The electronic poetry journal can we have our ball back? (www.canwehaveourballback.com) is one of the more straightforward publications you'll come across on the Internet. No fancy artwork, no sound files, no flashy animation-just poems you can read by clicking the poet's name. There's something to be said for such a minimalist approach to publishing, but it's probably not necessary to say it.
Last September Elizabeth Schoonmaker launched the bimonthly journal Portrait (www.portraitsketch.com) in Burlington Flats, New York, to explore notions of biography through art and literature. Each stapled, black-and-white, five-by-seven-inch issue includes the work of one writer and one artist. Recent Portraits have offered writing by Fern Feller, Elaine Starkman, and Irma Sheppard. Reproduced on the cover of each issue is a different visual representation of that most personal entryway to biography-the face. Issue No. 2 featured a photograph of a sculpture cast out of gyro meat (a self-portrait made out of 80 percent beef, 20 percent lamb) by London artist Doug Fishbone.
If you like a little science fiction, mystery, or crime writing along with your "literary fiction" and you aren't too highbrow to admit it, the new Argosy (www.argosymag.com) offers not only a bimonthly magazine but also a separately bound novella-both housed in a handy-dandy slipcase. "A large part of our goal.is to recognize and celebrate good fiction, regardless of category," says senior editor Lou Anders, whose genre barrier-breaking aesthetic harkens back to Golden Argosy, considered by some to be the first "pulp fiction" magazine. Originally published in 1882 and renamed Argosy in 1896, it went on to publish Edgar Rice Burroughs, Horatio Alger, Lous L'Amour, and Dashiell Hammett. The second issue of the new Argosy, which is associated with the old only in spirit, was published in March and includes fiction by Carol Emshwiller, Jeff Vandermeer, Mike Resnick, Mike Baron, and Martin Meyers; an interview with Neal Pollack; and a novella by Charlie Stross and Cory Doctorow titled The Rapture of the Nerds: Jury Duty and Appeals Court.
DoubleTake (www.doubletakemagazine.org), the quarterly magazine that was founded by Robert Coles at Duke University in 1995, has had more than its share of financial troubles. After initial funding in the form of a $10 million grant from the Tennessee-based Lyndhurst Foundation, DoubleTake lost its support from Duke and in 1999 moved to Somerville, Massachusetts, where the remaining grant money dried up and the magazine slowly sank into debt. Subsequent grants from various organizations failed to steady the ship. Even Bruce Springsteen-that's right, the Boss-tried to bail out the magazine by performing a couple of benefit concerts last February, but the money he raised didn't last. The magazine has been on publishing hiatus for the last year while Coles and the staff figured out what to do. "We decided to close the magazine, to pay off our debts, and to completely clean up our act from a business perspective," says executive editor R. Jay Magill. If all goes well, DoubleTake will relaunch this summer as a bimonthly with a new staff and renewed editorial vigor. "The editorial will shift a little bit," Magill says. "We feel like it's gotten a little staid and a little stuffy in the last couple of years, but we believe that the essence of the magazine is still salvageable and really powerful." According to Magill, the mix of poetry, fiction, essays, photographs, and artwork that readers came to appreciate in the original publication will be "more punchy" and have "a little more edge." Here's a thought: If money's the problem, why not start a literary contest? Everyone else is.
Kevin Larimer is the associate editor of Poets & Writers Magazine.