Editors’ Choice: Editors Share Their Picks for the Best Lit Mags Pt. 3: Tom Holmes
Before you read the next post in this series, I need to clarify that these “picks” and the posts from Michael Meyerhofer, Donna Marbach, and today’s editor Tom Holmes, are entirely in their words and not mine. I may agree with some, all or most of the opinions expressed here but I have not officially weighed in on the subject yet. On to Tom Holmes:
There are so many great journals out there, so some of my answers will look instead at the design and layout of each journal, because I want my work to be in a good looking journal. Of course, each of the below journals (in no order) publishes very fine work.
- Passages North. An oversized 10″x7″ journal with terrific covers that seduce me. Their poetry fits somewhere between accessible and heady. It challenges me, but doesn’t exhaust me.
- Istanbul Review. Terrific layout. Each author gets a page for a bio that precedes their work. They have color artwork. And there are black tabs indicating genre and author’s name. They aren’t afraid to publish other languages with their own alphabets, like Bengali, or afraid to print pieces that swirl on the page. It’s a delight to thumb through or read cover to cover.
- Sheepshead Review. The issue I’m looking at is Volume 37, Number 2. The 6.5″x8.5″ pages have black borders. It frames the poetry and prose like they are artwork. And the titles are in red. It’s so nice to see color in a journal, which is an expensive endeavor. Plus, there are full black pages with color artwork. Moving through the pages, the eye is stimulated.
- Rock & Sling. If you want a good course in layout and design, check out this journal out of Whitworth University. They have a good proportion of margin space, exacting leading in the text, and they like to explore their typefaces. It’s a journal of witness, so the poems have a religious-leaning, but they aren’t afraid to publish work from atheists. They truly explore faith from all angles.
- Atticus Review. This is one of my favorite online journals. I’m biased towards print journals, but what I like about Atticus Review is not only the wide variety of work, but how they have a featured poet every month or so, which includes a handful of poems from the poet plus an interview. I love when poets talk about their poetry, so I especially appreciate this.
- The Cincinnati Review. Editor Don Bogen knows how to find great writing, as The Cincinnati Review’s work often appears in Pushcart. If you want a journal that consistently publishes a wide range of styles and fine work, check out this journal.
- Rattle. The poems here are grounded and challenging. Plus, they and editor Timothy Green are fully engaged in bringing poetry to the masses. Check out their website, too.
- Miramar. I’m looking at Number 3 from 2015. Man, it’s like an anthology with 188 pages and 86 authors. How do they fit so many well-known poets beside so many up-and-coming poets, I don’t know, but it’s something you can enjoy for a long reading session.
- Iowa Review. If you want to be on the edge of what poetry is doing, you kind of have to read this journal. It’s essential.
- Sugar House Review. This is my favorite journal. They’ve been around for about eight years, and they started with a bang, with poems in Pushcart their first two years.
When I’m looking for poetry journals, I’m usually looking for what newness does the journal bring to poetry. So I’m looking for more than just terrific poetry. I’m looking for inventive poetry. Sometimes the invention comes in the form of images (like Miramar), style (like Cincinnati Review), pushing language (like Iowa Review), or having fun (like Sugar House Review and Rattle). I want surprise, even if the poem overall isn’t fully successful. I crave a consistent movement to the unexpected. I want the Gomer Pyle aesthetic: Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!
Tom Holmes is the editor of Redactions: Poetry & Poetics and is the author of seven collections of poetry, most recently The Cave, which won The Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Book Award for 2013. His writings about wine, poetry book reviews, and poetry can be found at his blog, The Line Break: http://thelinebreak.wordpress.