Poetry News

The Little Magazine in the Present Tense: Sophie Seita & Danny Snelson in Conversation

By Harriet Staff

 from Modern Edith, by Sophie Robinson, as published in How2, Vol. 3, No. 2.

While their new issue is under construction, U.K.-based Hotel ("a magazine for new approaches to Fiction, Non-Fiction & Poetry") is publishing great reads intermittently. Catching our eye this week is a conversation with Sophie Seita and Danny Snelson on "Lodging & Dislodging the Little Magazine." In this, the two scholars and writers discuss the values and histories, present-tense promises, and various metaphoric, material, and digital futures of the little magazine! An excerpt:


It seems that if there is anything that the little magazine can best draw out, it is an attention to the particular, the singular, the exception—over and against the generalisable. Discussing a few favourites is probably the best entry point. Feminist magazines like Big Allis, Chain, and M/E/A/N/I/N/G are standouts for me—of those I’ve digitised for Jacket2 Reissues—as are translation-focused magazines like Calque and Aufgabe. I am a strong advocate for an activist archival practice that connects poetic fandom and political exigency to the present moment. Of the recent ‘little magazines’ or ‘small presses’, I’m most interested in digital projects that I simply cannot quite understand in any of these terms. For example, I’m thinking of Troll Thread, Gauss PDF, and Hysterically Real, which really don’t quite fit as either press or periodical. I particularly love Paul Soulellis’s Printed Web, which issues occasionally on Newhive or Google Docs, as well as in newsprint and POD. Or, even more perplexing, Tom Comitta’s 2011-2013 project ‘calmaplombprombombbalm.com’—which is basically just a spreadsheet, with most of the cells empty, abandoned, unrealised, in a somewhat indecipherable organisational system. He calls it an ‘online publishing house’, but even then, it’s a house without any foundation for critical appraisal (by extension, I’m thinking of the first magazine I ever scanned, Jimmy & Lucy’s House of “K”, a little magazine edited by Andrew Schelling and Benjamin Friedlander from 1984 to 1989). I suppose this indecipherability was also once the case with the emergence of mimeo and cheaper modes of photocopying that fostered zines and newsletters, which opened a wide array of creative practices free from the financial constraints of ‘proper’ publishing. Historical magazines are all too interesting to catalogue: I’m continuously digitising my favourites for Jacket2 Reissues (upcoming are Pages, Barscheit, and Object, to name only three). I’ve been particularly delighted to see the complete set of Tom Raworth’s Infolio alongside Claude Royet-Journaud’s Zuk, both single-page periodicals in conversation with a transcontinental poetics and a penchant for experimentation. I’d love to hear more about your favourites!


I would absolutely second Troll Thread and Gauss PDF, as two projects that think through the digital medium as more than a mere gimmick, and even when they publish pieces that could be called gimmicky, they make the gimmick do interesting and important work. Unlike other online publications, they do not simply mimic a paper magazine or book (or when they do, they do so to rethink carefully what constitutes a ‘book’ or ‘materiality’—I’m thinking of Holly Melgard’s Black Friday or Daniel Wilson’s Files I Have Known: Data Reminiscences). Since you bring up mimeo and photocopying—different print or publishing technologies allow editors and contributors to do different things. The PDF, which both TT and Gauss use, is increasingly a very capacious document that can incorporate non-textual media such a videos and audio files. Historically, some of my favourite magazines are also those that explore what the medium can do for their specific aesthetic and political interests. So, proto-Dada and Dada magazines like 291, New York Dada, Le coeur à barbe in terms of design and typography; then 0 To 9 is an absolute favourite, because of its smart and inventive engagement with materiality and the many exciting constraint-based works in there. Then there are important feminist and queer magazines HOW(ever), HOW2, Mirage #4 / Period[ical], Top Stories (which published Kathy Acker and Constance DeJong), and Koff (a feminist punk magazine I only recently heard about that included nude pictures of male poets, like Lewis Warsh)! I also feel I ought to mention some interesting British magazines, like Elaine Feinstein’s Prospect (later taken over by J.H. Prynne) and Tom Raworth’s Outburst, both of which helped introduce many American poets (like Olson and Ginsberg) to the UK, and C.C.C.P. at Cambridge (a pamphlet series in conjunction with an annual poetry festival, which ran from the ‘90s into the early 2000s), or Canadian magazines, like Raddle Moon and Giantess: the Organ of the New Abjectionists, the latter edited by Lisa Robertson, Susan Clark, and Christine Stewart. Other contemporary magazines I like are the experimental translation magazine Telephone (ed. by Sharmila Cohen and Paul Legault) and No Prizes (ed. by Ian Heames).

Read it all at Hotel. To elaborate, check out Seita's interview with Kevin Killian about editing (with Dodie Bellamy) Mirage and Mirage #4/Period[ical]; and Snelson's current IRL and digital pamphlet project, co-edited with Mashinka Firunts, Present Tense Pamphlets.

Hotel's archive too is worth a look, and includes “The University & the Undercommons," by Stefano Harvey and Fred Moten; a selection from 13 Rays by Rachel Blau DuPlessis; an interview with Fitzcarraldo Editions; poems for Antonioni, and more.

At top: from Modern Edith, by Sophie Robinson, as published in How2, Vol. 3, No. 2.