BY MARGARET BASHAAR
When I first started reading literary magazines in college I really had no idea how to go about finding ones that would actually have poetry in them I would enjoy and connect with, let alone that would make me think of my own poetry enough to want to submit. As a lady whose poetry has been compared to French horror films, I more often than not found myself wanting for poetry to read that had the same dark sensibilities as my own. Since my college years I’ve discovered any number of fine feminist lit mags that fit this bill fabulously. Below are 6 of my favorites:
Not only is the name of this journal fabulously creepy, but founding editor Kelly Boyker has been publishing some of the loveliest unsettling work this side of the internet since 2011. “Prepare for the knife. // Or the saw blade or the bone saw. / You plead, you bargain / to taste delicious undoing.” (from Coagulation Served Cold With Lemon Zest by Juliet Cook and Robert Cole), “Sleeping, she does not see his hand, / hover over her body. / Her mouth so easy to cover, / neck so delicate. // Ted steps back / he does not need this / like he needed the others. // When she wakes up in the morning, / he drives her / quiet / to the highway.” (from Anonymous by Caitlin Elizabeth Thomson). Then lighten it up a bit with a visit to the Scary Bush, a segment that really needs to be read to be properly understood in all its glory.
Ghost Ocean, a dark lit mag out of Chicago, was founded by Heather Cox, and much of the work she selects gracefully dances the line between poetry and prose: “This is the room that holds her other room. Her room of piled purchases, phrenological maps, papers, papers, purloined pills, a folded argument, a folded love. This room hides her greatest fear.” (from Nasty Things, Those Hearts by Kristin Abraham) or “We sneak out into the living room the first night and watch a television show about ghost hunting. We learn about axe murders who want their human counterparts out of their houses, we learn about explosions that killed so many men, we learn that children’s voices are normally evil spirits manipulating to gain access to human energy. We learn that ghost hunting is about spirituality, not about physical manifestations.” (from When You are Everywhere by Katie Jean Shinkle.) The archives include an issue released during national poetry month one year, where they published a new poem each day.
Since 2006 Amal El-Mohtar and Jessica P Wick have been publishing fantasy poetry that regularly finds itself made mention of in the Rhysling Awards and the Best Horror of the Year anthologies. You’ll find a group of poets here who are more often found in speculative journals, and their work calls on the darkly fantastical. “my hands / moving over the spoons / open and cold as your mouth / and the sound of your horse / beating back up the path, / the whinny’s blue scrape / on the lips of the late, mistaken hour” (from Sleeping Beauty Makes Dinner by Sally Rosen Kindred.)
Whereas Goblin Fruit calls from the realms of fantasy, Sein und Werden is a journal that focuses on experimental work, particularly that with a surrealist, existentialist, or expressionist bent. Recent issues have included exquisite corpses, Duende, and a double issue on clowns and ghosts. “Her spirit eyes didn’t blink when a rat / ran over her face or later when cameras flashed / Red pools rusted thick and sticky / Dispatch radios scratched the surface of sound” (from Autopsy Means to See With One’s Own Eyes by Ellaraine Lockie). Each issue has its own delectably offbeat theme.
This journal began publishing in 1999, and current editor Susan Yount took over the care and feeding of the lobster in 2004. During her tenure as the journal’s editor, Yount has brought a certain dark flair to the work she selects. “There is a you and there is another you / holding clay hands, blinking clay-smeared eyes. / Cracking, hardening in the heat. One of you runs / to the firehouse. The other licks the burn” (from Earth Science by Callista Buchen) and “Imagine familiar faces / collapsing in / to reveal other life, / other fauna, even / flora, skin / sprouting leaves, stretching / roots” (from Wildlife in the Living Room by Avery Leigh Thomas.)
Edited by ghosts, Saudade Review may be a little undead itself at the moment but gets a shout out for publishing poems with lines like “to dream / dark or not dream at all, / to now know, to not / know, the small / valuable things of the night.” (from Ode by Robyn Campbell) and “Maybe you can help me/come to grips//with the suitcase/where your heart/should be.” (from To Find Him in the Elephant’s Room by Stephanie Berger). Peruse the archives and break out your Oujia board to try to summon these lovely ghosts back from whatever dusty attic they’ve lost themselves in.