by David Shook

molossus logo
molossus logo

From the moment that an explanation is offered, there’s no longer any danger for the reader. — Alain Robbe-Grillet, to Mario Bellatin, for molossus 1


a) In prosody, a molossus is a metrical foot of three long syllables. English language prosody, mapped in stressed and unstressed syllables, is not very accommodating. Attempted examples include Tennyson’s “Break, Break, Break,” which properly scanned makes three separate feet, the end of the second line of Gerald Manley Hopkins’ “The Caged Skylark,” (“Man’s mounting spirit in his bone-house, mean house, dwells—“), which seems a stretch but works if scanned as four feet and its final word does not take on extra stress, and “wild-goose chase,” which works in isolation but seldom in context, as in Thomas Hardy’s “Erotophuseos.”

Exempli gratia: audiri, cantabant, virtutem,

b) from the Greek Μολοσσς, A breed of dog from Southern Europe, now extinct, considered to be the ancestor of today’s molossers, including St. Bernards, Great Pyrenees, Rottweilers, and Great Danes. Prominent dog fighting enthusiasts contend that they were used by the Greeks to fight men and animals, including tigers, lions, and elephants. Aristotle and Grattius praised them. "Never, with them on guard," says Virgil, "need you fear for your stalls a midnight thief, or onslaught of wolves, or Iberian brigands at your back."

Exempli gratia (simulacrum): The Jennings Dog, the Vatican’s Belvedere Court dogs

c) An online broadside of world literature. molossus, founded by editor David Shook—me—in 2010, as an online forum for interview and book reviews, with a focus on literature in translation and the conversational interview. Since its inception, I have endeavored to cover as wide a spectrum of literature as possible, with a focus on whatever interests me, showcasing smaller presses like Los Angeles’ Insert Blanc, Chicago’s Sara Ranchouse, and Tijuana’s Kodama alongside more mainstream publishers. In this sense, molossus is a very personal website, an impresarial front, reflected in its irregular schedule as in its coverage of the places I travel.

Contributing editors have played an increasingly important role in molossus’ development, and include Indian poet Sudeep Sen, who edits a weekly portfolio of original poetry and prose, Australian poet John Mateer, who frequently contributes dispatches from his travels, Mexican novelist Mario Bellatin, who has never done anything for molossus at all, really, besides offering his friendship, and the British poet Jenny Lewis, who has contributed several notable interviews. Literary Organizer Brian Hewes played a significant role in the technological development of the website.

Because of its small and personal nature, molossus has served as a venue for experimentation, including art installations like the Poetry Machine, a 1964 candy vending machine retrofitted to sell individually wrapped poems; events like AZTEX+PORN+STALIN at the Silver Lake Jubilee, featuring LA writers Boris Dralyuk, Sesshu Foster, Geoff Nicholson, and Zak Smith; original portraiture and illustration by LA artist Laura Peters; and a new quarterly edition of original world literature, now in its second edition, which has already featured work from Brazil, Burundi, China, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, France, Georgia, Haiti, Mexico, Moldova, Philippines, Poland, Rwanda, and the USA, including political cartoons by Guinean artist Jamón y Queso, the last interview conducted with Alain Robbe-Grillet by Mario Bellatin, the oral poetry of the Burundian Batwa, and a free ebook of Stalin’s juvenile verse and literary correspondence, in its first ever literary translation from the Georgian and Russian by Vlad Osso. 

Since its inception, molossus has championed the short review—often derided by the literati, if indeed there is such a thing, for its lack of breadth and depth—as a challenging but necessary form in today’s world. YOLO. molossus is descriptivist rather than prescriptivist, bored by nostalgia and moaning, future facing. Most importantly, from an editorial standpoint, molossus has championed not being boring, not lingering lonely but ought to have been read in forgotten browser tabs, or moldering in RSS feeds. To that end, I’m out.

molossus is a foot, a dog, a stink, a grating noise. molossus is Los Angeles, the world, the gathered and the scattered. molossus is an online broadside of  world literature.