There are a lot of lit journals and small presses out there. A lot. When you think about all the print and online publications available to read or submit work to, it can become overwhelming at times. It’s easy to get lost in them, or among them, but there are publications out there that are doing something a little different, something that makes them stand out from many of their counterparts. I wouldn’t dare attempt to discuss every publication that’s worthy of praise for some sort of innovation, but I do want to note a few. So here are five journals and presses that I think deserve some attention and support because they’re doing something new or unique or interesting or useful or [insert positive adjective]. Of course there are many, many others that warrant recognition for the same reasons and others, but these are some of the publications that have caught my attention lately. Hopefully, I’ll get around to writing about some of the others soon. Feel free to send us suggestions.
“Before paperbacks and pocket books, before blogs, there were broadsides.” – Broadsided Press website
I’ve got a thing for broadsides (see The Columbia Broadside Project). It’s partially because of their history and partially because of their ongoing potential for collaboration and exploration for new generations of writers and artists. I’m also a fan of projects that bring literature and art to a wider audience by means that inspire a greater sense of community…or that rely on some good old-fashioned guerilla tactics. So, I love what Broadsided Press is doing.
On the 1st of each month they post a new broadside that can be downloaded (for free) from their website for personal use or, ideally, to be distributed and posted in “cafes, hallways, and elsewhere.” The poetry and prose for the broadsides are chosen from general submissions, and then an artist from a pool of 31 (as of this posting) painters, sculptors, graphic designers, and photographers who partner with Broadsided Press calls dibs on the writing and begins working on a visual response to it without any direct influence from the editors. The gallery of broadsides they’ve created is impressive and inspired, showcasing an extraordinary range of styles and subjects from both the writers and the artists. While everything Broadsided Press does is free and open to the public, I can’t help but encourage you to make a small (or big) donation to them via the PayPal link on their site. Then, print you out some broadsides to post on your wall or somebody else’s. Spread the word.
“…found poetry is the literary version of a collage.” – The Found Poetry Review website
Jenni B. Baker started Found Poetry Review in 2011 after she received a rejection letter from a journal that read, “How about next time you try to write something original and not plagiarize someone else’s work for a change.” That seems a wee bit harsh, and probably unnecessary. To be fair, for a long time I was skeptical of found poetry myself. However, despite my previous doubts, I’ve developed an appreciation and respect for the genre and now consider it a vital and inspired part of literature. I experiment with cut ups and blackouts, and have had a couple of them published. Working with found poetry forms has not only inspired me to create some works I otherwise probably would not have, it has also informed and expanded the way I go about writing as a whole. I’m glad there’s a journal devoted specifically to the genre. It’s important.
The Found Poetry Review accepts centos, erasures, cut-ups, and free-form excerpts and remixes, among other forms, but “original poems, regardless of quality, will not be accepted.” Submissions are open more or less all year, but the editors do not review and accept poems until after the deadline for each volume, which they post on their website. Their website is a valuable resource itself. It provides links to several resources (“Prompts,” “Online Tools,” and “Reading Lists”) for found-poetry practitioners or those who are curious about the process and its history. The site also hosts an active blog where the editors post additional writing prompts, as well as news and ideas about found poetry and literature and writing in general.
3. HOOT: “HOOT is a postcard. A very nice-looking one. With writing on it!” – HOOT website
Well, that’s as fair and succinct a review as I could hope to give, but I’ll try to elaborate nonetheless. HOOT is a monthly literary journal, of sorts. Each month they publish one postcard consisting of a poem or flash-fiction and original artwork and mail them out to subscribers, and subscribers have the option of receiving them directly as postcards, with a brief note from the editors, or receiving them blank and in an envelope so that they can be written on and mailed to friends. As with Broadsided Press, the artwork and writing in the “issues” of HOOT varied in their style and tone.
Mail submissions are free. There is a $2 fee for online submissions, which is fairly common, but HOOT shares the money they raise from submission fees with their contributors. As their website explains, “It is sort of like we hold a mini-contest every month (but it’s not exactly a contest, as our submissions are rolling). The author we publish on a postcard receives 30% of all the submission money (after Submittable takes its 52% cut) for that month, from the 20th of the month two months prior publication, to the 20th of the month one month prior (guaranteed minimum of $10!)” HOOT also publishes up to four poems or pieces of flash-fiction on their website each month, and their site hosts a free online flash-fiction writing workshop every other Wednesday and a free pen-pal workshop/exchange.
4. Profane: “It should be said that with any content we publish, it’s not our goal to offend. But…we believe there is no subject too taboo for exploration.” – Profane website
Fine. Fine. Yes. I hacked up the original text a bit and ellipsesed several lines to get that “quote.” I skipped the part about their wanting “to provoke conversations worth having,” and maybe some other parts, too. But you get the point. Profane is one of an abundance of new literary journals out there (ahem), but what makes them stand out, even more so than their edgy name and mission statement, is that each copy of the print journal you purchase comes with a free MP3 (DRM-free) download of a recording of brief interviews with the contributors and the contributors reading their work. That’s what I like best about this journal, and there aren’t too many other publications providing this format for readers and contributors.
Some of my most distinct and profound memories as a reader and writer are of things I heard—the first time I heard Eliot read “The Wasteland” in his deep, gurgling drone or Bukowski slur through “Dinosauria, We” sounding like a pleasantly drunk Sylvester the Cat. I go to readings fairly regularly, as do most writers and editors, but I don’t listen to records or CDs of authors reading their work nearly as often as I used to. Listening to someone read in public and listening to a recording in the comfort of your home are, obviously, two very different experiences. I’m not giving preference to one. I’m merely acknowledging that sometimes I neglect the latter. So, I’m looking forward to reading and listening to the first issue of Profane, which is due out in the winter of 2014. In the meantime, I’ll have to settle for YouTube clips and ordering a new copy of Spare Ass Annie and other Tales by William S. Burroughs and Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.
5. Vademecum Magazine: “We’re a small group of bookish types, and VM is a reflection of us: small, scrupulous, a bit neurotic.” – from the Vademecum Magazine website
I’ve taught fiction writing at a middle school magnet arts program for the past eight years. I’m not exaggerating, and I hope I’m not being sentimental or naïve, when I say that a lot of the writing I see from those young students is every bit as good as, if not better than, a lot of what I saw in workshops when I was an MFA student. Not better for their age, just plain better, but I’ll talk more about that another time. Unfortunately, there are relatively few publishing venues for these burgeoning writers. Of course there are young writer contests and journals that accept work from or even focus on young writers, but they are few and far between, and many of the opportunities afforded to them are local and insular. Vademecum Magazine, on the other hand, is an independent print magazine that publishes writing and photography by young writers (ages 13-18) from across the globe. It’s editors and readers are roughly only a few years older than it’s contributors, most of them being undergraduate students or in that age range, and they are a geographically diverse group based out of New York, Virginia, Indiana, and Mauritius, among other places. That’s why it is so great to know that there are publications like Vademecum Magazine out there. Magazines like this not only encourage and nurture young writers, they also help to introduce them to a larger and more diverse literary world than they would probably encounter in their local writing community. Vademecum has also just finished their first annual chapbook contest, which was judged by Rae Bryant. For more on what Vademecum is all about, check out The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review’s recent interview with Vademecum’s editor-in-chief, Madelyne Xiao.
Darien Cavanaugh received his MFA from the University of South Carolina. His fiction and poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Sou’wester, The Dos Passos Review, Memoir (and), The Minnetonka Review, The Blue Collar Review, Struggle, Pank, The James Dickey Newsletter, Megaera, The Pickwick Press, Gertrude, I-70 Review, Kakalak, The Gap-Toothed Madness, The Blue Earth Review, and The San Pedro River Review, among others. He is the Founding Director of The Columbia Broadside Project, a member of the Board of Directors for Auntie Bellum, a reporter for War is Boring, a writing instructor at the Tri-District Arts Consortium, and a bartender at The Whig, North America’s greatest dive bar.
Latest posts by Darien Cavanaugh (see all)
- Three Poems - June 26, 2016
- Amiri Baraka Reads “Somebody Blew Up America” and Other Poems [Video] - June 24, 2016
- William S. Burroughs Made a Hip Hop Album, and It’s Pretty Awesome - April 4, 2016