Elevate Difference

Trees Zine #4

A quarter page booklet of photocopied text with one off-center staple and as much profundity as you can cram in that meager space—how else would you present yourself to the world? I thought that zines went out with the twentieth century, at least in the sense of personal confessionals, and journaling went out traded out for online diaries, journals, and social networks. These days even the formal blog seems to be winnowing down to its base denominator: trading out contemplation for a sound bite, reflection for a terse witticism. Zines, with their labor-intensive, frequently amateur construction and problematic-at-best distribution, are the antithesis of convenient, concise communication. For most zinesters, this suits them just fine—better to create something a little flawed and heartfelt than to encapsulate your heart and soul in a polished, pre-packaged medium saddled with embedded advertisements and suspect signifiers of a commodity culture.

Samantha Trees demonstrates in twenty-four tiny and mostly half-filled pages that there’s still plenty of soul in the zine movement, even if it has lost some visibility since its heyday in the 1990s. In her “Hopeless Romantic/Punk As Fuck” fourth issue ($2), Trees revels in the giddy enthusiasm of the first nights living in a punk co-op, starting up what could be considered a pick-up, come-as-you-are riot grrrl music collective, and trying to teach a bunch of grrrls how to play Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” (probably easier than “Double Dare,” although not as fun in my opinion). What really strikes a reader is the hopeful vibrancy of her voice, an optimistic yearning for life still being tested by the daily rigors of post-adolescence.

The content of the zine is hardly more than personal reflections recorded on scrap paper and post-it-notes probably cribbed from where she works if Samantha cleaves as closely to traditional zine assembly as she does its design. Trees is simply presented with an unadorned layout and sparse design. Unfortunately, the text is similarly sparse, with anecdotes and insights that could merit fleshing out.

Trees hints at more in-depth stories and experiences than the zine allows itself to give space. In particular, her experiences with her loves and the time she spends at work with a crisis call center assume direct knowledge of her acquaintances or familiarity with such an environment. Regardless, Trees succeeds in its self-defined mission of offering a “really sincere piece” of the author to the reader. While her opinions occasionally stray into those of questionable wisdom (her rant against the Calgary police force strikes this reader as being shortsighted), the reader can’t help but recognize that these are the irrepressible moments of sincerity, emotion, and passion that grip every young woman before the tawdry banalities of adult life set in their hooks.

Written by: Melissa Ruis, November 14th 2009
Tags: journal, love, zine