Lit Mag Roundup — “dreamt god raked his fingers through the earth, again”
Finally you’re away from the register. Face up in the water, a bay on the big side, eyes up, sun aplenty, maybe a little too much, thank the great muffle pie in the sky for SPF, materials of ultraviolet blockage. No burners of which to check the wipedown. No eyes-on-phone-fingers motherfuckers with their “yeah, a regular bowl.” No uncles in town on your one day off who don’t understand why the pleasant experience they get from “the Uber” shouldn’t be a goshdarn nonpareil for the “service industry.” No, sir. No sirs or m’ams. Nah to all that. A little nadie for una vez. You’re floating, you’re letting yourself float, it’s harder than it looks.
You’ve nearly got your minding where you want it: thoughts looking down on you instead of poking at the hinges. Even the good thoughts, like about how time is a cultural construct, powerless before a music. Or how what if we give up cultivation and eat knotweed. You start listing the names of weeds you’ve feared. Thoughts vogue against the sun. The phrase “nature off-camera.” The sentence “One Angel Lane resident was eating at a local Cheesecake Factory when she found out that her waiter had donated a lamp — possibly her lamp — through the registry.” Finally you’re of and with. It’s harder than it looks. It’s easier than it feels.
Then you hear your name. Some tumbling of the water, hefty strokes, formed kicks. You look, and they’re cheating with an orange puff-vest. They’re cheating and they’re good. They’re fast and approaching. They’re calling your name with a tinfoil-confetti question mark. They’re all giddy with incredulity. They can’t believe it’s you. No, wait, they can’t believe it’s them. They can’t believe it’s both of you again, in it together. They’re a regular. Not even one of the good ones (“#notallregulars”). They drink three margaritas a day. You have no idea where they get their money. When you go off shift, you have to log their margarita count for the next shift. They’re that annoying. Regularity: they love it. They can’t believe it’s you. “Oh my God, I can’t believe it!” Can you believe we’re all here? Water is never still, but it’s still water. Nature off-camera. They’re a fucking regular. The weird news is that in the moment between you thinking “There’s no such thing as floating” and the moment you actually stop floating (under the water you go, your head goes, the last of you) you are still somehow—well, I wouldn’t call it floating. I won’t take that away from you.
So much happens in the world of online literary magazines! Week to week! In between everything else, I thought I’d do this roundup once every two weeks. Then my list just goshdarn mushroomed. Maybe I better do it once a week? Maybe let’s just get rolling. We’ve got a lot to catch up on.
Correct me if I’m off, but the more floors a thing has, the less mysterious the first floor. But the scarier too. Granted, mystery and fear are not the only variables at play. I’m thinking of both all the towers I’ve really been in, and all the video game towers. When a building has only a first floor, I think of basements. When it has two floors, I think of attics. When it has eighty, I think of money.
Thankfully Poor Claudia‘s mysterious new project First Floor has arrived to fill my thoughts with other furthers. This first First Floor is edited by Natalie Briggs. There are only six people on this floor. They’re all pretty amazing about bold things like sorrow (Dara Wier: “trance of sorrow”), but they’re not all the same amazing. When there are only a few people on the floor, I always think it’s more exciting when there’s a lot of variety between their styles and identities.
But, weirdly, less people on the floor also seems to make differences in styles and identities really show through. Now I’m thinking about how unstable particles get when there are only a few of them.
For Sam Sax this turns into a “motorcade of ghosts,” and for Patricia No, it turns from a scar into an ocean into a piano bench.
First Floor looks great on your phone. In an elegant but sort of frightening way that reminds me of a rock my lover found and gave to me, which I could tell you about, or I could just take a picture of it with my phone. There it is, next to a flashlight she made. Off camera is a computer with First Floor bookmarked.
Nepantla is a Nahuatl term meaning “in the middle of it,” first used in the 16th century during Spanish colonization. Gloria Anzaldúa writes openingly about the idea of nepantla in her classic book Borderlands / La Frontera.
Furthering from there, Nepantla is a journal dedicated to queer poets of color. They just put out their second issue. Their mission is to “nurture, celebrate, and preserve diversity within the queer poetry community.” You can read individual pieces as their own PDFs, but I recommend reading the big whole PDF, because here’s Nepantla in their own words:
We are attempting to center the lives and experiences of QPOC in contemporary America. Thus, we view the journal (and our reading series) as part of a whole artistic project and not individual fragments of work. We believe that (here) the high lyric must encounter colloquial narrative. Here, we must provide space to celebrate both our similarities and our differences. We are one community with an array of experiences; we write in different formats, in different tones, of different circumstances. Nepantla is not the sort of journal that can project a singular voice (not if we want to reflect the various realities of our community). Nepantla is a journal of multiplicity, of continual reinvention.
If you read the whole thing, part of what you will read is Fatimah Asghar’s litany of “again,” from “ramen and toast for dinner again” to “lied when a stranger asked where your dad / lived, again” to “dreamt god raked his fingers through the earth, again.” And then Vanessa Borjon’s “oyster of home.” And then Lillian-Yvonne Bertram’s “This mistook won’t be forgiven.” And then Alok Vaid-Menon and CeCe McDonald talking about “the prison industrial complex, trans visibility, and queer liberation,” with McDonald asking who’s seen Sage Smith from Charlottesville, Virginia.
Nepantla‘s Editor-in-Chief, Christopher Soto, wrote a no-gaze-broken account of editing this issue over at Weird Sister. Soto says “I knew my own fragility. I still understand my own fragility…. As if I am always one misstep from death, homelessness, vanishing into… I don’t have time….” That’s not all Soto says. You should read the rest. I think Soto’s piece is a beautiful companion to a great issue of an important and powerful magazine. Read up and over.
Without giving too much away, I have to say that I can’t think of a much better way to house anything than an old trailer. Or motorhome. Or similarly gone by sundown, potentially. According to the suggestions of the photos on Fruita Pulp‘s About page, that is where they live.
What do they do in there? Well, they make a “stylistically eclectic poetry journal” that runs “poems, essays about poetics and creative process, interviews with poets and publishers, marginalia/ephemera, free digital chapbooks and reviews.”
New out of the door is Issue #11, where you will find Kayla Rae Candrilli cutting through “pomegranate shells for women I have loved” and asking how many ways the rubies will spill. Or Jeff Whitney pointing at clouds catwalking above watermelon salesmen who turn into “a pile of shoes.” Or Cassandra de Alba “pulling a dead glittered fish out of a pool.”
Caravans show up at the edge of the town and challenge the whole notion of where a town ends—for a little spell at least. Fruita, CO is a town I’ve never been to, but I like what’s rolling through.
Dusie has been around for a plump stretch, by the skittish standards of online magazines, and who has time to care about other standards? They are never throwing the same party twice. What they like to do is feature “what can only be loosely defined as modern poetics with a penchant for the experimental” and they like to do it “on a somewhat bi-annual basis.” That’s the kind of wary commitment to timing I can get behind.
Right there on their About page, they’re asking you to send them proposals if you want to edit an issue. For #18, their newest issue, guest editor Carleen Tibbetts decided to feature work from women, specifically, as she says: “women who had inspired and taught me, women I felt were not published enough, and women whose work is compelling, unique, and, of course, moves the reader.” Overall, the issue is meant to showcase women “important and necessary to the conversation of poetry.”
Like Nepantla, Dusie comes in a big PDF, really big, in a good way. So do the full scroll and graze for the names you know and don’t. This is how I found Michele Batttiste’s “agent lurking like rust.” Julia Bloch’s “fake museums for all your favorite memories.”
There is Vanessa Gabb reminding us “Our bodies are not the bodies we once had.” Nat Raha’s concrete collages and Metta Sáma answering her own question “How to stage your future?” with “Perhaps you’d rather become the foghorn / disturbing the night …” There’s Rachel Springer talking about her friend the magician: “My friend the magician told me over and over not to break character, and then he broke character.”
And there’s Meghan Privitello arriving at the body: “The body / makes the shapes we learned as children: circles / rolling into each other with meaningless thuds.”
There’s a whole lot more. Set aside, I would say, a rainy morning, so you still have some day to do something with the changed you’ll be after reading this whole issue. A few days ago, I realized I liked the idea of trying to “arrive” at something instead of trying to “describe” something, and I’m glad one place I arrived at and will return to is Dusie in general and this issue for sure.
That’s around 1700 words already, so probably enough for today/tonight. I wanted to do more, but I don’t want to do a disservice to these ventures by crowding them out. I’ll be back next week to talk about Brittle Paper, Spoke Too Soon, Glittermob, Souvenir, The Offing, and Haribo.
Let’s exit on a great interview with Saeed Jones that went live in the last issue of Wag’s Revue, which we’ll send out with trumpets and waves and these wise words from Jones among many such wise words:
One bit of advice I would give and perhaps not the nicest thing to say: I don’t think people read enough. I really don’t. I think a lot of emerging writers are writing more than they’re reading and I think it should be the other way around. And so if you in that moment in your early career where you’re starting to think about these prestigious literary journals and you want to be in them without really knowing why. Why do you want the New Yorker to publish your poem? is a question that you should have to ask yourself at some point. I think people need to read. Read aggressively. I’m always telling people to read five poems for every one poem you write. Five stories for every story you write. You start to see this republic that you are now a citizen of, that you are attempting to enter and exist in.
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