Literary MagNet

Kevin Larimer

Where on earth do they come from, these new literary magazines that appear each season, as if on cue, lined up like sturdy saplings on the indie bookstore's periodical shelf? As the arrival of new journals like Greensboro, North Carolina's Cave Wall, Roanoke, Virginia's 1913: A Journal of Forms, and San Francisco's Alehouse attests, they come from big cities and small towns all across this literary land—sea to shining sea, amber waves of grain, the whole bit. And speaking of grain, it's apparently been a key ingredient in the birth of quite a few of these homegrown operations. Think of all those About Us pages out there that describe late-night "conversations" during which many bottles of those amber waves were consumed, things got just a wee bit out of control, and with a new dawn upon them, the writers woke up to find themselves editors, with a literary magazine growing inside them, like a fever—or a hangover, as the case may be. Substitute something a little more dignified for the lager and you have, more or less, the story of Avery, the new biannual magazine of short fiction edited by Stephanie Fiorelli, Adam Koehler, and Andrew Palmer, conceived on just such an evening in early 2006. "Avery was born over Chinese food and two bottles of Shiraz on a cold January night in Madison, Wisconsin," the editors write on the journal's Web site. The first, nearly 250-page issue was published earlier this year and features stories by Stephen Dixon, Amy Havel, Ander Monson, and more than a dozen others, with artwork—some of it in color—between each. The second, to be released this fall ("or very early winter," the trio wisely cautions, allowing themselves some room to breathe), will be a little slimmer, and—not surprisingly given the cost of printing—the illustrations will only be in black and white. As it turns out, Avery is not the only product of the editors' late-night collaborations. Fiorelli and Koehler, who are married, had a baby boy in June, roughly a year and five months after the birth of their literary magazine.

Cadillac Cicatrix is another new one. It may sound like a General Motors recall, but it's not: It's a pretty cool semiannual journal published by NorthernPros Creations, a company in Carmel Valley, California, that provides editing, publishing, and promotional services for writers. The premiere issue, published this past summer, is devoted to "story," a broad theme described by founding editor Benjamin Spencer, in his first editor's note, as an account that "not only engages narrative but also articulates the nature of what it is to be human." The issue's stories, by Keith Abbott, Raymond Nolan, Peter Orner, and others, as well as poems by Sam Abrams and Michael Salcman and photographs by Tony Stringer, endeavor to do just that. The next issue, due out sometime next winter, will carry a "creative nonfiction" theme.

One July night in 1986, Marc Kelly Smith, a Chicago construction worker, approached the owner of the Green Mill, a Chicago jazz club where Al Capone used to hang out, with a plan to host a Sunday night poetry competition. The owner agreed, thus laying the foundation for slam, a competitive style of performance poetry that since has seen a rate of growth that, some could argue (and do), is unprecedented in the world of verse. So, slam is now twenty-one years old; the annual National Poetry Slam, held this year in Austin, Texas, is eighteen. Although neither number cries out "Anniversary Year!" the biannual magazine Rattle is nevertheless celebrating with a two-hundred-page tribute, published in June, that includes an audio CD of twenty slam poem performances and an interview with the two Smiths—slam founder Smith and four-time slam champion Patricia Smith. For those unfamiliar with the genre—and justifiably unsatisfied with the "history" above—the current issue of Rattle also includes an in-depth introduction to slam by Susan B. A. Somers-Willett.

Kevin Larimer is the senior editor of Poets & Writers Magazine.