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Reading

Get Lit

Though it may be cause for painful decisions about your reading queue, this selection of literary magazines could be your victory garden: Plougshares, A Public Space, Glimmertrain, and Open City.

Book Digest Luckily, only a quartet of so-called small (literary) magazines have chosen to subscribe me. Any more and I am certain I would have to start making ruthless and painful decisions about my reading queue. I see such magazines as the victory gardens, boutique vintners, and truck farms of America’s bounteous literary cornucopia. Pick up almost any one of the few hundred published on paper and the odds are that some piece of writing, design, image, or bon mot will penetrate the buzzing and blooming confusion.

Ploughshares has a policy of being guest-edited, and I have frequently been charmed by the thoughtful introductory remarks by those guests. In the winter 2008-09 edition, poet Jean Valentine doesn’t disappoint, as she concludes:
I know editing this issue’s poetry [there are also six stories—RB] was something I thought I should do: I had no idea of the joys it would bring. The country, in one of its deeper dark moments, is full of good poets. They could have filled many issues of Ploughshares—what I was looking for was the chill sliver of poetry. I was biting a coin to see if it was real.
Her introduction begins and ends quoting from poet Odysseus Elytis:
Here’s why I write. Because Poetry begins there where death had not the final word.
Book Digest Brigid Hughes, who was the editor of The Paris Review while George Plimpton walked this earth (and for a short time after his passing), has focused her considerable talent and taste into fabricating A Public Space, a magazine containing a literary salad of John Haskell, Peter Orner, Tom Drury, Walter Murch, Anne Carson, Sven Birkerts, Elliot Weinberger, and Mary Jo Bang and a modernity of graphic design.

Book Digest Glimmertrain is edited by sisters Susan and Linda from the benign (west) coast, where one can find an oasis of sensibility known as Portland, Ore. From issue 69:
We’re sending this issue to press just weeks before the November 4 election, an old chapter closing and a new one pushing open. And for the two of us, as well: We have now both crossed into our second half-century, and life is as compelling as it’s ever been. It’s good being alive, being sisters, and doing this work.
The winter 2009 edition includes stories by Fredrick Reiken and Thisbe Nissen and an interview with Colum McCann.

Book Digest I spent one languid afternoon last summer amusing myself alternately watching the dogs frisking around my son’s backyard and studying the Open City back issue index, which includes a poem, “I Am a Pizza,” by Monica Lewinsky—which is to say one never knows what one will find.

In this latest iteration the only writer I am familiar with is Brad Gooch (City Poet). Apparently Thomas Beller and Joanna Yas are busily fomenting much literature and creativity not only with the magazine, but also with their eponymous book imprint and outdoor reading series, Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, and Moistworks, a music blog.
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