Abramson Publisher “Distressed” by His Elliot Rodger “Remix”

omnidawn letter

The editors of Omnidawn have issued a statement clarifying that they are “dismayed, disheartened, distressed” by a Seth Abramson poem published in Huffington Post less than two days after the Isla Vista massacre last Friday.

The press also announced that after this year, it will no longer publish the Best American Experimental Writing series, for which Abramson serves as co-editor.

In “Last Words for Elliot Rodger,” Abramson “remixes” language used in Rodger’s final YouTube video into what he calls a “metamodernist” poem. He asks up front in the post whether or not “hateful words be turned against themselves and become, instead, a vehicle for amity and compassion?”

The answer, for a majority of readers, seems to have been a definitive “no.”

Readers expressed their rage on Facebook and Twitter, suggesting that Abramson’s post was tasteless and exploitative. The letter from Omnidawn reads in full:

Because silence is often understood as tacit agreement or acceptance, Omnidawn is choosing to clarify that we are dismayed, disheartened, distressed by Seth Abramson’s Huffington Post piece “Last Words for Elliot Rodger” as response to the tragedy. Because Seth Abramson is one of the series editors for BAX, and we are the press publishing BAX, we feel it is our responsibility to say that his actions in this matter are not in alignment with our principles.

This tragedy is enormous, with so many layers of complexity and violence, which are inappropriate for us to attempt to address here. Of course, we respect free speech and Seth Abramson’s right to make his own creative choices. But we are deeply upset by the use of Elliot Rodger’s words in this way and saddened by the understandable outrage and frustration that this use has drawn. An action like this invariably causes negativity to spread and impact other projects, and thus also has the potential to detract from the attention that the authors selected for the BAX anthology deserve for their writing. The preservation of the dignity of all the writers in the BAX anthology, and of their ability to have their work read for its value, and on its own terms—this is a serious focus of our concern.

The BAX project was created by, and initiated by, Seth Abramson and Jesse Damiani, and it is their creative property. We were excited by many aspects of the project, and so we agreed to be the publisher of this anthology and to take responsibility for managing the process. As we worked on the project and considered all aspects, limitations, and needs of the process, Omnidawn decided, for many reasons, that this project is not for us. Seth Abramson and Jesse Damiani have found a new publisher for BAX, for all future issues.

Omnidawn is fully committed to and in the process of completing all the work needed to publish the first BAX anthology. We owe a debt of gratitude and responsibility to everyone involved in the project—to the editors, to all who submitted to the project, and to all the authors who were selected to be published.

Rusty Morrison, Ken Keegan, Gillian Olivia Blythe Hamel