Earlier this week I ran across Shane Solar-Doherty’s great piece “Support for Lit Mags Starts With Writers” at the very cool blog The Things They Read.
Solar-Doherty’s undergrad exposure (or lack of exposure) to litmus is sadly familiar to many of us who took writing courses, hoping to eventually find homes for our own work: “The most a professor would do for his or her students was print up a list of journals they could submit stories to. We were never encouraged to educate ourselves on the tradition of the literary journal or even to pick up the latest issue of a lit mag at a local bookstore.”
I’m sure there are professors who instill in their students an appreciation for the fact that literary presses and journals publish important work–work at the forefront of the literature today. But unfortunately, most students won’t run across such teachers. Most of us will hear a tacit message in professors’ disregard for lit mags: you can try to publish in them, but you don’t have to read them. But let’s be clear: trying to make a literary life without educating yourself about the landscape of contemporary literature is about as wise as this guy auditioning for So You Think You Can Dance. You have to put in the work of learning about your art form–and in literature that means reading what’s being published now–if you want to be a relevant part of the ongoing conversation.
As an editor, I’m thankful for organizations like CLMP, whose course adoption program places literary magazines in creative writing courses. But I, like Solar-Doherty, would love to see more writers take the initiative to put their time, attention and–yep–their money into supporting the world they so want to publish in.
But as a writer, I have to admit that Solar-Doherty’s piece was a good call out to me. I read a good number of journals, and subscribe to the ones I like most. But I realize I could be doing more. This year, I’m committing to exploring journals I haven’t read or subscribed to before, and to reading work that might otherwise not show up on my literary radar.
If any other reader/writers would like to join me in that exploration, I’d love to hear what you’re reading, what you recommend, and what you’re excited about in the literary world. Of course, I’d love to see more people subscribe to The Los Angeles Review or Fifth Wednesday Journal, and not just because I edit for both. (Really–I think I can say without bias that LAR and FWJ are publishing some of the finest poetry in the country.)
But I’d also recommend a few more journals that I think are consistently strong. If you’d like to get a look at the freshest, finest writing in country, these are some great places to start: