The thing about literary magazines is that writers beg to get published in them, but very few people actually read or buy these magazines (writers included). On the one hand I can understand this. Most of us can't afford endless subscriptions to magazines, yet getting published in them is a way to begin and/or continue our careers. Many people probably get a little overwhelmed. There are lots of magazines out there, which ones do you pick?
I'm here to help.
Okay, so it's not a top ten list. I have only five magazines listed and they aren't in any particular order, but it still fits my December theme. I do hope that some of you will check out these publications, buy yourself a copy or subscription, or give a generous donation.
The literary world needs good magazines to shed light on new work by emerging and well-established writers alike, but also to continue the discussion in contemporary fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. Magazines are often the place to discover writers you've never heard of, or those doing something exciting and fresh. The magazines I have selected are ones I've enjoyed reading. Some of them I have been published in, which means I know them from both sides.
Regardless, if you are a writer yourself, or just a lover of literature, promise to buy at least one literary magazine this holiday season. The arts need your support more than ever.
When I decided to write this post, this is one of the first publications that popped into my head. PANK publishes new issues monthly online and then prints one hardcopy issue a year with the best work from that year. This is a great path for literary magazines to take. PANK has a wonderful online presence and publishes fresh, thrilling, and exciting work. They also have a great blog that is updated often. PANK kindly published my work in February of 2009. I've had great interactions with the magazine and with one of the editors Roxane Gay. They firmly believe in what they are doing and in supporting the writers they publish. They have constantly helped promote other work I have done and even invited me to represent them last April on the IndieFeed Performance Poetry Channel. I highly recommend reading their online issues (which are free), but also purchasing their print issues.
This is another great publication that is edited by Jeremy Halinen and Brett Ortler. I was honored to have a poem included in the Spring 2010 issue. When I got my copy, I was even more excited to be included because of all of the great work that surrounded my own. They also give 5% of their profits to the Trevor Project, which works to prevent LGBTQ youth suicides. They are running a great special on their website right now. You can get all three of their issues for $15.00. Go do it.
This is a new literary magazine that debuted in the spring. It is edited by D. A. Powell and T. J. DiFrancesco. I ordered the first issue when it came out and was pleasantly surprised. The work included was fantastic. I particularly enjoyed David Trinidad's lengthy poem "Ode to Dick Fisk." It also contained work by my thesis advisor, from my MFA program, Erin Belieu. Their website isn't coming up right now, but you can find them on Twitter. I believe their second issue was recently published.
This is the oldest publication on the list and a fantastic one at that. The New York Quarterly is devoted to poetry. When you get one of their issues, you won't see a fancy layout, but you will see a nice cover and pages upon pages of poems. They are devoted to publishing great work by established writers, but also saving space for emerging writers like myself. I was published in issue 65 and have work forthcoming in their next issue. They have fallen, as many magazines have, on hard times and are in need of your financial support. I like to support any publication that is devoted to quality work by all writers and The New York Quarterly is.
This last magazine isn't actually out just yet. You can pre-order copies now, but it won't officially be released until January 1, 2011. Am I being premature then? No. I have a early copy of the magazine, because I am one of the ten gay male poets featured in the first issue. Am I just self-promoting then? Maybe, but I also firmly believe in this first issue and what the magazine stands for as a whole. There are various kinds of literary magazines out there, but few devoted to gay work. This publication is not only devoted to gay work, but gay poetry. What I love even more is that the journal is focused on a wider selection of work by fewer poets. The magazine is 125 pages, but contains work by just 10 poets. This gives you time to experience each poet's work more fully and to learn more about them. This first issue is amazing and the talent inside is well worth your money.
At this time of year, everyone is begging for money and for support. There are great organizations and causes that need your time, money, and support. Buying one of these magazines will only set you back 10 to 20 dollars, which is really not much for most of us. Support writers, like me, by buying and reading a literary magazine over this holiday season. It might just change your life.
-Stephen (Guilt trip)