Unique Poetry Journals You Should Read (and Consider Sending Work To)
I’m as big a fan as anyone else of The New Yorker, Poetry, Creative Nonfiction, Tin House, and the rest of the luminaries of the literary journal world—truly, I am—but there’s also a dear place in my heart for literary endeavors that take a step beyond aiming simply to publish strong contemporary writing. These three journals test the limits of what a literary journal is, and the editors demonstrate a refreshingly deep commitment to engaging with the work writers contribute.
Spiral Orb, now in its eighth issue, describes itself as “an experiment in permaculture poetics.” Modeled after a spider’s web, each issue features poems with sections that Editor Eric Magrane painstakingly links to other poems in the issue, along with a composite poem at the beginning constructed from fragments of each. Issue #5, titled “A Poetic Inventory of Saguaro National Park” is a particular triumph, featuring odes and apostrophes to animals occupying the park, contributed by more than 50 writers. Once you get started here, it’ll be hard to stop clicking around from one piece to the next.
Like many online poetry journals, Leveler Poetry publishes a weekly poem, but here’s the twist: each poem appears alongside “Levelheaded,” a companion sidebar feature in which one of the editors examines the nuts and bolts of what makes the poem work. If you’re a beginner still trying to figure out how effective poems work, or if you’re simply curious to know what makes a particular poem compelling to the editors, then this is a great resource. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that the editorial aesthetic here tends toward the engaging and accessible. This is the kind of journal that serves as a warm reminder of what the editorial relationship should be: a great editor is a writer’s best critic and first champion.
Similar to the now defunct Postcard Poets, Hoot Review is a small print and online press that publishes a single postcard every month, and additional online work besides. The editors transform the works they accept into postcards which are wonderfully diverse from month to month. You can browse all of the issues online, but why not treat yourself to a subscription? Give yourself a reason to look forward to checking the mail again. This is not the kind of journal you should submit to if you’re especially fussy about where your line breaks fall; the editors are explicit about the need to reformat to fit the constraints of the postcard. Hoot Review accepts fiction, nonfiction, memoir, poetry, and book reviews year-round, and—even better news!—pays for the works they accept for their postcard issues.
*In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I should mention that I have contributed to Leveler in the past.
Elizabeth O’Brien is teaching “One Day Literary Journal Publishing Intensive” at the Loft on May 17. She writes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Her work has appeared online and in print in more than 20 literary journals and her book reviews appear regularly on NewPages.com. She presently teaches Creative Writing as a Teaching Assistant at the University of Minnesota, where she is co-editor-in-chief of Dislocate journal. She has served in the past as a submission reader for the Harvard Review and NPR’s popular “3 minute fiction” contest. She lives in Minneapolis, MN.