Yes, but will any of us survive the coming zombie apocalypse?
So I’m sure you’ve heard about Anis Shivani’s Huffington Post
pieces on over-rated writers and journals that might survive the Internet. If you haven’t, a quick google can get you to them. Lists such as these are a gamble, because they can be initially exciting, but then start to wear thin as the idea keeps playing out, and one has to decide why these lists are continuing to be created.
Still, a lot of people got excited by the list of over-rated writers. Which caused me to go to my bookshelf to see if I could make a list. I decided not to make a list of over-rated poets, as I got myself all twisted up with questions such as “over-rated by whom?” and “what does it mean to be ‘rated’ as a poet anyway?” So I looked for books I’ve thought were excellent by people who are older than I am (or more deceased than I am) who I don’t see talked about much, or as much as I would think, looking at the work.
Here are some under-rated poets (a very partial list) then, and, again, by under-rated, I simply mean I don’t see them talked about as often as I feel they could be:
Sorry, the canon is full.
Speaking of surviving: then there’s Shivani’s list of 17 literary journals that “might” survive the Internet. The list thing seems to be working for Huffington Post readers, I guess. But I find something kind of easy about making them, and rather disingenuous about the whole thing. Shivani and I had a brief and pleasant email exchange a couple months ago, and he said at that time he wanted to get people talking. Lists, apparently, are the way.
This list of the 17 that might survive is similar to his other lists. It seems rather arbitrary and with a hint of ulterior motives. And, oddly enough, the easiest two literary journals to choose as potential survivors, Poetry Magazine and American Poetry Review, are not on the list (the claim I guess, would be that they are poetry journals, not literary journals, but even so, to narrow the list as he has does not give a very clear picture or the whole). (And also, they’re not university-based. So why is this university base so interesting to Shivani?)
Not to mention the aesthetic bias. Yes, these 17 literary journals might well “survive” (by which I believe he means “will still exist in print editions”), but they’re also, by and large, what Ron Silliman refers to as “Quietist.” What about jubilat? Or Denver Quarterly? Or Colorado Review? (Or, more recently, journals such as Copper Nickel, that are just starting up) Is it really that he sees a better funding structure (or university involvement) for his 17 or something? How can one tell such things from the outside anyway? Who would’ve thought TriQuarterly was about to go zip before it happened? We all know that a long history of support at a university does not mean there will be support in the future. Or the other way around.
And what about more experimental, independant, journals like VOLT and Conduit and ForkLift Ohio? These are all very well respected small journals that will last as long as the editors have the energy . . .
It's all a matter of perspective.
So anyway, I don’t have a list. I prefer to think of it as Stephanie G’Schwind does, in a recent interview conducted by Shivani:
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From Huffington Post:
Shivani: What are the prospects for the long-term viability of the most prestigious literary journals, among which is Colorado Review?
G’Schwind: I think more and more of us will likely migrate from print to online. And while I, like many literary journal editors, love print, I'm not overly concerned about that move. I'll make it if I have to. Fortunately, technology is allowing us to do wonderful and interesting things that mean it doesn't have to be one or the other; a journal can be online and still offer die-hard print lovers the option to subscribe in the traditional way: a paper copy sent through the mail.
Shivani: TriQuarterly, one of the most prestigious literary journals, recently went online--abruptly, taking the literary community by surprise. How do you feel about this?
G’Schwind: It's not the decision to have TriQuarterly go online that was disturbing (the online version recently had a "soft" launch, and it looks quite impressive); it was that the two editors, Susan Hahn and Ian Morris, were not retained. I feel their longtime dedication, expertise, and vision, which inarguably contributed to the success and fine reputation of TriQuarterly, were rather unceremoniously discarded.
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[Disclosure: I’m partial to Colorado Review, as I’m friendly with several of the editors, including Stephanie G’Schwind and Matthew Cooperman] The above snippet of conversation reminds me that to “not” survive the Internet isn’t the same as “not” surviving. A journal could go online and stay that way, or perhaps it could go online and become hybrid (as Stephanie suggests), or it could even go back to print at some point.
To not survive the Internet means, really, to be obliterated by it, and I don’t’ see that happening to any literary journals. What I mean is that literary journals are going to be obliterated by economic forces and the priorities of administration officials. And some of those priorities could be funding journals to a higher level, if the journal is tied to some program or initiative that is important to the university.
So, really, what the Huffington Post list of 17 journals is doing is giving some advertizing to some journals, which I’m very sure is welcome by those journals right now. (Which is another reason to read his list with a grain of salt.) But it says nothing about the future.
The future is apples!