Literary MagNet

by Kevin Larimer

News and Trends

Posted 7.1.07

July/August 2007

Like the teetering stacks of good, old-fashioned, hold-in-your-hand journals, which run the gamut from side-stapled ditties like Main Channel Voices, billed as "A Dam Fine Literary Magazine" (yuk, yuk) because it's published in the river city of Winona, Minnesota, to large-format, beautifully designed, and—the ever-important distinction—institutionally funded journals like Ninth Letter, the sheer number of online literary magazines ensures that there are at least a few decent publications for every age and aesthetic, gender and subgenre. Among the myriad is Persimmon Tree, a quarterly magazine associated with Mills College in Oakland that publishes poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and artwork by women who are at least sixty years old—and could therefore be considered the slightly older cousin to the print journal Passager, which publishes work by writers who are over fifty. (Passager was founded sixteen years before Persimmon Tree, however, so forget that analogy.) So named because of the persimmon tree's ability to bear fruit into late autumn, the journal is edited by Nan Fink Gefen (one f, not two; no relation to the Geffen Records empire, which would almost certainly change Persimmon's tune), who founded the bimonthly magazine of Jewish culture Tikkun in 1985. Recent contributors to Persimmon Tree are fiction writer Marilyn French and poet Ruth Stone, whose poem "At Eighty-three She Lives Alone" appears in the March issue and ends with the line: "Oh, paper bird with folded wings."

Anderbo, founded in 2005 by fifty-six-year-old Rick Rofihe—who claimed he had never personally typed or sent an e-mail in his life—is a New York–based online (go figure) literary journal open to submissions from poets, prose writers, and photographers of all ages. Minimally designed to focus attention on the words and photos, Anderbo received the 2005 Million Writers Award for best new online magazine, sponsored by storySouth, an online journal that "aims to prove that the Internet is not just a medium of flash and style; that excellent writing can attract attention without programming gimmicks and hard-to-read fonts."

That may be true, but it's hard not to be impressed with the fully imagined architecture and intricately designed rooms of Hotel St. George Press, which is both the Web site for a press that publishes "books resistant to the predictable trends of genre, style, and structure endemic to corporate publishing" and a brilliantly conceived online journal that recreates the floor plan of a hotel "occupied by writers, artists, and musicians on a quarterly basis." While Hotel St. George is under renovation—a reader can't yet enter the Kitchen, Bar, or Gymnasium, among other rooms—there are still plenty of hallways and chambers to explore. "Our tenants produce improbable histories, sonic ephemera, typographical arcana, scholarly and/or maniacal ramblings, and other curious works of fiction and fancy that give your brain a place to go and think peacefully, exchange ideas meaningfully, wander freely," reads the mission statement. The "Web" portion of the site's Library includes "readings" (poetry, fiction, fake interviews, and other creative pieces that, when described, sound dull, so better to leave it at that) by Catherine Bloom, Aimee Delong, Paul Fattaruso, Brian Willems, and others.

Somewhere in between the guiding principles of Hotel St. George and storySouth lie those of Five Chapters, an online magazine edited by David Daley, the former features editor of Details, the men's magazine responsible for such cover lines as "Orlando Bloom: Not Just a Pretty Face." Each weekday Five Chapters publishes an installment of a five-part story—another take on the classic serial format taken up briefly by H. Perry Horton's print journal Ellipsis (see http://www.pw.org/content/pulling_plug_labor_love). Here's hoping Daley has better luck online than Horton did on paper.

Kevin Larimer is the senior editor of Poets & Writers Magazine.