6 Literary Magazines You Should Read in 2014

by Kristin George Bagdanov March 25, 2014

There are a lot of lists out there telling us what we should remember about 2013: the “Top 20 Funny, Feelgood viral videos, “The 40 most adorable baby animal photos,” and even “The 40 Most Insane Things that Happened in Florida.” While these list are entertaining, in the interest of looking forward and focusing on what might highlight the more meaningful aspects of life, I’d like to suggest some reading for the upcoming year. You can’t subscribe to every literary magazine out there, but here are a few (other than Ruminate) that you should try in 2014.


32 Poems
: One of the things I appreciate most about this magazine is its compact nature—in regards to both the journal itself and the poems within. With each issue dedicated to approximately 32 poems (each no longer than a page), it feels like an eccentric chapbook, one that I can read in a single sitting without feeling too oversaturated but that still leaves me feeling satisfied and inspired. As a writer, I also appreciate the community that 32 Poems fosters by encouraging its contributors to respond to each other’s work in the issue as part of their “Contributor’s Marginalia” blog series. While I always appreciate a thick, solid literary magazine, there is something gentle about this one’s stature that reflects the care with which the editor selects the poems to include. Take, for example, this excerpt from Doug Ramspeck’s poem “How Humans Came to Love” in the most recent issue: 

In the distant trees a lost creature began crying out its death agony.
The shadows stirred faintly in their dreams, slipping closer—
the way a rock dropped into dark water disappears.
   
Bat City Review
: Coming to you from Austin, Texas, it’s not surprising that this magazine is both quirky and unique in ways that only a place like Austin can cultivate. One aspect that sets them apart is their inclusion of visual art, which in the Spring 2013 issue was accompanied by poems responding to the work of the featured artist. The fact that it’s managed by rotating editors and readers who are part of U.T. Austin’s M.F.A. program ensures that each year has a slightly different feel.    

 

 Birdfeast: The proliferation of online literary magazines can make it difficult to know which ones are worth spending your time with. Birdfeast is one of the exceptional ones you will want to devote yourself to each quarter. Rather than overload their website with content, as some online magazines are prone to do, Birdfeast carefully curates a superb mix of poems time and again in a clean, accessible setting. Caroline Cabrera’s poem from the most recent issue should give you a taste of the talent this magazine hosts:  

…An early cold snap sweetens the citrus
or it doesn't; we move on and mistrust
strangers who point out rot in our perfect oaks.

 
 
Colorado Review
: I will admit my bias here—as an Editorial Assistant at the Colorado Review, I can’t help but share how in love with this magazine I am. The poems, short stories, and creative nonfiction pieces that make it into the final product work hard to get there; thousands of submissions are read through each year. When you pick up an issue of CR, you know you’re going to be reading the best of the best in terms of contemporary writing. Here’s an except from one of my favorite poems in the Fall/Winter 2013 issue, “Easter Vigil” by David Mutschlecner: "All that I have done flickers in the dark of the not done flickers in the great winged dark . . . "   

CutBank: I have a soft spot for Missoula, MT, and maybe part of the reason is due to CutBank, whose caliber and charm match that of the M.F.A. program at University of Montana. This magazine has a deep and wide tradition—in fact, this year marks its 40th anniversary. To celebrate the occasion and the many talented writers it has published over the years, CutBank is releasing a special anthology featuring past contributors you just might have heard of: William Stafford, Jane Hirshfield, and Richard Hugo to name a few. In addition to these established writers, CutBank also publishes several emerging writers in each issue, which keeps this magazine feeling fresh and contemporary.    

The Los Angeles Review: I like how self-confident this magazine is. I know that’s an odd thing to say about an object, but you can just feel the confidence (not smugness, because this confidence is well deserved) when you read an issue of The Los Angeles Review. The editors are confident in the work they’ve selected and the writers are confident in their work. And for a magazine that describes itself as “divergent,” the variety of poems and stories, some hybrid and some quite “experimental,” certainly support this characterization. I honestly never know quite what to expect when an issue arrives at my house, which is a refreshing release from the monotonous style that many magazines are prone to. And though only published twice a year, with each issue running between 250-300 pages, you will find yourself well occupied before the next issue arrives.

Thus my New Year’s challenge to you is: Renew your subscription to Ruminate and choose one of the above magazines to subscribe to as well! Then at the end of next year you will be able to compile a more meaningful “best of” list to balance out the inane, cute, and/or funny ones—your favorite poems and stories of 2014.

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Kristin George Bagdanov
Kristin George Bagdanov

Author

Kristin George Bagdanov earned her M.F.A. in poetry from Colorado State University and is currently a PhD student in English Literature at U.C. Davis, where she studies 20th century and contemporary ecopoetics. Her poems have recently appeared in or are forthcoming from Ninth Letter, Denver Quarterly, Cincinnati Review, The Laurel Review, Mid-American Review, and other journals. She is the recipient of the 2016 Henry David Thoreau fellowship at Vermont Studio Center and is the poetry editor of Ruminate Magazine. Follow her on Twitter at @KristinGeorgeB.



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