This preface was written as an enactment of the issue. One of us wrote an incomplete draft, and the other “finished” it. Issue 7.1 -- Rough Material brings the act of drafting and editing to the surface, and the additional step of inviting another into this process represents a small step in demystifiying (or decomposing) the human act of creation. As a journal, OF ZOOS has always been dedicated to process, to collaboration, to moving beyond the seemingly perfect and complete written word, and we’re so pleased that our contributors—both those who sent in their zombie lines and those who took on the intimidating feat of “finishing” them—stepped up to the task.


Paradoxically, many contributors repeatedly question the very notion of the finished. According to Margaret Devadason, completion is more about dissection and disembodiment. Xiao Ting likens completion to excavation—a reopening, rather than a happily-ever-after end. Al Lim believes that finishing is “arbitrary” and “overrated.” Speaking of the erotic, Jack Xi and Nguyễn-Hoàng Quyên imagine themselves encountering the unknown person in their work—and the surreal task at hand of finishing a stranger. Toh Hsien Min assumes the role of editor. Rodrigo Dela Peña, Jr., and Qamar Firdaus Saini play with completion via social media and automation. To Alvin Ong, completion is about fluidity and freedom.


Will art ever be finished? Answer: No (T. Person). So, what to do with perpetually unfinished art? Answer: Keep going (Shen Xingzhou).


How should you read this issue? Drafts are (mostly) arranged on the left-hand side of the page, and greyed out to signify their abandonment. “Completions” are (mostly) arranged on the right-hand side, in black. The finishing poet’s exegesis is placed at the top of the page instead of at the bottom, so readers may choose to examine the context before viewing the act.


Texts that challenge the logic of reading are particularly interesting to us. While Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire forces readers to flip back and forth constantly among poem, academic commentary, and footnotes, it also invites us to read it chronologically, from start to finish, allowing for a different reading experience. It is the same with hypertexts, descendants of choose-your-own-adventure books from childhood. It is possible to read this issue through from beginning to end like you would most literary journals, but consider also a freeform experience if you decide to read, say, Shen Xingzhou’s “completion” of Rodrigo Dela Peña, Jr., then Rodrigo’s “completion” of T. Person, then Person’s refashioning of Margaret Devadason, and so on.


Possession is another concept this issue challenges. Nobody fully owns the work that lives here. Rather than possession, perhaps inspiration is a better term, drawing from the word’s etymological roots: breathing in—each writer breathes in air that somebody once breathed out. It might be fair to say that even though fragments are meant to be “completed,” this issue highlights the difficulty of deciding when something can no longer be added to or taken from or transformed. Perhaps it is only this act of publication that temporarily announces the pieces within are completed—but surely publication should open up possibilities, not foreclose them. What happens next?


On the cusp of the new year, we leave you with hope: that what is out there is not all there is, and that you can add your own voice to conversations that may seem finished, but are really very much still in-progress.