“Haloed by this next sorrow, sorry.”
Popping in under monsoon season to give a shout to the new online literary magazine Dream Pop Journal, co-edited by Isobel O’Hare and Carleen Tibbetts. Dream Pop is inspired by the Cocteau Twins and describes itself as “interested in lyric memoirists, cross-genre experimenters, fearless inventors, and poets who dream in made-up languages.”
I used to do a lot of online magazine round-ups, and when I read the debut issue of a magazine as good as Dream Pop, I feel sad that I don’t do those anymore. You can romanticize anything, and I romanticize the experience of reading a good literary magazine by aspiring to Frank O’Hara’s line about walking up the “muggy street beginning to sun,” and spontaneously stopping for a “a hamburger and a malted” and “an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets / in Ghana are doing these days.”
And even though that line is (probably intentionally) a lot more complicated than the bodily experience it describes (with the breezyness having the temperature of colder-than-is-comfortable yt imperialism, plus the fact Billie Holiday is about to die at the end of the poem), I nonetheless always think about that bodily experience and think “yes, I want that life, to casually snack and discover what writers and poets I’ve never heard of are up to in wonderfully earnest collections.”
Dream Pop is not ugly at all, of course, and there are also some writers and poets I’ve heard of:
- Capital letter Gothic intensity from L.M. Rivera, like the “got the light?” bit from the new Twin Peaks.
- The singular syntactic genius of Ben Roylance, whose treehouse of a brain (“genres of laughter / I fed coins in”) I would totally rank among my top 50 brains.
- Hiking through the boneyards and the barbed wire with the brilliant Julia Madsen.
- The crackling inventions of Candice Wuehle, featuring my favorite shape of a poem, my favorite type of linebreaks, a light bulb in the mouth image (I am a sucker for anything with a light bulb in a mouth), and alongside all these candy canes also whoa-I-didn’t-see-that-coming lines (even more important than things you already know you like) like: “Fashion / struggles the farther it moves from shapes.”
- The excavations of apologies by Tony Mancus, like who says poems can’t teach you a new way of teaching yourself. Wait everyone says that, nevermind.
- The woven nouns of JoAnna Novak, one of our reigning champions of nouns FYI.
- And oh wowzer geeze this essay by Paige Taggart, are you kidding me: “I think a poem is the best possible way for language to have all its sides revealed.”
But what I try to discipline myself to do with magazines is make sure that for every author I already know I like, I read an author I don’t know, and the secret joy of this technique is you end up liking more things. And life is a little better. It’s ridiculous. Sure, you hit some inevitable duds, but these are the opposite of duds:
- The incredible small crystals of Jenny Wu, which begin with babies born in gravy and a man afraid of needles getting a needle from a stranger, but rotate and shimmer to architecture and haunt.
- Stephanie Lane Sutton doing code poetry in a way that makes me go “oh wow that is why that’s a good idea.”
- Ditto for Zann Carter and “erasures” and Jessica Lawson and the fundamental idea of how you “organize” textual language in a space.
- Or speaking of fundamental ideas, Paula Cisewski making me go “oh wow that is a new way for the first two lines of a poem to come into a room, I’ve never seen a first two lines like that before and I like them.”
Plus many others I’m leaving out with apologies to tender egos because that is the downside of the format of the list, like every time I see a list of anything that I’m not on I have to go buy a cactus, and then I see I’m not on the list of cactuses on sale and I enter a devastating infinite loop and can no longer write anything, let alone magazine round-ups. But it doesn’t mean this issue isn’t worth 100% checking out. My only complaint is there isn’t an easy way to go from author to author without going back to the big list, but that feature is only important probably if you are trying to deliberately read everything, and I know that life is short and the seas are rising.
No one comments on blog posts anymore because it’s not 2008, but I’d love to know your favorite online magazines, ones you feel you trust in such a thorough way that you’ll even read the shit that’s not by your friends or yourself. (Shoutout to my friend Theo Krantz and his line that I can’t stop thinking about: “I remember when I met my favorite stranger.”)
Because all in all, I only had to avoid reading like three or four political thinkpieces in order to have a good time reading Dream Pop and writing this post. Which, like, yeah, thank the seas for that. And specifically thank the seas of Isobel O’Hare and Carleen Tibbetts for lifting the waters up from the dream.