges that keep me continuously learning and acquiring new knowledge and skills.

© 2016 August Highland