I probably exceeded United Airlines’ carry-on weight limits recently when I returned from the AWP Bookfair in Chicago with dozens of literary journals. Given that I plan to spend the next few months reading them and getting a better sense of what they’re all about, I thought I should share what I find with you. As a creative nonfiction writer, the journals I’ll review here under my newly created “Lit Journal Nugget” category will publish CNF, but it’s likely they’ll publish fiction and poetry as well.
I’d like to incorporate the power of social media here, so I’m inviting readers to submit reviews of any journal or magazine that publishes creative writing. Let me know if you’re interested; you can find my email address here.
I’m going to start with one I’m already familiar with, AGNI.
- Publisher: Boston University
- Publishes: Primarily Poetry, Fiction and Nonfiction
- Editor: Sven Birkerts
- Publisher’s description: “Literature for literature’s sake is not what AGNI is about. Rather, we see literature and the arts as part of a broad, ongoing cultural conversation that every society needs to remain vibrant and alive. What we print requires concentration and takes some time to digest, but it’s worth that time and effort: writers and artists hold a mirror up to nature, mankind, the world; they courageously reflect their age, for better or worse; and their best works provoke perceptions and thoughts that help us understand and respond to our age.”
- Print schedule: Print issue published twice yearly in April and October.
- Submissions: No formal guidelines on their site; they use on online submission engine.
- Issue Reviewed: AGNI 74
AGNI does a nice job of providing a broad range of works, so if something isn’t speaking to you, there’s likely something else that will. This issue contains 22 poems, four works of fiction, and eight works of nonfiction. I particularly liked a shocking essay by Sarah Braunstein titled “Bondage and the Pizza Man,” a memoir piece about teenage girls struggling to understand their sexuality; and Jennifer Percy’s “Azeroth,” a travel piece in which she accompanies her lover, Aleksandar, to his native Bosnia. One plus is that each issue opens with a thought-provoking, and often humorous, essay by the editor, Sven Birkerts.
When you flip through the contributor bios, you see that the competition for publication in AGNI is fierce. Braunstein’s bio tells us she’s an award-winning novelist who has an MFA from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, while Percy is the recent winner of an NEA Literature Fellowship. They also look to be much younger than me (sigh).
But I’m still determined to be published in AGNI. I’ve received two rejections from AGNI that said “This is not our customary rejection. We hope you’ll keep us in mind.” I met Birkerts at AWP, and he said that meant I had made it pretty far up the review chain.
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