Transcendence Magazine

I was impressed by the inaugural issue of Transcendence Magazine, an online journal started by a senior in high school. Its presentation is professional and its content is high caliber. The magazine contained some really insightful and beautiful pieces, and I also think it has a lot of potential to grow, especially if it narrows its literary gaze. Right now, I think it extends itself too broadly, including pieces that are real gems and other pieces that are mediocre. It also has not yet cultivated a defining taste-  in my opinion, there didn’t seem to be much of  a pattern for how the pieces in the issue fit together.

The first issue, which came out this past spring and contains fiction, poetry, art, and interviews with artists, would be quite hefty if printed on paper, since it is 82 pages long. However, it’s in an online format that is relatively easy to read. Still, I think the magazine would benefit from being slimmer because then it would be more digestible. Unfortunately, it’s hard enough these days to entice people to read literature, and an 82-paged magazine that’s not yet well-known might be too much trouble for many who are just dipping their toes into the literary pool. The quality of the pieces in the issue varied. I must give a disclaimer, of course, that I was judging the works based on my own personal taste, so another person may have liked the stories and poems that I found to be just okay. The poetry was hard for me to judge since, as I’ve said before, I’m not much of a poetry reader and thus poems must be really accessible and thought-provoking for me to like them. Some of the fiction pieces were really good; others had interesting premises but just didn’t quite capture my attention for one reason or another. Below are a few pieces that I enjoyed. I recommend checking out the issue as a whole to get a sense of the kind of writing the magazine is interested in. Fiction-“Jade” by Ethan Brightbill (on p. 42): a short story about a homeless girl on the streets of modern-day Yuexiu, a developing city in China. I liked this one mostly because I found the setting to be very detailed and believable and the narrator had a strong, compelling voice. Poetry- “Tattooed” by Armit Pamesseur( p. 13): I don’t always “get” poems, and sometimes I don’t think you need to really get exactly what they’re driving at to appreciate them as aesthetic works. I liked the rhythm and imagery of this poem and the ambiguity of the meaning of the woman’s tattoos, and how the poem seems to take on a spiritual tone despite its rejection of religion that condemns the woman’s actions. “Instead of Discussing Marriage” by Glen Armstrong (p. 36): This is one of those poems that almost anyone can enjoy, whether they love reading poetry or not. The speaker lists all the things he should have done instead of discussing marriage with his girlfriend. It’s playful and funny but also thoughtful, and I really like it. Another aspect of the magazine that piqued my interest are the interviews it has with artists from around the globe. I was surprised by the global reach of the magazine. There were interviews with artists from America, China, and Russia, and two were with young, emerging artists in their field. I really liked the interview with Fei Wu, a Shanghai writer (p. 38) because it explored issues of censorship in the literary world in China, which I know a little about from taking Asian American lit classes. It was interesting to hear from the perspective of an artist who is living in the midst of China’s literary scene, since I mostly have met and read ex-patriates. Overall, I look forward to seeing what Transcendence Magazine will come up with in its next issue. I plan on possibly submitting some works and seeing what comes back. Their criteria for submission is an emphasis on stories, both in poetry and prose. They want captivating language too, but they are mostly looking for narrative voice and plot, and they are not as interested in experimental works. Their submissions are currently closed, but they will start accepting submissions again in the fall.

For More Information:
Transcendence Magazine
Website: transcendencemag.wix.com/transcendencemag
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The Adroit Journal

The Adroit Journal is a great platform for emerging writers and unique voices. I was compelled by nearly every piece in its latest issue, Issue Eight. The online journal, which was started in 2010, publishes poetry, short fiction, and art. One thing I noted reading all of the biographies of the contributors is that the grand majority of them are young- either high school students or undergraduates. But before you scoff at comparing yourself to high school students, check out the work in this journal. It radiates promise. I wish I had been writing that well as a high-schooler. Hell, I wish I could write that well now.

The poetry in this journal is in some ways experimental. It is mostly free verse with some prose poetry sprinkled in. What I found remarkable about it was the poetry’s readability.  I often feel like an unwelcome visitor when reading poetry because the poets are speaking in a hidden language that I don’t understand, even when I apply myself to understanding the text. But these poems opened their arms to me, and even when I wasn’t sure what was going on, their language was inviting at least. My favorite poem from this issue is “How We Make Love” by Cheryl Julia Lee, which uses a beautiful and very concrete metaphor, comparing “making love” to folding origami. I like how the whole poem plays on the phrase “make love,” turning love and physical intimacy into a product of art that has a process and a meaning that lasts beyond the time of its creation.

If I had to describe the fiction from this issue, I’d call it “quirky.” Many of the pieces are wacky and fun, but still tackle deeper issues at the same time, such as “Josephine March Sighs With You” by Erin Entrada Kelly and “How to Keep Animals from Defecating in Your Closet” by Mary Sheffield. Others were darker and more serious.  The Adroit Journal accepts stories that are up to 2,500 words, so most of the stories could be classified as “flash fiction.” The story, “The Hubei Boys” by Christina Qiu is the most striking to me. I love its meditative tone and how it gives insight into the daily life of Chinese schoolboys and peasants.

The journal also is unique in its commitment to supporting human rights causes in other countries. Its most recent issue features poems by Zimbabwe writers, which the journal found by working in partnership with the Zimbabwe Poets for Human Rights organization. These poems are really thought-provoking and worth checking out.

Submission Information:

Next Deadline: April 1st, so send in your best work quickly!

For More Information

Website: theadroitjournal.org

 

Decades Review

Decades Review is another online journal that has recently sprung up in the past few years. Published quarterly on its website, the review contains poetry, prose, and artwork. I perused its last two issues, Issue Eight and Issue Nine, and found that some of it prose bordered on cliché and was rather generic. However, there were a few gems, and the review seems to be up-and-coming overall. It seems like a great starting place for emerging writers seeking publication.

The poetry published in the review is lyrical and sometimes more intellectual than emotional. I enjoyed the poem “Liars” by Matthew Williams, in Issue Nine, which had surprising and interesting imagery. From that issue, I also liked the poem “River of Perdix” by Danielle Susi, which examines the legend of Daedalus and Icarus from an unexpected perspective. Overall, I would describe the poetry in the review as widely varying, but mostly clever and contemplative. I think the poetry in the review is stronger than its prose offerings.

Most of the prose in the review I found to be disappointing, especially the stories in the latest issue, which delve into the romantic and emotional lives of their characters, but leave out specifics, giving the stories a hollowed-out, generic feel. I did, however, enjoy the story “Kacie” in Issue Eight, which I expected to be another rather generic story, but it turned to have some unexpected twists. I’m not sure if those twists were justified, but at least they made the story more interesting. I also liked the flash fiction “At a Distance” by Kristina England, which manages to evoke a lot of emotion in just short span of words. These pieces are stronger than some of the other published in the journal because they pay closer attention to detail and to character.

The review accepts both flash fiction and longer short stories, but the works it publishes tend to be on the shorter side.

I was intrigued by the artwork in the review, which adds a whole new dimension to the writing, depending on where it is placed, as well as being interesting in its own right. Some of the photography and drawings were astonishing, while others were almost creepy. The artwork creates an eery but also artsy effect that contributes to the overall atmosphere of the journal. I recommend checking it out!

Submission Period:

Year Round

For More Information
Decades Review

www.decadesreview.com 

Blue Lake Review

The Blue Lake Review doesn’t dazzle, but it has solid and original pieces of prose and poetry. This online review has a new issue each month, so there are plenty of opportunities for publication. There is no unifying theme among its content; in fact, what seems to be its identifying feature is the diversity of its offerings.

In the latest issue, December 2013, there was one story that took place in the Jim Crow South and one about an isolated, lovesick modern day grad student. The short stories each contain unique premises, which some of them take in stride, while, in others, the narrative falls flat. “Dancing Girls” by Verless Doran was one of the latter. It has nothing to do with dancing girls, and instead discusses an old man selling stories. But the actual frame narrative did not do a good job of conveying the supposedly spellbinding quality of these tales, rendering the piece rather anticlimactic. On the other hand, I really enjoyed “The Diary Farm” by Robert Earle which, told in a diary format, describes how a man starts a “diary farm. At first the business begins as a joke, but it quickly transforms into a budding enterprise. I like how this piece explores all of the ways people record their experiences and what they gain from doing so. At one point, the man’s son devises a computer program that writes a diary for two busy clients, a couple who do not have the time or inclination to share with one another:

April 14, 2013: Al called Margot from San Diego–airplane ticket $650, hotel $490, contract on bid: $500,750–Margot took Excedrin all day–too much cabernet sauvignon last night, lonely–heating bill came: $128, average per month this year: $152–Al walked 5 miles on La Jolla beach–missed Margot–next trip in October–Al must be positive, all the time positive–no more cabernet sauvignon for Margot this week–I.R.A. stocks up .07 percent, bonds down .08 percent–long term fine but when kids? –couldn’t accompany business trips with a baby–maybe wait on babies? Action items: pill through October, early double flight reservations to San Diego, meet with State Farm Agent, buy food once a week without wine, do not even go into wine aisle, wine only in restaurants or with friends, five miles on beach again tomorrow, think positive thoughts…

– Robert Earle, “The Diary Farm”

The program takes their computer activity, processes it, and spits it out into bizarre sentences, just a reminder of how much of our lives can already be reconstructed from our constant use of technology. But there’s something so oddly inhuman about the sentences, which are not much more than disconnected bits of information, that it’s clear you can’t really write a diary with a computer.

I found the poetry in the journal to be plain in language, simple to read and easy to understand, but emotionally moving. The poems mostly seemed lyrical, tending towards more conventional poetry rather than experimental. I like the poem “Since She Took Her Life” by Mike Finley, which has a speaker who cannot help but see death everywhere, presumably after a lover or a friend has committed suicide.

On the submission guidelines page of the review, they editors state they are “not looking for something that shows you how clever you are, how large your vocabulary is, or writing that is overly sentimental.” Instead they want writing that is “pure, absent of false notes.” You can submit short stories of up to 10,000 words, and up to five poems at a time.

For More Information

Blue Lake Review

Website: bluelakereview.weebly.com

[PANK]

[PANK] magazine is an online and print magazine that publishes “emerging and experimental poetry and prose,” according to their website. Initially, I found the word “experimental” daunting, assuming that the contents of the magazine would be incomprehensible to a novice poetry reader like me. I was surprised to find that the poetry in the magazine is very accessible. Its experimental qualities come more from playing with language and form than from a tendency towards obscurity. Much of the prose also resembles the poetry; it’s often short fiction that qualifies more as flash fiction or prose poetry than short stories.

The poetry in this magazine tends to be highly lyrical and rhythmic. I really like how the poems feel uninhibited and wild. My favorite poems from the latest issue, which I think are very representative of the magazine as a whole are “Mew Zee Um” by Bob Hicok and “Partial Midwestern Love” by Bindu Bansinath (and if you need any proof that this magazine publishes emerging writers, check out Bansinath’s bio at the bottom of the page— she’s seventeen year’s old!).

The prose in [PANK] also has very interesting use of imagery and language. However, in one of the pieces, “Jerry” by John Thornton Williams, I found the plot to be so confusing that it distracted me from the actual prose. I could not follow the chronology of the story, and that took away from my enjoyment of reading it. On the other hand, I did like the three short stories by Kaj Tanaka which talked about reservation life, especially the last one, entitled “Wake.” I didn’t think there was anything particularly “experimental” about them, apart from their brevity, but they were well-written and compelling to read.

[PANK]’s online magazine publishes new works every month.

Submission Period

Year-Round

For More Information

[PANK] Magazine

Website: pankmagazine.com

The Cortland Review

Based in Cortland, New York, The Cortland Review is an online magazine of fiction and poetry, focusing mostly on poetry and emphasizing poetry as a performance art. All of its poems are accompanied by an audio file of the voice of the poet reading the poetry aloud.

The review publishes an issue four times a year, as well as putting out features twice a year— including translations of non-English poetry. Their website also has a unique widget,  called The Poetry Streamer, which may be of interest to those of you who want to listen to poetry, not just read it. The Poetry Streamer plays randomized audio selections of poetry from past issues of the magazine.

The poetry in the journal tends towards traditional, free verse poetry, often lyrical in tone. It is not a journal for experimental poetry, so if that is what you write, this is probably not the journal for you. As a reader, I found the poetry to be interesting and accessible, although a little stale at times. One poem that I really did like from the summer 2013 issue of the journal, Issue 60, was “What Happens Before Anything” by Dara Barnat. It is a simple poem, but I thought the way the author uses an image of snowflakes piling up as a comparison to how a mental or emotional burden can amass is very powerful.

The fiction published by the journal is mostly short fiction, “flash fiction,” that is almost short enough to be called poetry. Yet it retains a distinctly prose-like feel where a narrative emerges in just a short span of words. Both pieces in Issue 60 of the journal follow a similar format of fragmented snippets that add up to a whole. I didn’t really like either of them. I think it is incredibly difficult to make a piece of fiction that short that can convey a story in its entirety. “Tennis in a Dozen Easy Lessons” by Charles Israel, Jr. which compares different moves in tennis to the narrator’s life felt a little too obvious for me.

On the other hand, I really like the short story “San Francisco, Summer 1990”  by Michael Bourne from Issue 59. I wouldn’t call it flash fiction, since it is too long to fall into that category, but it is certainly a shorter short story. The story captures a pivotal moment in the narrator’s life as he encounters his dying father, to whom he has not spoken in many years, and the author seems to hint that he will make the same mistakes as his father. I think it is a subtle and intriguing piece.

Submission Period

Year-Round

Submission Details

Submit 3-5 Poems, or short fiction up to 3,500 words

A cover letter with biographical information should be included

For More Information

The Cortland Review

www.cortlandreview.com

Tin House

Tin House is one of the best literary magazines out there, publishing some of the most compelling and exciting literary works in the contemporary literary scene. They are a print magazine publication based in Portland, Oregon, and they mostly publish well-established writers. It’s not impossible for emerging writers to be published in Tin House, but it would be quite an accomplishment. Don’t let that be a deterrent from reading and submitting to the magazine; at the very least, you can learn a lot about writing from reading the pieces and absorbing their style.

The magazine, which is printed quarterly, contains fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and book reviews. Its works are tied together not by an overarching style or theme, but by a commitment to exploring new territories of writing. For example, in Tin House’s latest issue of Spring 2014, one of its fiction stories, “Arcadia” is told in the format of a magazine advertisement for a retreat and rehabilitation facility. The story plays out in the interesting dialogue between the marketing descriptions that paint a rosy, idealistic picture, and the testimonials, which hint at the troubled minds of the people visiting the facility. Not all of Tin House’s works are experimental, but all of them push the boundaries of their genre in some way or another.

In Tin House’s spring and fall issues, there is, however, a theme, and works are chosen based on how they align with that theme in different ways. The Fall 2013 issue was on the theme “Wild,” and it is really interesting to see how widely interpreted that simple concept can be, ranging from depictions of a tourist encountering locals in El Salvador to the brothels of Las Vegas.

Tin House tends to publish longer works of fiction and creative nonfiction of up to 10,000 words. These longer pieces delve deep, allowing, in fiction, for much development of character and setting, and in creative nonfiction, for a much more nuanced treatment of the subject matter.

Tin House’s creative nonfiction is outstanding, and often tends towards journalistic writing more so than other forms of nonfiction, such as essays or memoirs. In the latest fall issue, “The Last Days of the Baldock” by Inara Verzemnieks and “Company Town”  by Ginger Strand are two very fascinating pieces that examined little-known slices of American life— the former depicts people living in RVs at a rest stop in Oregon, plagued by poverty, addiction, crime, and homelessness, who nevertheless come together as a community, and the latter discusses the legalized sex trade in Las Vegas. What struck me was how these works brought to life the people in these strange situations, showing their humanity. Also, the writers did not sacrifice vivid language for the sake of being factual. In fact one of the images that stood out the most was in “Company Town”:

“Periodically, a boob would escape from her blue bikini top and she’d calmly tuck it back inside, the way a waitress at the pickup counter might absently stick a stray french fry back on a plate.” 
-Ginger Strand, “Company Town”
No one every said you can’t use apt and witty metaphors in nonfiction!
The poetry published in Tin House is lyrical, fluid, and witty. For the casual reader, it is fairly accessible, but some of the more experimental pieces were lost on me. One particularly humorous poem by Major Jackson, entitled “OK Cupid” after the eponymous dating website, was a long list of similes that strung together the most bizarre associations with the phrase “Dating a ____ is like dating a ____”.
 “…and dating history is like dating a white man/ and dating a white man is like dating insecurity/ and dating insecurity is like dating a Hummer/ and dating a Hummer is like dating the Pentagon…”
-Major Jackson, “OK Cupid”
And on and on it goes, utterly destroying with social media concept of “If you like this, you also will like this” through parody, taking this idea to its absolute extreme. I thought it was pretty funny. 
I highly recommend checking out Tin House. They do put a selection of their works on their website, but the full print publication is available by subscription only. If you can’t afford the subscription, see if your local library has it, or perhaps just flip through it at your local bookstore.

Submission Period

September 4 – May 31

For More Information

Tin House
Website: tinhouse.com/magazine