If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Or at least use them to your advantage. That seems to be the approach that a number of literary magazines are taking to combat what the National Endowment for the Arts, in its Reading at Risk survey (five years old and still striking fear in the hearts of writers everywhere), suggests is a declining interest in literary reading and a corresponding upswing in visual and audio entertainment. Crack open a journal these days—a quote, unquote hip journal, anyway—and there is a better chance of finding a plastic sleeve containing a CD or a DVD bound into the front or back cover. Oxford American includes a CD in its annual Southern Music Issue. Subscribers to the Believer have expanded their audio-visual libraries with the CDs and DVDs included in its regular issues devoted to music and film. As a matter of fact, the last Visual Issue of the Believer included the debut of Wholphin, a quarterly DVD magazine produced by McSweeney's. Wholphin is a good idea—albeit a little expensive. The first issue was free, but an annual subscription costs forty bucks. For readers who are tired of playing the Six Degrees of Dave Eggers game (yes, the author-turned-media-magnate publishes the three aforementioned publications and has opened six nonprofit writing/tutor centers, but who's counting), consider Rattapallax, the bimonthly literary magazine published in New York City by Ram Devineni. Every issue of the magazine, which was launched in 1999, has included an audio CD, but with the November 2006 issue Devineni dropped the text format altogether and turned Rattapallax into a DVD featuring literary films and audio. "It's time to look into the future and see where poetry and literature will be in the next ten, twenty years, rather than stay idle," Devineni says. The first issue of Rattapallax DVD includes short films by Sherman Alexie and Anne Waldman, a tribute to Paul Bowles, an animated poem by Philip Larkin, and much more. According to the Web site, the magazine is open to submissions of "extraordinary films and audio works based on modern poetry and prose that reflect the diversity of world cultures."
Despite or perhaps because of the allure of visual art, there are still readers out there—raise a glass—who want to remain precisely that: READers. It is for these blessed individuals that the Reader, a nonprofit organization at the University of Liverpool, has published the Reader for the past ten years. The quarterly magazine features essays, interviews, reviews, and recommendations of books for those in the U.K. and the United States who'd rather turn off the television and continue reading.
The twenty-second issue of Poetry Kanto was published late last year and includes work by U.S. poets Sarah Arvio, Jennifer Michael Hecht, and Gregory Orr as well as Japanese poets Ishigaki Rin and Takarabe Toriko in English translation. The annual journal, published by the Kanto Poetry Center at Kanto Gakuin University in Yokohama, Japan, includes more extensive biographies of its contributors than usual. For example, readers of the last issue will learn not only that poet Taguchi Inuo's last name literally means Dog Man—a detail that distinguishes his from the garden-variety contributor note—but also that the poet's style is in distinct contrast to that of mainstream Japanese poetry (as if one could expect anything less from Dog Man). Submissions to Poetry Kanto—poems written in English or Japanese poems in English translation—are accepted from December through May.
Kevin Larimer is the senior editor of Poets & Writers Magazine.