Editor Roundtable: How Will a Trump Presidency Impact Literary Magazines?
As the dust settles and 2016 is tucked away into history, it’s hard to imagine what will become of the years ahead. Like many things, the literary community is at a crossroads. There is great uncertainty about what effect the new government will have on the arts and those who comprise it’s ranks. We asked a few journal editors to weigh-in with their post-election thoughts.
- Matt Broderick, Reviews Editor, TRR
Question: Now, over a month out from the election, what lasting impact has the presidential race had on your journal? Your staff? What impacts do you foresee looking forward?
Jim Hicks, Executive Editor, The Massachusetts Review:
As is true of any major seismic shift, both the initial shock and aftershocks are impossible to predict, even when we know they’re coming. At the Mass Review, we responded to the election simply: by doubling down on our essential raison d’être. We began in 1959 with the mission of publishing authors and voices that were otherwise unlikely to find their way into print — Black Arts writers, advocates of civil rights and women’s lib, etc. — and we plan to continue doing precisely this. The day after the election, we started a blog series we’re calling “Our America” and we’re currently looking into doing a special issue on the same topic, offering a forum for writers we love and voices of opposition from all corners of the globe. In sum, our message to the new regime isn’t simply pushback, it’s affirmative: We have a vision for this country, and we always have — it’s just not yours. The arc may have just gotten longer, but we’ll still be pulling back the bow, and we’ve got plenty of arrows in our quiver.
Zach Yontz, Fiction Editor, Gigantic Sequins:
It's hard to say just yet what the lasting impact will be. We're having pretty interesting internal discussions about what role a small lit journal can play in this weird new world. Gigantic Sequins has always tried very hard to publish art from a variety of communities, and it's something we've focused on during editor meetings.
Kimberly Ann Southwick, Editor-in-Chief, Gigantic Sequins:
In addition to what Zach's said, the day after the election I responded to a call from the journal Winter Tangerine, looking for writers and organizations to join an Alliance for Social Justice. They'd put out this statement here, and it touched on what we were all feeling so strongly in those days that followed and since then. Yazmin Belkhyr, founder & EIC of Winter Tangerine, sent all who joined the alliance an email recently, and GS is ready to help organize and stand behind whatever collective actions we can to make sure that we show resistance to systemic nastiness-- "nastiness" as a placeholder word in lieu of listing here of all the ugliness that our current President-Elect stands for and wakes up in mean-spirited others. She touches upon, in her recent email, how it seems overwhelming to try to do something as an individual, but if like-minded individuals stand up for righteousness together, we can be heard/do something. I like that spirit.
Joe Ponepinto, Publisher, Tahoma Literary Review:
If there's a somewhat positive impact of the presidential election result, it's that it has made many writers and lit journals refocus on their priorities. I've seen quite a few blogs and articles talking about the role writers can play in making sure important social and economic issues aren't ignored or belittled by the new administration and the people who voted for it. I, and my co-editors at TLR, believe that these are the times when writers and editors must step forward and claim roles as respectful, but vociferous critics of unfair policies and attempts to limit individual rights. As a student of history, I've seen how the right words can hold authoritarian regimes accountable when an oppressive regime takes over, simply by the power of their ideas. We'll be looking to reflect that literary ethic in the coming months and years.
Molly Hill, Editor, Blue Marble Review:
While our submissions have remained steady there’s been an uptick in non-fiction essay submissions and a greater sense of urgency, as well as what feels like a stronger desire from our contributors to be heard. As an editor, it was a conscious decision to stay out of the political fray and focus on good stories and creative art. But, the post–election atmosphere feels too charged to ignore and certainly it impacts the lives of our young writers. We don’t have ‘themed’ issues, at least not yet, nor do we have a political agenda. The mission of our journal is to be a collective of voices, and we look forward to bringing more of these voices forward during what feels like a time of great change and uncertainty.
Philip Elliot, Editor-in-Chief, Into The Void:
Fascism is rising. Not just in the U.S. but across Europe too. In the West we're experiencing similar circumstances that led to its rise a century ago and now the wheel has turned again. People say to me, especially because I live in Ireland, that I'm overreacting to this; that's it's just more politics, everything will blow over, etc. They fail to see the bigger picture. What's been put into motion here, catalyzed by the election but arisen from a far more complex sense of discontent and fear, is the greatest threat to our newly-progressive societies that we've ever seen. More than anything else, my fear is that we as artists and curators of art will allow our way of thinking to become the 'It's just politics, it will all blow over soon' attitude. I fear that because nothing terrible is going to happen right away, we will normalize this whole affair and accept it. What people forget is that Hitler began his slow climb to absolute power in 1918. Bad things are coming, that's for certain, but they will come slowly, and they will come under the guise of good. As writers, we peer under the masks of things for a living and that skill is more important now than ever. Art's duty to criticize the bad and protect the good is infinitely more important in times of darkness. It reminds us what we can be. And it must also remind us of the terrible evil we once did. Because if we truly remembered, how could we have let this happen again? At Into the Void, we'll be paying close attention to work that criticizes the actions of our supposed leaders in the months and years to come.
Jason Teal, Founding Editor, Heavy Feather Review:
We've been deeply affected by this year's election season and the subsequent transitioning of Trvmp into the presidency. It has reinvigorated our looking at writing as a form of resistance, not just expression or human tendencies grappling toward communicating hard to reach ideas. As such, we've created a space for vulnerable communities in order to stand against vile rhetoric today and yesterday and any place it should occur, called #NotMyPresident
From the call: "HFR is invested in supporting and publishing art by the LGBTQA+ community, Muslim writers, writers of color, female-identifying writers, undocumented immigrant writers, survivors of abuse or assault, disabled writers, plus other marginalized groups. White supremacy and other hate is inexcusable, and we wish to counteract and stand against these prevalent attitudes. HFR has reaffirmed its mission to elevate these marginalized groups by initiating a new blog feature, #NotMyPresident, an online space for these communities to publish new writing. Whether you’re an emerging or established writer, we want to witness your work. We will not succumb to vile rhetoric or back down from publishing important literature. Writers from these marginalized groups are encouraged to submit. This call is not only for election literature but also a place dedicated to promote new fiction, poetry, nonfiction, journalism, comics, hybrids, and more. Open year-round."
Going forward, we intend to contribute more to response literature and new literature by these communities in order to increase awareness of and sensitivities to other voices. We feel compelled to find literature that not only does the usual things and tells a good story or makes tired perspectives new again, but literature that also does something by its publication. I'm so happy to have this space available and look forward to standing with new voices all over the country, where others might seek to suppress calls to action. I won't back down. I can't.
Barbara Bergmann, Managing Editor, Evening Street Press:
We were compiling the next issue of Evening Street Review with already selected content at the time of the election. Our first article, just by chance, describes how the US government was deliberately constituted to serve the minority aristocrats. As we added each piece, we realized how relevant they are to what is happening post-election. Mass graves in Ireland, the varying concerns of US citizens, past and present discrimination, student debt, jobs. These are treated in some cases with wit, in all cases with compassion. I wondered whether our writers will be chilled by the current atmosphere of hate. And my hope that I have the courage to print the works of those who are brave enough to defy it. Please keep sending your good work.
JT Lachausse, Editor-in-Chief, The Matador Review:
We will continue to approach issues of erasure and prejudice as we would have no matter how the election turned out. The presidential race was indicative of many things, but it did not imply that our cultural and global concerns are close to being resolved. Nothing in the general government sector can deter our mission, except for an emotional influence.
We will continue to promote an open market - free of submission fees, free to read, free of advertisements - so that we can reach as many writers and creators as possible. We will persist in our march for accessible literature, and we will broadcast work that challenges hatred, power and ignorance. The most important thing that the small publication community can do right now is promote accessibility in literature. There are a million messages that need to be shared as soon as possible, but the most popular platforms can be costly to subscribe and submit to.
Diversity, accessibility, and tireless resolve; that’s how we move forward. Always, all of us.
RM Cooper, Founder & Managing Editor, Sequestrum:
As writers, we're more motivated than ever to create great literature that will make people stop dead and read. As editors, we're rabid to get great writing into as many hands as possible. As readers, we're buttoning down the hatches in advance of the post-apocalyptic submissions.
Michael Prihoda, Founding Editor, After the Pause:
While I haven't felt the literary impact of Trump's election yet, it's fully been on my mind and how my journal, and others, have more of a responsibility than ever to continue producing quality installments and using our platforms as a voice for justice and inclusion. Something that concerns me is Trump's partially anti-free speech rhetoric (I say partial because he has no problem with far-right rhetoric and has never openly condemned the rhetoric of say, the KKK, who endorsed him, though he has taken much pains to condemn the "mainstream media" he proclaims are so against him). Anyone who speaks against him or his policies reckons with his Twitter wrath. A recent example comes from Hamilton when the cast addressed his running mate and Trump responded with a declaration that I found wholly anti-free speech. And going forward, I can't foresee the arts being held as sacred under Trump. I fear an age of oppression for outlets of criticism and critique when levied against the powers that be. Now, certainly things might drift in a wholly positive direction but the anti-inclusion, anti-immigrant, anti-etc. proclamations coming from his campaign are directly at odds with my journal's mission and what I hope to accomplish by running a literary enterprise that not only spreads artists' creations but supports effective charities at the same time with whatever generated profits. I do not run a journal that supports a certain political party. I run a journal that supports humanity and the cause of justice and that is not something I find even remotely reflected in Mr. Trump.
Photo credit: Tony Webster via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND