20 Oct 2013

New stuff for free: Literary mags to your inbox

As a uni lecturer who used to focus on contemporary writing a lot of  people used to ask me how I kept track of all the stuff that's out there. Most of my colleagues simply rely on Best Of lists, on prize-winning works, etc. All well, but to be honest, that's not quite as much fun as finding out for yourself is. Plus, it's an excellent exercise: how long does it take you to find out whether you want to finish reading a particular text; what do you find intriguing about it; which elements of the writing or the content jar with your idea of how this text could, or even should, work? In short, I find it easier to learn something about your own reading behaviour when you're dealing with stuff that's not already been through the academic text processor, to discover your own taste, and to be able to explain it to others.

Now, as students - like a lot of other people - tend to live on a budget, I'd like to introduce two brand new literature mags that are delivered for free to your email inbox, one about letters of all sorts, the other about poetry.

The Letters Page: A Literary Journal in Letters

Edited at Notthingham Uni by Jon McGregor, to whom I eventually owe all of my knowledge about cricket (which is still no more than skin deep, but hey!), you can either enjoy what other people make of their letter-related briefs, or you can exercise your penmanship yourself (and be paid for it)  in this new and entirely free letter mag. Handwritten submissions only. For an online mag. They've noticed the irony.

P.S.: Funny that as a subscriber I'm now receiving personalized emails from Notts Uni English Department - the same department that chucked me out of my English classes when I was an Erasmus student there years ago. You always meet twice...

IN Magazine

Apart from my other idiosyncratic habits, students of mine have always been puzzled by my love for poetry, particularly for contemporary poetry. Most of them simply shook their heads in utter incomprehension, or sometimes in quiet sadness at my obsession, but some at least appeared to be intrigued and kept asking me how and where to find good contemporary poetry. Though I'm definitely the wrong person to say anything about 'good' poetry, I can at least tell them what I like - and where to begin and find it.

So, there's a new free poetry magazine out: originating around the Durham Book Festival, this is a weekly poetry email you can subscribe to. They publish a small number of poems every week, sometimes accompanied by an interview or by additional material about a poem. Since it comes in easily digestible chunks compared to traditional poetry mags that can be a bit too much at once, IN magazine is a good way to get familiar with some of the stuff that's being written right now if you're strapped for cash, or don't know yet whether you want to stick with it or no.

These are only some suggestions to start with. I'll try and update this post with other contemporary stuff that I find interesting to check out, so watch this space! And thank you for listening.


  1. An important question here, that you haven't addressed; why on earth were you thrown out of the English classes?

  2. Ha! Not as radical a story as it sounds. Because Erasmus students weren't considered as an integral part of the department and the first to go when courses were overbooked. Even when home students came later on the list. I ended up with lectures only in my first term, and had to resort to false tears to get one seminar in the second. The German Department drama group were happy though - they were short on soldiers that year.