A Lit Mag for Things You're Not Allowed to Say
Profane Literary Journal is published once a year in the winter. Beginning with its first issue in 2014, all issues can be found online on their website. The editors of Profane are interested in the irreverent: “We’re the kind of people who’ve always had a fascination with the things you’re not allowed to say.” This journal does just that. It takes what society holds most sacred, explores it, questions it, and then breaks it wide open.
Profane accepts fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art submissions through Submittable. They don’t accept previously published material, but they will accept simultaneous submissions. Artists may send 2-20 reproductions for the cover and interior artwork found in the journal. Poets may submit up to five poems. They prefer poetry that balances lyrical and narrative qualities. For nonfiction, they are looking for essays that explore the uncertainties of life, culture, subcultures and the world around us. For fiction writers, they are requesting, “Give us stories that are bold, that are daring, that mock and ridicule, that sneer, that disgust and appall and shock. Give us the riotous ones, the mad ones, the defiant ones. Give us the stories you're too scared to share with your peers, the ones so ugly you're sure no one would publish them.” They accept prose submissions up to 7500 words.
In Issue 3, Winter 2016, there is a mix of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and artwork. The issue includes a featured poet, Kelly Lorraine Andrews, and their nonfiction contest winner, Kat Moore. The artist, Craig M. Becker, combines multiple images from his own artwork and archival photographs to create a theme of transformation and introspection which complements the writing in the journal. The strength of the journal lies in the fiction pieces as they either challenge traditional conventions of form or content.
What impresses me most about Profane is the care the editors take in curating the issue. Yes, there are pieces in the journal that push boundaries in content or form, but the order of the pieces make the entire journal sing. Just when I think I know what to expect next, I’m surprised by what actually follows. The issue starts out humming with Jaime Garcia’s poems.
I thought the journal was going to blow open religion in every piece until it doesn’t but that isn’t before Kayla Miller’s “Alive Daughter” tells the story of a robotic baby delivered from God to a woman who miraculously breastfeeds the robotic baby.
I thought the journal had a millennial-heavy feel to it until I read Laura Pike’s “Bird of Paradise,” Devyn Kelly’s “Full Count” and Molly Pascal’s “New Mom” which encompass those relational stories between siblings, parent and child and relationships with oneself that I am always seeking out in literature.
I thought the pieces were going to be funky but benign until I read “Princess” by Michael Chin and I had to put the journal down and walk away. It is a chilling story of a man attracted to little girls and the choices he makes and doesn’t make to walk along the precipice between fiend and pedophile. Because Profane takes the reader on a metaphorical journey which zigs and zags between the conventional and the weird, I kept turning the page. I wanted to know where the editors were taking me next. It’s exactly what all readers want to find in any journal or book: the inate desire to see what’s on the next page.
Dinty W. Moore judged the nonfiction contest announced in this issue. Kat Moore wrote “The End of the World,” her story of being in the midst of, getting out of, and the aftermath involved in being a heroin addict. All stories have value. True stories might hold more value because they happened. Heroin addiction is an epidemic in which many people become involved but few find their way out of its insidious grip which means fewer first-person narratives are available to readers.
The featured poet of the issue is Kelly Lorraine Andrews. Three of her poems are included: “I Love Like My Mother, Without Reason,” “To Be Holy,” and “My Body is a Poem I Can’t Stop Writing.” They are a combination of prose poem and lyrical. In “To Be Holy,” Andrews writes:
I’ve always known to starve oneself if to be holy,
would like my pit of ovaries to be broken apart
to be a feast and god for many.
Because Andrews has both lyrical and narrative features to her poetry, the reader is left to read the poems over and over again to examine the shift in tone and speaker.
The editors of Profane stand by their word. They give to their readers exactly what they ask from their writers; “We’re the kind of people who’ve always had a fascination with the things you’re not allowed to say.” If they stick with that premise, Profane is only going to increase its readership.