The imagination is wild, always at work, and hungry for more: and each of these online literary journals exhibits work that illustrates this challenge in beautiful ways. The surreal is always begging for our attention, and our dreams often create a map for writing; thus, we should explore how art and poetry can communicate those maps in different, illusive ways. Experimenting with the real world around us, its secrets and dark corners, and the intersecting ‘unreal’ world is an essential practice; after all, in the words of Socrates, “the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being” and thus we are obligated to give our thoughts—both conscious and unconscious—active attention. These journals navigate that investigation with artistry and enthusiasm.
Action Yes – Action Yes is an online journal of poetry and short fiction, featuring fascinatingly beautiful, experimental work by a diverse range of writers and artists. Perhaps what stands out to me most are the translations in this journal and the intermingling of hybrid forms; the work makes us question what art is and what writing is meant to do. Charged and viscerally graphic and stunning, this journal, I believe, has a place for every artist who wants to push the limits, or at least wants to see others do so successfully.
EOAGH – With a critical lens on nature, the writers and artists featured in EOAGH—a literary journal both in print and online—investigate the burning questions of human nature. EOAGH’s emphasis on intertwining photography with poetry and fiction makes it an especially enthralling journal to read.
Glitter Pony – Glitter Pony is fun online poetry journal whose work does bring you to a place where magical unicorns fly through the sky, as the title suggests. Full of imagery-driven, investigative prose poems, the work in this journal brings us to an otherworldly place that is beautiful and scary, where “The day was a crown we were all wearing” (Heather Christle, ‘Saturday’). The moments of childhood that we always remember—like catching fireflies in mason jars, watching the constellations—are kept alive here, inquisitively desiring re-visitation.
Jubilat – Engaging with the natural world in blissful and invigorating ways, the work in Jubilat—a print and online journal of mostly poetry—is heartwarming and peaceful. As always, words are the weapon, and in Jubilat, they are carefully used and crafted; in Jacques Rebotier’s words, as translated by Zachary Schomburg and Alisa Heinzman: “The book is the most intimate animal we can know, dream, find.” This intimate animal rests with us, cozily in front of the fire, on a torn-up yet comfortable couch. Jubilat illustrates how this animal is both playful and violent, but our constant companion.
La Petite Zine – As written by the editors, Melissa Broder and D.W. Lichtenberg, to introduce the most recent issue, “We the scribblers are full of chimeras. We crush, we lust, we get the hots, and then we break out in words. Let’s thank cupid that we don’t always get what we want. But on the page, let’s do whatever we want—and let’s do it in every dimension.” This online poetry journal is short and sweet, and the freedom that the editors speak of and urge for is resonant in the writers featured in the journal; the work is fun, dreamy, and playful.
Menacing Hedge – The poetry and prose in the online literary journal Menacing Hedge awakens the pocket deep in our brains where our dreams are hidden. The dark, surrealist notions that hunt our subconscious are explored in depth by the writers published, is nuanced and emotionally resonating. Menacing Hedge showcases the many lights and shadows that our imagination possesses, and the poignantly strange imagery throughout the journal masterfully evokes both mystery and tranquility.
Prick of the Spindle – Traditional, engaging, and artistic, Prick of the Spindle is an online and print journal that publishes not only fiction and poetry, but also drama, creative nonfiction, films, art, and reviews. Its multifaceted nature and balance of short and long works makes it an easy journal to get absorbed in. The poems of 16-year-old Melissa Ho, especially “Lessons from a Ventriloquist” deserve honorable mention; her ability to play with form and imagery to illuminate the intricacies of her narrative is illustrative of how the works chosen for Prick of the Spindle evoke emotion through memory.
Shampoo Poetry – Shampoo Poetry is a colorful San Francisco-based online poetry journal with poems that take us to outer space, as Deborah Poe’s line “this is what it was like on planet earth” in ‘Parakeet’ encompasses. The work in this journal is dreamy and weird, yes serious and bold. The artists in this journal awaken our senses with an abundance of visual poetry and also written work with an emphasis on smell and taste.
Smoking Glue Gun – Smoking Glue Gun is evocative, hungry for the experimental, yet mellow. A WordPress poetry and art magazine that also publishes chapbooks in print (for good prices), the work chosen within makes us curious, painting the answers to questions we are always looking for answers to; In Joshua Marie Wilkinson’s words, “I want the planets to whorl me up to/a silencer’s little throat guff—” (from ‘The Stray Easement’). The dark comedy in “Landscape with Surf and Salvation” by Lynn Melnick and “Squaline” by Kendra Fortmeyer set an inquisitive tone for the journal, allowing us to enter a world of surreal dangers—“too dangerous for the world” as Kelly Corinda would say in “Big Bad”—where we are encouraged to say “fuck” and scream bloody murder.
Tinderbox Poetry – The brand new journal of exclusively poetry draws inspiration from art, using the blank page as a canvas to illustrate the visually stunning moments in our lives. A perfect home for long poems, Tinderbox showcases an average of two poems per poet, allowing the reader to engage with each piece on an intimate level. Creating worlds where trees come alive and where dreams are carefully scripted, the artists in Tinderbox write magically alluring narratives that illustrate our universal contemplations.
Word for Word – Embracing hybrid forms, exotic narratives, and brevity with language, Word for Word is a modern, blog-style online journal. Accessible and visual, Word for Word exhibits poets and prose writers who play with sound in a fun and vivid way. Imagery is transcendent in the work displayed, such as in Angela Bayou’s ‘body was found by a moose hunter’: “When telegraphs spontaneously combusted all over the world and girls in Rome saw the Aurora Borealis, I would later see it too, me and the moose, up in Alaska. But not until the hunter checkmates my long gone soul. The moose and I will spy all of time from the solar storms in the sky.” The unusual and invisible is raw and visible in this work. An especially provocative and unique aspect to Word for Word is their visual poetry, to which a large portion of the journal is dedicated.