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Regarding Poetry: Part 1 – Best Independent Magazines

by Sam Levenberg, Staff Writer

Genuine Eskimo Pie

Genuine Eskimo Pie, by Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose

Hello out there!

While looking on the World Wide Web and in a bunch of bookstores (both big and small) for interesting literary magazines, I realized that it was a daunting task. Considering that Duotrope, a service for writers and magazines alike, hosts over four thousand magazines, anthologies, and contests of its own, I could only assume that there were thousands of different independent publications in existence, of which I needed to choose only a few.

I want to note the two precedents I set for myself to help narrow down this range to only a few publications. I didn’t pay much attention to undergraduate student-run magazines (especially those that only publish student work) or niche publications (e.g. a review of food poetry) because I wanted to consider those magazines with broader audiences and contributors as well as more diverse tastes.

And so, in no particular order, these are five literary magazines which I really liked and why I liked them:

  • 32 Poems: I liked this magazine because of its premise – all their poetry is 32 lines or shorter. This singular restriction makes it so that you don’t get bogged down reading the journal. It was refreshing, to say the least, and I particularly loved the way that a lot of the authors creatively found ways to tell an entire story in such a short amount of lines.
  • vox poetica: More than their actual publications, which I think I should probably have read a few more of, this magazine’s defining strength is in its website. In their mission statement, this publisher says they are interested in, “…art that pushes, or rather forcefully shoves, the boundaries.” and their website strives for this hand and foot. One of the favorite sections on their site is the “Prompts” page, where the editors post some form of prompt and ask viewers to write a poem based off it. It was a definitely a treat reading what people came up with.
  • Eskimo Pie: Ohhhh kay, the first thing I liked about this magazine, before I even got into its pages, was its name. I mean, I personally love Eskimo Pies as much as I love Mallomars, so the name itself made me think of those. With a focus on all kinds of poetry, but with an abundance of haikus, this magazine was definitely and interesting read. The haikus especially made me happy for the same reason that 32 Poems’ works made me happy – it was interesting to see what people did with such a small amount of space.
  • The 22 Magazine: The greatest thing about this magazine is that every edition has exactly 22 authors, no more no less. That’s what I loved about it. By confining themselves to such a specific number of authors this publication gives great focus on the work of said authors. Some of the pieces are really lighthearted and fun, some are dark and reflective, and some are indescribable. But all of it is unique, and all of it was enjoyable to read.
  • Circus Book: This one I have to say I am a little more biased about because I did some work for them a little while back, so I got to know the editors and what the kind of work they put out. What I ended up liking so much about the Circus Book was that I could spend hours reading and looking through the archives on their website because they have works of fiction, non-fiction, all kinds of poetry and a plethora (yes, plethora) of artwork, almost all of which is interesting.

Please, dear readers, keep in mind that this is my opinion and is therefore heavily biased. If you know of other magazines that you feel are better than the ones I listed, feel free to tell me about them so I can check them out, because there is a very good chance they are better than the ones I listed.

With great amounts of fondness,

Sam Levenberg
Yorick Magazine

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Posts About Haiku:/ You Really Hate Them, But You/ Love Them Oh So Much

Here’s a great look at haiku writing from the perspective of Shelly Bryant, successful poet who revitalizes the meaning of what a haiku poem really is. “The Moment” and “The Turn” are especially important.

Haikus taste better/ steamed than the usual raw /which makes them groovy.

Dear Readers, Writers, and Scarecrow Junkies,

This last weekend I had the grand opportunity to attend the 64th Annual Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. What an amazing experience! I personally chatted with bestselling authors Jonathan Maberry and Caridad Pineiro, while meeting dozens of other accomplished and aspiring writers who came together to find their community. At the corner of 4th and Arch in Center City, we found those that mean so much to us, that we never knew, that we had lost in some dramatic separation at birth.

I’ve been dreading the composition of this post, mainly because I want to include the entire torrential downpour of knowledge I barely floated above. Here are a few droplets that I think are useful:

1. Facade (credit to Merry Jones, author of the Zoe Hayes mystery series)

The facade of a character is the exterior combating the feelings within; essentially it is a struggle between persona, a character’s front, and true desire, an internal driving force that influences a character’s intentions. Many writers find trouble in developing characters that are round, psychologically complex and interesting because of it. Understanding a character’s facade, and even knowing how to eventually expose this character’s dark side, makes for a dramatic underlying conflict that, in fact, is not contrived.

2. Platform (credit to Randall Brown, editor-in-chief of Matter Press and director of the MFA program at Rosemont College/credit to Caridad Pineiro, bestselling author of The Lost)

Becoming a successful writer requires developing a fanbase. Developing this fanbase means selling yourself in every combatant zone of the social media spectrum: this is your “platform.” This requires making cards with your information, having a website (with a real domain name), having a Twitter, blogging, Youtubing, reading at coffee shops, imitating snow crab, whatever. If a publisher is considering two manuscripts, and both are tantamount in quality, said publisher will Google Search those authors’ names and find out which one has a better platform. If you are putting yourself out there for publication, go all out. When a publisher searches your name, they better find you at the hailed Number One spot.

3. Questions to Answer in Writing a Contemporary Short Story (credit to Simone Zelitch, author of Louisa, as well as co-director of the Poets and Writers Series and professor at the Community College of Philadelphia)

In order to write a great story in these times, you have to ask yourself a few questions about your main character, either before you start or during the revision process:

  • What does your main character want?
  • What does your main character do to satisfy that want?
  • What stands in your main character’s way
  • Dramatic questions: will your character achieve his/her desire? What will come of it?

The premise of these questions is considerably simple, but greatly effective.

4. Positivity and Negativity Towards Other Writers (credit to Jonathan Maberry, bestselling author of the Joe Ledger books)

When you discover or receive a writing opportunity (whether you’re trawling online, attending a conference, or even scratching a goat’s chin hair), never feel that you should hide that information from another writer. You may think that you’re gaining the upper hand. You may think, “Wow! I have something that they don’t, and if they know, then everyone will know!” And that’s absolute horseshit. In Maberry’s fitting opening speech, For the Love of Language, he said that “if we help each other, more of us will get in print. Negativity doesn’t do us any good at all. Positivity does.” Share the love of the craft with your fellow escritores! The act may help you in the long run.

5. The One Story (credit to Jason Hall, Editor and Producer at Keystone Pictures, Inc.)

Some have said that there are ten stories ever told.

Some have said that there are two stories told: a hero goes on a journey, and a stranger comes to town.

Jason, an aspiring writer like myself, had a sage observation. Every story involves a fish out of water. Whether that fish is a detective, a hobbit, a typical Raymond Carver archetype, a monster (hell, an obvious example is Arthur Dent from A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) You could argue it’s too ambiguous, but you’d also be arguing against something so simple that it’s painful not to think about. Consider what forces your main character out of the water. Or, darker, what intentions your character had in leaving the water.

Hope this helps in the least! Thanks to all teachers, intentional or unintentional in their instruction.

Thanks also to the cyber cockroaches for not eating this post.