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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: August 9, 2008

It’s impossible to guess how many hundreds of thousands of writers and poets are at work in the U.S. at any given time. And the vast majority remain barely read beyond their friends and family. But huge numbers of them get into print, even if their audience is small, and many owe their freshman careers to the Len Fulton’s Directory of Little Magazines and Small Presses whose 740 pages contain almost limitless outlets for their outpourings.

     The vast majority accept poetry and prose, some also fiction plus whatever specialty they choose to define; most do not pay and even those that do, restrict payment to a few dollars or offer instead, free copies containing the author’s published work. Many will send a free sample copy on request, usually along with their guidelines.

They range from the unquestionably scholarly or academic such as

Journal of Narrative Theory, Ypsilanti “publishes essays that address the intersection between narrative, history, technology, ideology and culture.”

Journal of Mind and Behavior, NYC, seeks scholarly works on the psychology, philosophy, and sociology of  experimentation and the scientific method….

     through the socially-conscious

Mouth, Topeka, KS “known for its flaming exposes of charity’s high rollers and bureaucracy’s log-jammers, for its consumer testing of deadening drugs and behavior modifiers, for its pride, its anger. Its humor….a crash course for Americans on the disability rights movement.”

to the would-be commercial

Lunar Offensive Publications, Brooklyn, NY, “doing a one-time book of violently erotic/erotically violent short, short stories, graphics, poems, short screenplays…no pedophiles, no torture”

Many are highly specialized and clearly offer valuable information for a particular audience.

The Bold Strummer of Westport, CT, “publishes books on guitars and related instruments.”

Vinegar Connoisseurs International Newsletter, Roslyn, SD “all articles related to vinegar.” (no payment)

Treating Yourself: the Alternative Medicine Journal, Etobicoke, Ont.

Midwifery Today, Eugene, OR “Birth information for midwives, childbirth educators, and interested consumers.”

Writers’ Journal, Perham, MN. “Articles on the art of writing — inspirational and informative.”

Friends of Peace Pilgrim, Shelton, CT “We are interested in current pilgrims and peace walkers who are traveling for peace and in stories and issues that enhance and inspire our readers…”

Off Our Backs, Washington DC “a radical feminist news journal” publishes 50% of mss. submitted.

Tricycle: the Buddhist Review, NYC, publishes 10% of articles submitted.

Hollywood Creative Directory calls itself “the phone books to Hollywood” and professes to list up-to-date addresses, phone numbers current titles for entertainment professionals. The company co-publishes a production guide with the Hollywood Reporter.

While others are very specific about who they expect to be readers or contributors:

Journal of Music in Ireland from Co. Wicklow.

New German Review, Los Angeles, a journal of Germanic studies.

Italian Americana, Providence, RI,  “all aspects of the Italian experience in America.”

Publishers and/or editors are usually noted without comment, but there are amusing exceptions: New Orleans’ Nola-Magick Press, “a nonprofit occult publishing house lists, as CEO, a certain Keith Nicholson, who describes himself as “author, bartender, and ne’er-do-well.”

Unsurprisingly, there is a welcome for poetry almost everywhere although one shudders to think of how lame some of this must be, considering what a small percentage of poetry makes any sense. I have always been influenced by what Marilyn Monroe said to me on the occasion of our solitary meeting in New York in the 1950s.

     “I like men who are poets,” she exclaimed, her eyes wide and her enthusiasm unmistakable. “But it doesn’t mean they have to write poetry. Do you know what I mean?”

Indeed, I did, as I have always regarded poets (along with artists) as among the most significant people in our society. But goddess help us from most of the drivel they produce. If it were in prose, they would be laughed out of the room for stringing together words without meaning, thoughts without perception. Obviously, there are exceptions. Yet even the works of some of the most lauded poets make no sense to me, and I’m at a loss to understand their esteem. In a very tangible way, I just don’t “get” poetry and never have. Of course, I’d be delighted for some poet to explain to me what I’m missing.

Some kind of answer may lie in the listing of New York’s:

Manhattan Review, NYC, whose editor, Philip Fried writes: “A poem is not purely a verbal artifact. It must speak to and for human concerns. I welcome experiments but poetry must ultimately communicate to an audience. It is not an unobserved wave in the vast ocean of language.”

The Review, he says, publishes less than half of one percent of mss. submitted. Pays two free copies.

In the Directory’s introduction, Virgil Suarez (“novelist turned poet”) claims he was introduced by the maverick essayist Charles Bukowski who “taught me resilience — to be tough-skinned and wary of all the precious fuckers in academia who want to replace real poetry with small-minded, self-centered drivel.”

Havana-born Suarez, 47, is a novelist who teaches creative writing at Florida State University and has written half a dozen books. Here’s the middle of his poem A Cuban Dream in Three Parts:

I am a child again, trying
to climb a pyramid of green
coconuts in the Chinese bodega
Someone hands me a machete.
When I start to hack them in half,
white doves flutter out to the street.
Every skull keeps a secret.

There are scores of other poetry magazines including:

True Poet Magazine, Michelle True, “a webzine dedicated to publishing the best in poetry.”

Pig Iron Press, Youngstown, OH, sponsors the Kenneth Patchen Competition.

Lucidity Poetry Journal, Houston, TX “Seeking lucid poems about people and human relationships in understandable English without vulgarity.”

The attractively-bound Modern Haiku, Evanston, IL declares that it “publishes haiku only, plus elated book reviews and articles “no restriction on length” and also devotes space to haibun whose contemporary version, it says,

tends to focus more on everyday experiences — the journey of the human being living mostly in urban settings as well as ventures into natural settings. Contemporary writers do also continue to write of travel experiences. Some have described haibun as a narrative of an epiphany, but many haibun are simply narratives of special moments in a person’s life.

A few magazines are quite specific in their demands such as the


And other magazines, while not actually discouraging contributors (although there are several of those, too) make it clear what they don’t want

Heroes from Hackland, Arkadelphia, AR  “Anything from one line to 1,500 words. We do not like crudities or improper language. We don’t like religious dogma; we look for imagery and coherence.”

Philos Press, Lacet, WA publishes “books by ‘friends’ whose work, poetry, prose, and visual arts has been overlooked by other presses (contributors) who more than just being ‘friends’ are friends of the written and spoken word…We do not accept unsolicited works.”

Creative Guy Publishing, Richmond, B.C. publishes “an annual anthology of speculative fiction novellas.” query by email only. any unsolicited had copy mss. will be recycled unread.” (repeated twice)

Hapa Nui, East Palo Alto, CA “is a place where readers determine through a democratic process what they like and ultimately which work makes it into print.

Omega, Howling Dog Press, Berthoud, CO. “We are open to many forms of expression but closed to clones and other crimes against criteria. The war, the imposter in office and proselityzing through propaganda disgust us. Plagiarism will be prosecuted.”

One could delve forever through this important directory, reveling in and speculating about such titles as Twenty-Eight Pages Lovingly Bound With Twine from Danville, OH. Or Polar Bear & Company, Solon, ME. which boasts that one of its published authors, Oswald Rivera, “proves that the great American novel can be written in our times.”

     I spent hours musing Len Fulton’s Directory and when I came across the entry for Under the Sun, Cookeville, TN which wrote that it was “devoted exclusively to a form that began with Montaigne and continues, despite neglect, to thrive today.”

I felt compelled to check out Montaigne, about whom I was depressingly ignorant. He was, Wikipedia informed me, the influential 16th-century writer who popularized the essay,  and was described as possessing the “effortless ability to merge serious intellectual speculation with casual anecdotes.” My kinda guy.

                                        [John Wilcock is currently in Europe]