Sunday, December 19, 2010

Favorite New Periodicals

So much doom-laden talk in 2010 about The End of Publishing and The Death of Books and The Demise of Reading...obviously much is afoot, with digital devices upending distribution and the recession continuing to take its toll on traditional publishers and booksellers...yet, in the midst of the upheaval, innovators are making their way, often using the digital tools that have so unsettled the established, here are Lobster & Canary's favorite literary newcomers, all periodicals founded within the last five years, in no particular order:

Goblin Fruit: A Quarterly Journal of Fantastical Poetry (launched in 2006). Founders Amal El-Mohtar, Jessica P. Wick and Oliver Hunter have a keen eye and ear for verse that is fey without being twee. Consistently good, with a unified style across the many contributors, the whole adorned with perfectly matched drawings. Drawing primarily on European folk traditions, grounded in the English and German Romantics, Goblin Fruit poets include modern stylists such as Sonya Taaffe, Thedora Goss, Nicole Kornher-Stace, JoSelle Vanderhooft, Jane Yolen, and Cat Valente.

The Fairy Tale Review (launched in 2005). Founding editor Kate Bernheimer has set up a caravanserai for marvelous new takes on our oldest tales. The FTR, with its cover illustration by Kiki Smith, brings together scholarly experts (Marina Warner, Maria Tatar, Jack Zipes) and a dazzling array of authors as diverse as Dan Beachy-Quick, Jedediah Berry, Rikki Ducornet, Francine Prose, Donna Tartt, Kim Addonizio, Paula Bohince, and Aime Nezhukumatathil. Stir in a dash of, say, Rimbaud or Kurt Schwitters, and FTR dishes out a heady meal.

Alimentum: The Literature of Food (founded in 2005) is literally a feast! Apercus about appetizers, descriptions of all that makes us enjoy dining, notes and art about food preparation...and handsomely produced. Check out their reviews, their art gallery, and-- how cool is this?--their "Menupoems."

Uppercase: A Magazine for the Creative and Curious (first issue, spring 2009). Oh bliss! Janine Vangool opened UPPERCASE Gallery in Calgary four years ago--the magazine is an extension for the eclectic, dynamic community of artists, designers, artisans, and "visual enthusiasts" she has assembled there. One of the best launches in the past decade, with an idiosyncratic mix of bold, playful work, spanning font design, textiles, film, elegant scrapbooking, Pantone chips, all manner of ephemera, with good reading recommendations and smart essays.

Elephant Magazine (started in 2009). "The Art and Visual Culture Magazine," Elephant takes us to artist studios around the globe (Paris, Sao Paolo, Berlin, Madrid), and explores the crossroads of artistic practice. Who else inquires into the "world of Do Not Disturb signs," analyzes "the Incredible Shrinking Subject, or, the art of miniaturized worlds," wonders how "bicycles influence fashion," or peers at how artists are updating the collage? Best of all: thoughtful manifestos. Writing about art for folks who believe in the power of art.

The Sienese Shredder. Artists Trevor Winkfield and Brice Brown founded this ambitious, weighty, beautifully produced and cleverly curated annual in 2006. In their own words: "Each issue brings together poetry, critical writing, visual arts, unpublished rarities, oddball ephemera and other culturally significant material in a way that is exciting, contemporary and fresh. Contents can include writings by visual artists; art by writers; poets as installation artists; photographers as poets, and the range of contributors moves from the well-known and up-and-coming to the unknown or forgotten. As an archival project, each issue of The Sienese Shredder comes with a CD recording of a well-known poet reading or a musician presenting a retrospective sampling their work."

Slice (begun in 2007), featuring poetry, fiction, non-fiction, artwork in a happy melange. Most important: Slice is committed to finding and helping launch the careers of promising new talent, showcasing such alongside heavyweights on the order of Salman Rushdie, Tana French, Lisa See, Paul Auster, and Jonathan Lethem. Slice has quickly become a darling of the Brooklyn lit scene.

A Public Space (started in 2006) is another meteoric success out of Brooklyn, erupting seemingly fully formed. Founded by former Paris Review executive editor Brigid Hughes, APS is "an independent magazine of art and argument, fact and give voice to the twenty-first century." I am most taken with their essays, which illuminate a hidden corner or unexpected turn.

Shimmer Magazine (started in 2005). Shimmerzine, founded by Beth Wodzinski, offers "speculative fiction for a miscreant world." Quirky, hard-to-classify stories, often with a dark undertone, typically with lush prose. Lots of metamorphoses. Some issues are themed, e.g., "the clockwork jungle book," "the pirate issue." Some of the authors: Jay Lake, Nir Yaniv, Claude Lalumiere, Kuzhali Manickavel, Aliette de Bodard. Plus, always gorgeous cover art and intriguing illustrations (Mary Robinette Kowal is art director).

The Quarterly Conversation (begun in 2005). Some of the very best reviews and criticism anywhere. Founder Scott Esposito and his team (spiritual descendants of Walter Benjamin!) are trenchant, fiercely intelligent, honest. Good at covering literature from around the world, and excellent at ignoring (or deriding) "genre boundaries." No holds barred, e.g., "Contra Lev Grossman," "The Bolano Myth." High expectations on themselves and on their readers, with the earnest punch of the Modernists. Who else is crafting manifestos like their "On the Right Way to Write Criticism (wherein we do something we have never yet attempted: we direct our Editorial Energies against our own publication)"? Be sure also to read Esposito's editor's blog, Conversational Reading.

Three Percent (launched in 2007, at the University of Rochester), "with the lofty goal of becoming a destination for readers, editors, and translators interested in finding out about modern and contemporary international literature." With effective, clean lay-out, a growing inventory of reviews, and a great set of links, Three Percent is an essential clearinghouse for Anglophones looking to connect with other literatures.

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