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Captain, All Systems Are Online: Publishing in the Ether

By Bianca Stone

A mere six years ago, if you asked me if you could find my poems published online, I’d probably have laughed mercilessly and said hell no. I grew up with Ploughshares, Poetry, and  Poets Market 1996 strewn around the house like beacons of my latent potentialities. Plus, the 90’s website aesthetic I knew was, well, campy and unappealing. I couldn’t fathom it as a nice place to publish, or to read poems (think centered poems in papyrus font). I had a grandmother who advised me early on how once you’ve published that poem, that’s it for that poem. (At least until you’re lucky enough to have a book or be anthologized). So where that poem finds a home is outrageously important because it can’t go sneaking off to another, more established home, should you have that opportunity. Unfortunately, grandma would have no idea about online publishing, loosing her eyesight and forgoing the internet before any such thing existed.

In any case, it took me way longer than I thought to navigate publishing. This was due partly to that subtle art of learning to really edit; of knowing what’s ready and what’s not. Then it was getting to know the magazine climate, and where my stuff could be rallied around, like an exciting buddy among buddies. Really, it’s an evolving and fluctuating experience, (thank God).


When I moved to New York City to study for my MFA, I was still not sure what it meant to have an “online journal.” The first one I came across was Fou. I’d met one the editors, Cate Peebles, at a reading, and I was enchanted (thrown into a frenzy of delight more like it) with the magazine. It was sexy. Lustrous. With artistic flare that made the poems pop off the screen. It pushed against the limits of what a magazine could be; what the internet could do. And the poems! They were different, fresh, exciting. Plus, it was all free to have. I saw possibilities unfold. The internet provided an “in” to the generally inaccessible realm of publishing. I was getting to know the publishers, too, who are usually active poets themselves, living and creating around me. Everything changed from sending blindly, (desperately), to sending with some new, knowledgeable propose and camaraderie. And the irony is that that success in publishing online is what paved the way for success in the magazines I had long known and admired.

I’ve found the online magazine to be a beautiful, diverse pocket of the publishing world. Ranging from established poets, to emerging voices, to mixed-genre and media, it is a joy to get to know all these amazing magazines and be part of them. Oddly, all this got me to thinking about Best American Poetry, edited by David Lehman. Think what you may about it, but it has been, since its dawn (with guest editor John Ashbery) one of those Goliaths that puts journals and poets on a reader-radar pedestal. I’ve always liked the idea behind BAP. I like the idea of a poet looking back over a years’ worth of publications, weeding out what they find compelling, mixing them together for us to read in one volume. I’ve fantasized about making an anthology like that, or choosing my personal poet-heroes to do one (Dara Wier please!). So, as I read through the great new online issue of notnostrums the other day, I suddenly thought: what about these fabulous online magazines? Are they used in the process of choosing poems to feature? It’s not necessarily about needing the “stamp of approval,” but more a thing of curiosity, and maybe a little bit a thing of principal. There’s some of the best poems in the country being published online. We can’t ignore that if we’re going to honestly categorize the “best.” So I shimmied over to the computer and shot David Lehman an email about it, wanting to know what he thought. He was more than happy to elaborate on the subject: Apparently, BAP has published from online sources. But more in the forthcoming 2013 issue “than in any previous volume.” Some of those magazines include The Awl, Poetry Daily, MiPoesias, DMQ Review, Action Yes Online Quarterly, and Sixth Finch. Question answered!! Thanks, David!

HTML is in the air, and we’re sniffing out the next century. I’ll end with a list of a few of my favorite online publications. And in the meantime, let all systems continue to function within normal parameters.


Sink Review


Sixth Finch









Loaded Bicycle


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Posted in Featured Blogger on Monday, April 8th, 2013 by Bianca Stone.