Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Reflections: on the Death of Literary Journals

This morning I had a little free time and so I checked in on some of the internet publications I enjoy. I started by checking to see if Slurve Magazine, "The Arts & Culture Review that Masquerades as a Baseball Publication," had bit the dust yet.

Slurve was one of my first publications. I'd heard from a writing peer that she had been published there, and as I was somewhat publication-lite myself, and interested in having at least some work available online to the three people each year who probably Googled me, I decided I'd check them out.

Slurve was nascent. I looked around and liked the potential. The published contributors each had "baseball cards" with their stats and author info. I had just finished an essay about baseball cards and so it tickled my fancy. The editors asked not for "submissions" but for "tryouts," in all genres, including reviews and political commentary. This, I thought, seems like a good idea.

I submitted several pieces, had three accepted and published just a few months later. Not to say that I've had any pieces published that I'm not proud of, but I especially like the three they selected: an alternative-universe piece about baseball and poetry, and two about growing up in slightly odd ways. I was pleased to have them available to the world.

But they never managed to get my baseball card up on the site. And after another three months no new work had been posted. Then another three months passed. About two years later I checked in and discovered that the Slurve team was under new-management. The Head Coach had been jettisoned. The team had been moved from Boston to Los Angeles. New work was coming soon. It didn't come that soon. I stopped checking Slurve for new writing and instead visited periodically to see if it had died yet.

Their Facebook page indicates that the new work did come, and that in fact for at least a few months this year Slurve was posting regularly, however as of today, it's gone. I expected the end for so long, but that it's gone I'm a little surprised. Publication by Slurve was a minor milestone in my young writing career, and now they're gone. Selfishly, I guess I'm glad that their literary career petered out before mine.

Fortunately, internet is filled with many worthy little literary journals (both original and offshoots of print publications) that collect pieces you could never hope to run across in the Paris Review or Poetry, or some other high-falutin' journal, but are nevertheless beautiful and provocative. Through submissions and word-of-mouth I've discovered dozens of them (too many to read regularly) including elimae, which merrily trucks along in minimalist glory and PANK, which I check somewhat more regularly, and not just because they've published me.

Within the last couple years I also discovered two other journals whose format I especially liked, Wonderfort, and Abjective. Both featured one author or collaboration a week, a format which I found both simple and pleasing. To be fair (or maybe a little unfair), Wonderfort appeared to be a rather direct parallel of the style of Abjective, and the editor of one was published by the editor of the other at least once. Maybe it would be better to say they had a rapport.

Regardless, when I checked them today only Abjective remains online, for now displaying the somewhat terse message: "ABJECTIVE no longer publishes". If you go to the main site it displays random pieces from its archive, which are filled with many delightfully strange pieces.

Wonderfort, on the other hand, is completely gone. Where did it go? When was the fort breached? When did the wonder stop?

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