Literary MagNet

Dana Isokawa
From the November/December 2016 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

When it came to publishing work from her forthcoming poetry collection, Imaginary Vessels, in literary magazines, Paisley Rekdal admits her “long and highly narrative poems” could be hard to place. The collection—Rekdal’s fifth, released this month by Copper Canyon Press—explores what she describes as “the ways in which art and public personae become ‘vessels’ or monuments for our cultural imagination.” The poems take on difficult and fraught topics such as gender, race, violence, and motherhood—and the journals that eventually published them, including the five below, seem to share Rekdal’s aesthetic and ethical orientation. Rekdal has also published poems in the American Poetry Review, At Length, the Kenyon Review, the Literary Review, Ninth Letter, and Poetry, among many others.

Rekdal sought publication of “Olive Oatman in Texas” in the South Dakota Review because she wanted the poem—about a nineteenth-century Mormon woman who lived for many years among the Mojave before being forcibly returned to white society by her brother—“to stay in a region and with a journal that cared about these issues, and was not interested in propping up old masculine mythologies or outsider stereotypes that still dog the Western states.” Housed at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, the print quarterly published the poem in the Fall 2014 issue. The journal’s circulations manager, Cheyenne Marco, notes that the editors look for poetry, fiction, and nonfiction that features “more unconventional and experimental treatments of place.” Submissions are open via Submittable through May 31.

Farther out west, the print biannual Poetry Northwest was one of Rekdal’s “dream journals” as a teenager. “As an eighteen-year-old, this journal seemed cool and professional and Parnassian,” says Rekdal. Kevin Craft, the editor of the Everett, Washington–based magazine since 2010, recently stepped down to focus on its newly launched book-publishing arm, Poetry NW Editions. Looking back at his tenure as editor, Craft says: “I hoped to introduce a new generation of readers to improvisational traditions: the cross-country dispatch, voices on the edge of discovery, expansive vistas in a compact space, dialogue with the visual arts, and, above all, the inclusive feminism of Carolyn Kizer [one of the journal’s first editors].” Poetry submissions are open via Submittable through March 15.

Issue 4.1 of the online journal Diode includes Rekdal’s “The History of Paisley,” a poem that editor Patty Paine says captures the triannual’s aesthetic—poetry that is “agile, musical, restorative, and yet also immediate.” The journal, based in Doha, Qatar (where its two editors teach at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Art and Design), will celebrate its tenth anniversary in February 2017. Submissions are open year-round via e-mail at “We’d love to see more erasure poetry and more visual poetry—asemic writing, digital poetry, haptic poetry,” says Paine. “We’d also love to see more collaborative work.” 

Rekdal spent years submitting her poem “Bubbles”—about, among other things, the “very fraught decision not to have a child”—before finding a suitable home for it at the print annual Water~Stone Review. “I got rejections at a number of male-helmed journals over the course of years, despite strong support from female writers and colleagues to whom I showed drafts of the poem,” Rekdal says. “Over time, I began to come to the (very uncomfortable) conclusion that ‘Bubbles’ was being rejected less because of its aesthetic gestures, and more because of its content: something I was reluctant to admit, because it’s frightening to realize that your career can be so deeply shaped by sexism.” But when an editor of the Water~Stone Review approached Rekdal after she gave a reading at Hamline University in Saint Paul—where the journal is based—Rekdal says they ended up talking about how they both couldn’t seem to get “any work taken in the standard male-run journals that dealt with either our miscarriages or our ambivalence about being parents.” The editor asked Rekdal for “Bubbles” and published it in the 2015 issue. Poetry, fiction, and nonfiction submissions are open via Submittable until December 1.

In May 2013, the bimonthly online journal Connotation Press: An Online Artifact published Rekdal’s poem “Letter From the Pribolofs” in its Congeries column, curated by John Hoppenthaler. Based in Bristol, West Virginia, and run by Ken Robidoux, Connotation Press publishes all genres, including interviews, reviews, and travel writing. “I miss angry poetry,” says Robidoux. “I’d like to see more work by writers who are less concerned with figuring things out and, instead, are more rooted in a sense of anger formulated by life co-opted by the government’s intent on favoring business and the self-interests of the few over the welfare of the many.” Submissions are open year-round via the journal’s online submission system.                     

Dana Isokawa is the associate editor of Poets & Writers Magazine.

Photo of Paisley Rekdal by Austen Diamond.