Politically-Oriented Lit Mags: A List of Resources
By Lauren Rheaume
EDITOR’S NOTE: Since this feature was originally published, multiple of the listed journals have either ceased publishing or changed their publishing approach. Brief notations are made below and dead weblinks removed. The Review Review would welcome an update to this article that considers the contexts of the movement for black lives and other recent advocacy and activist efforts.
In honor of the Occupy movements that have sprung up in past months, in honor of anyone who has ever been angry, skeptical, or scared, in honor of writers who dare to express their views...here are some politically oriented literary magazines. Please feel free to add to the list if you know any journals we have not mentioned...
n+1. A print magazine of politics, literature, and culture founded in 2004 and published three times yearly. The best submissions guidelines are those implied by the magazine itself. Read an issue or two through to get a sense of whether your piece might fit into n+1. Then send a query or finished piece to the editors. The website runs content that because of its timeliness or genre cannot appear in the print issue. The best guidelines in this case are our web archives. Queries and finished pieces again may be sent to the editors. See TRR's interview with editor Chris Harbach here.
American Letters & Commentary is an eclectic literary magazine featuring innovative and challenging writing in all forms. Each annual issue features a substantial and diverse selection of fiction, poetry, essays, translation, and critical opinion by renowned and up-and-coming writers. For poetry, you may submit three to five poems, 10 pages maximum. Fiction stories of 10 pages or less have the best chance. Most of their stories are shorter than that. Editors are interested in creative non-fiction essays and in critical essays with experimental slant/subject matter. [Since publication of the original article, AL&C has shifted to publishing books]
Blood Lotus is an online literary quarterly established in 2006 and run by editors who refuse to believe everything has already been written, and who want to promote your best writing as proof. They accept fiction, poetry, art, reviews, and what they call “gray area:” They created the Gray Area section because they didn’t like having to decide what was poetry and what was fiction (and don't want you to feel like you have to distinguish, either). Editors accept only one to two pieces per issue under this designation, but the pieces may be any genre of writing you can conceive of: nonfiction, interview, YouTube slam performance, found poem, one-act play, flash fiction, poem in prose, etc. Be creative but discerning. [Blood Lotus appears to be defunct]
Boston Review is a magazine of ideas, independent and nonprofit. The journal covers lots of ground—politics, poetry, film, fiction, book reviews, and criticism. But a few premises tie it all together: that democracy depends on public discussion; that sometimes understanding means going deep; that vast inequalities are unjust; that human imagination breaks free from neat political categories; and that powerful images are worth piles of words.
Critical Inquiry is an interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal devoted to the best critical thought in the arts and humanities. Founded in 1974, it has been called “one of the best known and most influential journals in the world” (Chicago Tribune) and “academe’s most prestigious theory journal” (New York Times). Combining a commitment to rigorous scholarship with a vital concern for dialogue and debate, the journal presents articles by eminent and emerging scholars, critics and artists on a wide variety of issues in contemporary criticism and culture. Associated with no single school of thought, tied to no single discipline, Critical Inquiry is dedicated to providing a forum for cutting-edge thought while reconsidering traditional concepts and practices. The editors invite submissions of manuscripts in English appropriate to the aims of Critical Inquiry. Manuscripts should not exceed 7,500 words.
Dissent. Founded in 1954, Dissent is a quarterly magazine of politics and culture edited by Michael Kazin and Michael Walzer. A magazine of the left, Dissent is also one of independent minds and strong opinions. They welcome unsolicited essays and book reviews for its quarterly print magazine and shorts, essays, and interviews for its more frequent online counterpart, Dissent Upfront.
The Externalist. The Externalist Press began with an online literary journal founded by Larina Warnock and Gary Charles Wilkens to publish poetry and prose that displayed a clear cognizance of the outward world and the socially significant issues of our time. Rather than pushing any particular agenda (though they do lean left), the goal was to provide an outlet for writers who wanted to write about political and controversial topics as well as to encourage a dialogue about those subjects. That goal continues on today. The Externalist was ranked #22 on Writer's Digest's list of top online literary journals. [The Externalist appears to be defunct]
Fringe. Editors think literature is a place to safely explore controversial and unpleasant topics and unfamiliar points of view. Their special mission is to diversify the existing literary community, both aesthetically and demographically: They aspire to publish styles and genres that other journals eschew and we take particular pleasure in publishing voices that are not often included in the canon. As a new media journal, they’re able to publish frequently and reach a wider international audience than a traditional print journal (some 13,000+ people across the world each month). In addition, their online format allows them to publish emerging multimedia art such as audio collage, hypertext, and flash poetry. [While there are other journals with the same name, this Fringe appears to have ceased publishing.]
Michigan Quarterly Review is an eclectic interdisciplinary journal of arts and culture that seeks to combine the best of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction with outstanding critical essays on literary, cultural, social, and political matters. The flagship journal of the University of Michigan, MQR draws on lively minds here and elsewhere, seeking to present accessible work of all varieties for sophisticated readers from within and without the academy.
Montreal Review. Founded in 2009, The Montréal Review is an independent, nonpartisan, online publication on current affairs, books, art, culture and ideas. The Montréal Review welcomes letters to the editor, submissions of short stories, poems, nonfiction articles, and opinion, and also publishes interviews on politics, society, the environment, and culture.
The Other Journal welcomes the submission of critical essays, reviews, creative writing, and visual or performance art that encounter life through the lens of theology and culture; editors seek pieces that consider the interaction of faith with contemporary life, art, politics, sexuality, technology, economics, and social justice. They are particularly interested in works which present creative, alternative views that may otherwise fall outside the margins of mainstream narratives. And although they primarily focus on perspectives within the Christian tradition, they invite dialogue with all who are interested in exploring the ongoing role of faith and spirituality in the world. Each issue of The Other Journal is organized around a particular theme, and the Winter 2012 issue’s theme is “The Evil and Late Modernity Issue.”
The Point is a Chicago-based print journal publishing rigorous but accessible writing about contemporary life and culture. The journal is published twice-yearly and available for order online and in select bookstores. The website features selected content from the magazine, as well as original articles.
The Sun publishes essays, interviews, fiction, and poetry. Editors tend to favor personal writing, but they're also looking for thoughtful, well-written essays on political, cultural, and philosophical themes. They're willing to read previously published works, though for reprints they pay only half the usual fee. They rarely run anything longer than seven thousand words; there's no minimum word length.
Tikkun is a magazine dedicated to healing and transforming the world. The editors seek writing that gives insight on how to make that utopian vision a reality. They build bridges between religious and secular progressives by delivering a forceful critique of all forms of exploitation, oppression, and domination while nurturing an interfaith vision of a caring society — one whose institutions are reconstructed on the basis of love, generosity, nonviolence, social justice, caring for nature, and awe and wonder at the grandeur of the universe. They print articles on social theory, religion/spirituality, social change, contemporary American and global politics and economics, ecology, culture, psychology, and Israel/Palestine. Fiction submissions are considered for web publication only.
Urban Confustions invites women living in the urban centers of the world to submit Fiction, Non-Fiction, Poetry and Art for their bi-annual literary journal. Urban Confustions is seeking women writers and artists who share a global perspective of society and are not restricted or limited by one reality or concept of “home”. Writers can submit Fiction and Non-Fiction up to 4,000 words, and 4-6 poems. [Though the website is still live, Urban Confustions appears to have ceased regular publishing.]
Versal. Editors look for work that is urgent, involved, and unexpected. Well-crafted traditional, non-traditional and innovative forms, hybrids and translations are encouraged. For poetry submissions, you can send up to 5 poems of no more than 10 pages in total. They do consider long poems and series. Send 1 prose piece of no more than 3000 words, or 3 flash pieces up to 1000 words each. They are not looking for non-fiction at this time. Submit fiction and poetry dealing with themes of social change.
Witness is published three times a year, in January, May, and September. Unsolicited work is welcome during one of our two submission periods: September 1 to December 1 for general work or January 1 to April 1 for thematic work. They accept original fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The theme for our 2013 special print issue is redemption. Editors prefer work that is contemporary in its setting, outward-looking in its perspective, and mindful of the modern writer’s role as witness to his or her times. They also enjoy material that ventures into international terrain.
White Review is a quarterly arts, culture and politics journal published in print and online, and established on a non-profit economic model. All submissions must be in English and previously unpublished. Translations are acceptable and should be accompanied by a copy of the original text. Print submissions, besides poetry, should be a minimum 1,500 words in length. Poetry submissions should be limited to three poems only. Nonfiction authors, please send a query outlining your argument or the first 500-1000 words of your proposed piece. Please also attach one or two samples of your work. Editors are open to publishing work unconstrained by form, subject or genre with the proviso that it be seriously minded and accessible to a non-specialised readership. They are an arts, literature and politics magazine but we are interested in all the various fields of human endeavour: law, medicine, finance, architecture, music, science, crime, etc. Academic submissions are not encouraged.
Since 1972, Women's Studies Quarterlyhas been an interdisciplinary forum for the exchange of emerging perspectives on women, gender, and sexuality. Its thematic issues focus on such topics as Activisms, The Global and the Intimate, The Sexual Body, Trans-, Technologies, and Mother, combining psychoanalytic, legal, queer, cultural, technological, and historical work to present the most exciting new scholarship on ideas that engage popular and academic readers alike. WSQ is a peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal published in June and December. Along with scholarship from multiple disciplines, it showcases fiction and creative nonfiction, poetry, book reviews, and the visual arts.
Lauren Rheaume is a writer living in the Boston area. She is the former Director of Marketing and Outreach for The Review Review.