Friday, April 30, 2010

Thought Experiment: A Journals Project

I was asked yesterday what three (or four) journals would best trace out the arc of what's happening in contemporary American poetry, and it’s been turning around in my head ever since.

I went for:

Denver Quarterly
Action, Yes!

But I could have gone for:

New England Review
Colorado Review

or or or? Or maybe:

Kenyon Review
New American Writing

And then this leads me to another thought. Is there ONE journal that has a wide enough arc to be representative of contemporary American poetry? Or maybe two in tandem?

It makes me think of something like American Poetry Review, where a single issue doesn’t come close to the arc of American poetry, but a subscription does better, as issues seem to cluster around general segments of the arc, though never going as far into innovative (or experimental? Or Avant-garde or whatever) poetry as it would have to to be representative. And as well, journals like Indiana Review, Black Warrior Review, and Gulf Coast, which change their tone and, well, vibe, I guess, as the editors change over.  Is there somethign to be said for that? Or is it better to have a journal you can count on to investigate a certain thing? A certain aesthetic area? And then there are the Internet-based journals, which I haven't mentioned much here, but which I read a lot (see list at right).

Maybe APR + Conduit (or maybe VOLT)?

Eh, it still doesn’t feel quite right. But such a grouping should exist. A penny for your thoughts.

And also, is there a list somewhere grouping of the aesthetic affiliations of journals? There must be? I feel like I’ve seen one at some point.


At 4/30/2010 11:08 AM, Blogger Colin Sheldon said...

Aesthetic groupings: not that I know of. There is, for more a.g-leaning journals, Selby's list:

At 4/30/2010 11:17 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I'd be interested in seeing such a cloud grouping. Is that what they call it? That thing with bubbles and strings all over the place?

Something like the schematic for how many people I sent viruses to today who then clicked on the link vs those that didn't.

At 4/30/2010 2:33 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

From facebook:

Eric: Barn Owl Review. Game. Set. Match.

JG:If I can't claim TLR, you can't claim BOR! There are rules, man. RULES!

David: stick with FIELD!

Eric: Rules are meant to be broken, man. BROKEN (by me).

Michael: Gulf Coast. A Public Space. Jubilat. Maybe Black Warrior. I think Gulf Coast in particular is wide enough to be representative. The Canary did a nice job of this when it was still a journal, but it's no longer with us.

JG: David, That was my first inclination. If it were two, I'd have to say FIELD + Denver Quarterly, maybe? But that makes me wonder if I'm just going with my favorites, and favorites have no place in such a scientific study.

OK, Eric, then I'm back to saying The Laurel Review!

Anne: I might throw Pleiades into the mix. Although I'm already wondering whether my mental list is skewed towards "journals I keep submitting to and really want to get into someday" more than anything else :)

JG: Michael, I was wondering about Gulf Coast, which made me wonder on my blog just now about the journals like it, and BWR, that change editors so often. They're so unpredictable as to be both good and bad ways to go through the gamut. My jury is out. It makes me wish some of the editors were able to stay with it for five years, say. Really get into their thing.

Steven: Diagram does a good job covering a wide range. Anti- too, of course...

Kent: To me, it's the journals that are committed to poems, not poets. And I'm not trying to insinuate with that that journals only committed to slush are going to be the best journals for tracking American contemporary poetry. Jubilat is one of the most exclusive journals out there (in my opinion). They even publish their contributing editors. But at least they usually have fresh poems. In that vein, my other three would be A Public Space, Pleiades, and Chicago Review.

JG: Kent, I keep hearing the "poets" vs "poems" thing, but I can only understand it in the most general way. Like your excellent trio of Public Space, Pleiades, and Chicago, I can't tell from looking at them that they're more "poem" than "poet". And then I think that as excellent as they are, they don't represent the full gamut of recent poetry, as in the Action, Yes! crowd, etc. You know?

Joshua: Chicago Review, Action Yes, Denver Quarterly (though the poems are better than the essays), Pleiades (though the essays are better than the poems), and yes, Fence.

JG: Joshua, Wonderful journals all, but they don't do much with that whole other arc of poetry being written (that I mostly don’t care for, but that's beside the point). What would the gamut look like?

At 4/30/2010 6:48 PM, Blogger Jason Bradford said...

32 Poems seems close.

At 4/30/2010 6:53 PM, Blogger Jason Bradford said...

Oh, Tin House, Pebble Lake Review and I'll vote for BOR then!

At 5/02/2010 7:53 AM, Blogger Paul Gibbons said...

One thing about these "desert island" thought experiments -- there's the love that you don't really have to choose after all by the end.

At 5/17/2010 3:15 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

well, the mags you mention all have one thing in common, good taste, e.g., they all rejected me—

At 5/27/2010 7:40 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

They've all rejected poems from me as well, as long as we're counting.


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