I’ve got another installment of my 50 States Project. Previous installments are here. So let’s get to it.
6. Texas: Texas has been going through a kind of renaissance of arts and literature in recent years. I could list a dozen excellent writers out of Texas and just about that many excellent literary journals. One of the first Texas journals I had work appear in was Concho River Review. CRR is over 25 years old and associated with Angelo State University. I sent them some a handful of narrative, rural farming themed poems, one of which they published. I think of CRR as being similar to Flint Hills, out of Kansas, or Westview, out of Oklahoma: a solid journal that feels a little old-fashioned and tends not to publish a lot of “name” writers, but one that will never disappoint. Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review is based in Austin and associated with the city, funding-wise, but not UT Austin as far as I can tell. It took a couple tries before Borderlands took something of mine. Again, I sent them rural, farming-themed poems, basically using this as a backdrop to play out the drama within the poem, which was family-related. I would say Borderlands is a somewhat selective journal. These are amongst the strongest poems I’ve ever written and will appear in my forthcoming poetry collection Riceland. Texas Poetry Journal took a formal poem of mine about farming. Front Porch is the online journal of Texas State University’s MFA program. It’s fairly new. I placed a rural, farming-themed story with them, a humorous story though it borders on being about child abuse. FP also nominated me for a Pushcart, so I’m partial to them. They have a soft spot for Southern, especially Texas-related work. FP reminds me of a young Story South. Pebble Lake Review is another excellent journal. Among the many other fine Texas journals I haven’t attempted yet are American Short Fiction, American Letters and Commentary, Gulf Coast, and Bat City Review.
7. Maryland: As I’ve discussed elsewhere, when I moved to Maryland, I began sending work to local journals to try to get involved in the local community. One of the first that I attempted was Potomac Review. PR is based at Montgomery College. I placed with them a couple very strong narrative poems dealing with the effects of a serious medical situation on my relationship with my wife, and also communication issues, but with humor. So there was definitely a lot at stake. Artichoke Haircut is an independent journal run by a group of active literary Baltimoreans. This was the journal I had the most success with, in terms of reading opportunities. They announced a reading for an issue release. I asked if I could join, and I’ve been back several times since. AH publishes funny, experimental, short work, similar to a working-man’s Jubilat or a Good Foot but with much more of a sense of humor, as one could imagine from the name of the thing. Of course, one of my favorite MD journals is JMWW. JMWW is an independent journal based in Baltimore which publishes some of the best writing out there. Check out my review here. The way I got into JMWW (after I reviewed them, not that I think it mattered) was a little unusual. I did a reading with the editor. She had a book that needed a reviewer, so I volunteered. After they ran my review, I took that relationship to the next level and placed a handful of poems with them. These were fairly straightforward confessional poems about my past as a musician, so they appealed to a youngish artistic audience. A journal I haven’t been in yet is the excellent Everyday Genius, which is the online arm of Publishing Genius Press.
8. Massachusetts: Up front, I’ll say there are several very well-known journals in MA which haven’t published me. A few have, though. One of my favorite MA journals is the independent journal Naugatuck River Review. NRR publishes narrative poetry. I sent them a handful and they took a page-long poem with a pretty rough-and-tumble storyline (with bodily fluids, drug use, etc.), the kind of poem most journals would ban me for. Ballard Street Poetry Journal is a shortish independent journal. They took a narrative poem about taking my daughter to visit a farm immediately after a cow committed suicide, unbeknownst to us, and the effect that had on two girls that worked there. They also took an homage to Woody Guthrie. Both of these poems have fairly rural themes but could also be interpreted as fairly political. Again, I’d compare BSPJ to Borderlands or a Flint Hills. On the flipside, Meat for Tea: The Valley Review, is a strange little Western Massachusetts journal, much more like Artichoke Haircut. They took a fairly odd prose poem of mine. Boston Literary Magazine is an online, independent literary journal. They took a love poem of mine. Probably my favorite journal out of Massachusetts is Fried Chicken and Coffee an online, independent journal run by the former editor of Night Train, which was one of my bucket-list journals. When it closed, I thought I’d missed that opportunity, until FCC opened. What I like about FCC is that it publishes down and dirty stories and poems about Appalachian life, sort of a rural-themed Thieves Jargon. I sent them a series of stories about a couple of poor-as-dirt, neglected kids who survived by their wits in a hostile world of drug dealers and hard people. Diner is a journal with a food connection that published a poem from my first poetry collection.
9. Pennsylvania: One of the first journals that publishes me, half a decade ago (in one of their first issues) was the independent Pittsburgh journal Caketrain, Caketrain took a somewhat Dadaist prose poem. Caketrain is an innovative journal and press that puts out some cutting edge writing, so it’s quite different from most of the journals I’ve discussed so far. It’s probably closest, again, to Jubilat but not as elitist. Schuylkill Valley Review is an excellent journal with a regional affiliation. I was actually solicited to write an essay for them on Edgar Allen Poe (along with a poem from my first collection). Coal Hill Review is the online wing of Autumn House Press. I’ve had a somewhat unorthodox relationship with them. Often, I’ll target journals that are part of a press as a way to build a relationship with that press. I sent Coal Hill a couple book reviews, and they liked them enough to ask me to do a review column. I haven’t pursued this relationship any further, but it’s a good start. I also have gotten some great books to read out of it. Gettysburg is a very good PA journal that I haven’t breached. I’ll review them soon.
CL Bledsoe is the author of the young adult novel Sunlight; three poetry collections, _____(Want/Need), Anthem, and Leap Year; and a short story collection called Naming the Animals. A poetry chapbook, Goodbye to Noise, is available online at www.righthandpointing.com/bledsoe. Another, The Man Who Killed Himself in My Bathroom, is available at here. His story, “Leaving the Garden,” was selected as a Notable Story of 2008 for story South‘s Million Writer’s Award. His story “The Scream” was selected as a Notable Story of 2011. He’s been nominated for the Pushcart Prize 5 times. He blogs at Murder Your Darlings. Bledsoe has written reviews for The Hollins Critic, The Arkansas Review, American Book Review, Prick of the Spindle, The Pedestal Magazine, and elsewhere. Bledsoe lives with his wife and daughter in Maryland.