Move over, Good Housekeeping and GQ: here come the little magazines!
Full of surprising and challenging poetry, literary journals are at the forefront of contemporary poetry. Some literary magazines are all poetry, while some offer a mix of poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, reviews, and interviews. They provide a home for young writers, experimental writing, translations, marginalized voices, and new work from established poets. It isn't uncommon to read a magazine that includes both long-celebrated poets and newly emerging talent; reading magazines are a great way to be aware of what's going on in the current poetry scene.
While many literary magazines house a range of poetry of all different styles, some reflect the poetry of a particular region or group of poets, while others publish work on a particular poet or theme that changes each issue. Literary magazines assume a wide range of shapes and sizes, from perfect-bound books to side-stapled tabloids on newsprint. Most come out with some regularity, often quarterly or semiannually.
Almost every well-known poet in the 20th and 21st centuries began their career in the pages of a literary magazine, so you can be sure that you're looking at the future of American poetry in their pages. What's more, perusing a journal is a wonderful way to see poems by your favorite poets (and poets you've never heard of!) in their debut stages; often, the polished poems that end up in a poet's book were printed in earlier versions in a literary magazine.
In the words of CLMP (the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses), "no other outlet exists which makes available so much literary work with such frequency and at a fairly modest cost." You can often find a small selection of literary magazines at major chain bookstores, and a more eclectic or regional selection at your favorite independent bookstore. To learn more about independent literary publishing, visit the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, where you can find a list of CLMP member presses and publications, including hundreds of literary magazines.