Posts Tagged ‘literary rags’

You know the idiom. The running gag is that it’s the most literary table leg leveler ever, the muck on the towel after drying the dog from its romp through a muddy yard during a summer storm, the piece of toilet paper scraped from the sole of a shoe before leaving the bathroom to avoid being embarrassed while returning to the table at the center of the restaurant, the…well, you get the idea. Truth is, however, that this underground literary magazine is an (sub)urban legend and a gateway through which many up and coming authors can get their first taste of seeing their name and toil on inked-up paper that didn’t come from any printer of theirs.

Printed at the publisher’s own expense and distributed gratis anywhere within the wake of its editors’ travels, the idiom became a New Jersey literary staple for those seeking accessible, affective poetry from fresh voices. Its infamy was born out of controversy stemming back to one fateful day on Rutgers’ New Brunswick campus, wherefrom it was banned for perpetuity on the basis of being “pornography” (though an incident involving a paper mâché volcano might have also been involved). While this attempt at name sullying was an affirmation for a few, that same act proved to be an aphrodisiac for the many.

Under the magazine’s mantra of forgoing pretence “to focus on the simplicity and entertainment of the written word,” the idiom‘s editors have spent years building a readership base that has its bulk in the tri-state area but can be found all across the USA and even internationally. Now that the groundwork’s been laid and so many years of toil have netted continued interest and increasingly impressive submissions from amateur and professional writers alike, the idiom is coming up from the underground* and getting into the market-at-large. May god help us all and have mercy on our souls.

I once had an economics professor who proposed that it is impossible to get people to pay for that which they’ve already been getting for free. But the idiom‘s already proved that theory wrong with not one but two anthologies! And it’s not like one can’t see the struggle between love of sharing and desire to legitimize the rag; just look at the blog page that announces the paid subscriptions while also offering a link to a free PDF download and Flash-based, in-browser version! It is not clear whether or not the magazine will only be available in trade for greenbacks from here on in, if free vs. pay will be on a case-by-case basis, or if subscriptions are the only option to be priced, but I truly believe this could work. The editors have worked hard to establish the literary rag, most recently appearing (officially) at the Brooklyn Book Festival, and are working even harder now to make it, if not reputable, a pornographic literary force with which to be reckoned.

(Cover to Idiom Vol. 8 Issue 1, by Nicole Greenwood)

*Title and phrase taken from a song of the same name by Firewater


When I first wrote about the Kindle Fire, I didn’t adequately imagine just how much I would come to love it. App availability and Flash compatibility aside, it is a magnificent device.  When was the last time you heard me say “magnificent?” To prove this point, I submit for your approval the FREE subscription of the Kenyon Review that is available to all Kindle owners. Sure, the content is “limited,” but look what limited includes:

Elegy owed
—Bob Hicok—

In other languages
you are beautiful – mort, muerto – I wish
I spoke moon, I wish the bottom of the ocean
were sitting in that chair playing cards
and noticing how famous you are
on my cell phone – pictures of your eyes
guarding your nose and the fire
you set by walking, picture of dawn
getting up early to enthrall your skin – what I hate
about stars is they’re not candles
that make a joke of cake, that you blow on
and they die and come back, and you,
you’re not those candles either, how often I realize
I’m not breathing, to be like you
or just afraid to move at all, a lung
or finger, is it time already
for inventory, a mountain, I have three
of those, a bag of hair,  box of ashes, if you
were a cigarette I’d be cancer, if you
were a leaf, you were a leaf, every leaf, as far
as this tree can say.

This was from the Summer 2012 issue, which offers up a lot of other great pieces of poetry and prose as well. Also, the free subscription lets you flip through the journal in 2 modes: Page View and Text View. While the offering of both may seem a tad silly, the combination provides the look of a real journal with the functionality (search, highlight, look-up) of an eReader. Keeping abreast of the latest issue of said subscription is as effortless as going to your physical mailbox; a download starts automatically once connected to Wi-Fi when each new issue is available.

Honestly, I wish more literary journals would have such a tremendously well-designed eSubscription…even if not for free. Heck, after this last issue, I might just subscribe to get all the content. At $0.99/month, what the heck is the reason not to?

(The reproduction of the above poem is done so merely to illustrate the quality of poems offered via a free subscription. It is not meant to infringe upon copyrights of the Kenyon Review or Bob Hicok, whose book, “Elegy owed,” comes out in 2013 according to a couple sources and is fully recommended by this blog for purchase upon release.)

The Idiom Volumes 3 & 4

The Idiom (Volumes 3 and 4) (buy via Amazon)
Eds. Keith Baird, Mark Brunetti, Chris McIntyre

The Idiom, a New Jersey-based, underground literary journal, first appeared some 6 years ago and has been rolling along – gathering no moss, but submissions – ever since. Printed on a whim, at will, and when finances allow, the freely distributed, photocopied rag was founded on the humble credo that poems should offer memorable imagery via accessible language. “Submit to The Idiom…just don’t read it” is the self-deprecating mantra of the magazine, so it is not surprising that the release party for The Idiom Volumes 3 and 4 – the rag’s second formal collection of former printings (October 2007 to July 2009) – featured more music and party than self-celebrating poetry.

The poetry that defines The Idiom was far from absent, however. A slew of bands – Intense Men, Xylophone of Wrench, Accidental Seabirds, and others – played the night through, punctuated periodically by poets reading pieces from the recent publication. This was beautiful for two reasons: 1) set changes between bands (i.e. when the poets read) were filled with sound and emotion instead of mindless chatter of an impatient crowd, and 2) the crowd got to drink themselves silly and be social from 9 pm to 1:30 am…which is what poets do best. And what place better to hold a book release party for post-beat poets than the Brighton Bar in Long Branch, NJ, which regularly supports poetry via open mics and booze amidst an atmosphere of rock.

This event was a testament to the party which is poetry and a celebration in honour of those who fight to make a place for it to thrive within an entertainment culture that is increasingly indifferent and even aggressively disinterested in poetics. The determination of The Idiom’s publisher rang true with his nervous pacing, and the love for the homegrown magazine itself was heard in every one of the heartfelt readings from the contributors who took the stage (see above video).

While the recent VIDA findings show existing literary rags need to amend their publishing tendencies/policies, a new journal, Adanna, is taking proactive action to the newsstands this summer in the name of the female voice by focusing on female writers and women’s issues.

I know this blog and my writing don’t generally attract readers of the female persuasion, but I am, being one of many men in a generation raised by women, a feminist (once you stop laughing, feel free to continue) and as such urge anyone reading this to buy/read Adanna’s forthcoming Summer 2011 issue. And to make sure your male guilt/feminist intrigue isn’t assuaged for whatever the price per issue is, subscribe! The founder/editor, one Christina Redman-Waldeyer, is an established poet, educator, and, dare I say it…woman. She’s published 2 books through Muse Pie Press, a repeat offender in the propagation of critically chosen poems (don’t let the fact that one of their projects has published a couple of my pieces dissuade you).

Of course if you are a woman or are currently writing about women or their myriad issues, Adanna is currently calling for submissions. Help them get the word out by raising your voice!