Blackbird is a well-established online journal published twice a year by staff and students at Virginia Commonwealth University. The journal publishes both emerging and established writers, including acclaimed poet Tomas Tranströmer, who won the Nobel Prize of Literature in 2011. Needless to say, submitting to Blackbird may seem daunting due to the high caliber of the works they publish. But you might as well submit your best work and see what happens.
Blackbird accepts submissions of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction reviews. They also have a unique gallery section where they display videos of dramatic performances, along with the script. Blackbird has other innovative features that take advantage of its online format such as an introduction reading loop in every other issue, in which the editors introduce some of the upcoming writers featured in the issue. Blackbird has a strong electronic media focus, providing audio recordings of many poems so you can listen to them read aloud, and also giving the reader access to recordings of readings held by the journal, in which authors read their own work and discuss it. They also publish the winners of two different prizes each year— the Levis Reading Prize Winner and the Cabell First Novelist Award.
The poetry in this journal is not the most accessible for those new to contemporary poetry. It is often very formally innovative and filled with allusions to classical literature. If this is your niche, then Blackbird may be the right journal for you. Personally, I am not the most sophisticated reader of poetry, and I struggled through many of the poems published in the most recent issue. I did enjoy the poetry of Michael McGriff that was featured in the Fall 2013 issue, especially his prose poem “Figures in the Landscape” since the images that surfaced from the rural landscape where the poems took place seemed striking to me.
The fiction in Blackbird is very well written and often provides a window into slices of American life that I have not encountered before. My favorite piece from the latest issue was “Of Rivers and Caves” by Adrian Dorris. In the story, a father struggles to raise his autistic daughter while haunted by the guilt of his other daughter’s death, who drowned in a river. I thought the way the story painted the father-daughter relationship as he struggles to give his daughter the freedom she needs was very poignant and moving. The story did not always fit what my expectations were for it, which was a good thing because it avoided the predictable, just as real life tends to do.
November 1 – April 15
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