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“We want what you’ve got!” How often do writers and artists hear those words? Hardly ever—and never ever from the likes of the New Yorker or Harper’s. But the Wash, a literary arts magazine based in D.C., bills itself as “devoted to the undiscovered, the unknown, the untapped genius peeking out from behind that grey matter in the back of your head.”
In an Adams Morgan group house that serves as the Wash’s headquarters, editors Robin Bingham, Nijole Gedutis, and Angelo Gonzales dish on the magazine and their double-entendre decision to name it after an amphitheater at
their alma mater, Pomona College. “Our goal with the Wash is getting people to feel like they can do this, like anyone can do this,” says Gedutis, a first-year teacher originally from Houston. “We try to be appealing, not intimidating. Although we take it very seriously…”
“We like to poke fun at ourselves,” Bingham finishes. “We don’t want people to see their work as sacred and untouchable. It’s more of a conversation.”
Each issue of the Wash has a “seed” of a theme to inspire contributors’ creativity for the next issue. Past themes have included “Pink,” “Time,” “Wish,” and “Glue.”
“No matter what we choose as the theme, we always get about
5 million love poems,” laughs the Denver transplant Bingham, who does PR for a senior citizens’ employment agency. As the co-editors profess, everything comes out in the Wash—from summers in India to Shel Silverstein quotes, Latin lovers, and loved ones lost to AIDS. The short stories, poems, artwork, and photography you’ll find in the self-proclaimed “not your average stuck-up arts journal” are from a culturally and professionally diverse group of contributors, though many, presumably, aspire to average stuck-up arts journals.
The Wash started up in December 1998, a year after it took shape in the minds of the three Pomona seniors taking a class on James Joyce. The newsprint magazine, distributed every other month at stores throughout the Dupont Circle/Adams Morgan corridor, has expanded to 16 pages, and its online mailing-list community grows daily. The founders have also thrown a benefit for themselves by hosting a live evening of performance at the District of Columbia Arts Center.
Gonzales, a legislative aide for Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), says the Wash offers a much-needed creative counterpoint to the city’s main industry. “In D.C., there’s so much of a focus on politics,” he says. “There is a subculture who just loves the arts, but they don’t really have an outlet.”—Amanda Fazzone
The latest issue of the Wash, assembled under the rubric “Naked,” hits the streets this week, after a release party Sept. 11. For details, write firstname.lastname@example.org.