“If you’re reading this, you are a worm”
Worms is a literary magazine about style: writing style, but also sartorial. We are all worms, Clem Macleod explains in her editor’s letter, and “in the end, we’re going to be eaten by them. As a Worm, you will fertilise your mind with glorious words”. Using clothes as a way of worming your way into a writer’s work is a contentious business. Traditionally understood to be something frivolous women like, clothes are depicted here to be so much more interesting.
Author Natasha Stagg is interviewed, and the first question she is asked is whether everyday dressing is a sort of curation of self. This idea — that dressing up can be a way of slipping out of your identity and trying on another — is most fully realised in a feature towards the middle, where Clem goes to visit a box of the late punk writer Kathy Acker’s clothes, and tries some on. Acker is the cover star, and the whole issue is a homage to her. The clothes are “unwashed, crumpled” and “musky”; a mass of Vivienne Westwood, Commes Des Garcons and Betsey Johnson. Trying on your dead hero’s outfits is thrillingly intimate. As readers, we feel that we should like to do this intimate thing, too.
Mostly black and white, there’s a dynamic, scrappy look to the magazine. At times, this jars with an exclusive feel. Poems are superimposed over pictures of models. Our fellow worms, it seems, are all thin, mysterious looking women. But at its best, this is a thoughtful, idiosyncratic read. A highlight is a quote from Acker on body-building, another of her unconventional passions: “bodybuilding, (a language of the body) rejects ordinary language and yet itself constitutes a language, a method for understanding and controlling the physical which in this case is also the self.”
Worms presents style as another sort of non-verbal language: a means of understanding and controlling the self. Most seductively, wearing a person’s clothes might get you closer to speaking, or writing in their voice.