Lit Journal Nugget: AGNI

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.

Yes, I'm wearing reading glasses. Something tells me Sarah Braunstein and Jennifer Percy don't have to, yet another reason to envy them.


  • 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.

Is this review of value to you? Is there other information you’d like me to provide in future reviews?

9 thoughts on “Lit Journal Nugget: AGNI

  1. I’m a graduate of BU and spent my time there immersed in politics, which is so boring compared to literature. I’m glad to see they do good things.

    I’m sure you already know about McSweeney’s. I’ve never actually read the journal but I’m obsessed with the online tendency and am sure their journal is equally amazing.


    1. I love McSweeney’s, at least the web site. I too haven’t read the journal, although I should. I stop by their booth at AWP every year, and have bought several books they’ve published.

      Maybe someone will offer to review their journal here!


  2. I’m quite fond of One Story. I get a lovely little package in my mailbox about every three weeks which is exactly one story, fiction. It goes straight into my purse, allowing me to always have something to read in the bank line or while I wait for my teenager to hug every other teenager in front of her high school as I sit in the car trying not to stare. Do they hug so much just because they want to feel each other’s bodies? Sorry, what were we talking about, of yeah, lit mags…
    See, that’s why I need things small, short, and simple.
    You can read great reviews of literary journal at New Pages, too.
    Thanks for the thorough look at Agni and the reminder to get submitting.


    1. That’s a good way of doing it, one story every three weeks. When a journal comes and I see a dozen or so items to read, it paralyzes me.

      My daughter contrives to avoid being seen by me with her friends (or for them to avoid seeing me, I’m not sure); I will have to spy to measure the volume of hugging.


    1. I am with you! There are a number of publications I end up not submitting to because of that, and you’d think the journals would find it easier to track submissions (they do have to go through a fair amount of ink, though, if they want to print them out before reading.

      I did go to the post office Monday to mail a submission to a Fourth Genre contest that still uses snail mail, but they’re a big name.


  3. Pingback: Creativity Tweets of the Week – 03/16/12 « The Artist's Road

  4. Barbora Bridle

    Agni sounds really interesting. I have been intrigued by the name for months, but haven’t taken the step to order it yet. Your review helps a lot! Agni means “fire” in Sanskrit, especially the quality of transforming one thing into another. Agni is something that yogis and yoginis strive to develop through a regular yoga, meditation, or prayer practice in order to “burn” up patterns and tensions that do not serve them. I can see how the writing process can work similarly. I write about an event and work consciously to transform it into another form. This brings a sense of feeling lighter, more spacious and less weighed down by that event. I wonder if Agni, the journal, was named in relation to this Sanskrit meaning.


    1. I will confess that I didn’t know where the word “agni” came from, that’s fascinating! I have to believe, especially after the description you just gave, that you hit on the origin of the name.

      I really do love the journal.


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