By DeWitt Henry, Literary Bookmarks Editor
Monthly link highlights to online resources, magazines, and author sites that seem informative and inspiring for working writers. Most are free. Suggestions are welcomed.
The Cortland Review
Founded two decades ago in Cortland, New York, by Guy Shahar, and now edited by Ginger Murchison, this prestigious online quarterly offers: a feature tribute to an established poet; a complete archive of past issues (including a “poetry streamer” podcast of randomly selected poems, which is as irresistible as Pandora); poems; fiction; and reviews. The site also offers a complete online bookstore with mainstream titles. Every aspect expresses felt and well-informed taste.
Thomas Lux, who is featured in the current issue in memoriam, praised it: “The Cortland Review is one of the best online literary magazines. It got to be so the old-fashioned way: by being a consistently class act, publishing the best possible of not only established poets but also new poets, new voices. This magazine and its editors have served the art form well.” Eleanor Wilner comments as well: “I so admire the way singular poets are featured, allowed to choose the poets who accompany them, then have their work discussed in in-depth essays by David Rigsbee. For the video and poems of Claudia Emerson alone, The Cortland Review would have earned its eminence, and my affection, among online journals.” For the past two years it has also been cited by Forbes as “Best of the Web” for literary magazines. Submissions are welcome, though they can’t pay; and they promise decisions within six months.
Back in the day, 1959, Norman Mailer proclaimed in Advertisements for Myself: “it would cheat this collection to present myself as more modest than I am.” He considered himself the great American writer of the age. In cyber-times, serious writers have websites advertising their work almost as a professional requirement. Some are maintained by large publishers (see George Saunders’s or Richard Ford’s), some by fans (see Tim O’Brien’s), but most are created by the writers themselves (see WTP’s tab on making one for free). Poets in particular, published by indies without promotional budgets and wide bookstore distribution, rely on social media and their websites to drive sales from online booksellers, to offer samplers and archives for deeper appreciation and context, to cultivate fans, to discuss their art, and offer news of their careers.
Richard Hoffman’s site offers “instructive delights,” both in terms of design and content. His work is varied, deservedly praised, and urgent: four collections of poems (most recently Noon Until Night), two memoirs (the classic, Half the House, and its multi-generational sequel, Love and Fury), and a collection of stories, Interference and Other Stories. He writes about class, changing times, culture, families, conscience, masculinity, child abuse, war, mortality, and memoir itself. His journey as a son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, and writer is engaging and instructive. He offers a generous sampling of his poems; two sample stories; critical and craft interviews he has given; news of upcoming readings and events; and sample essays, where in addition to powerful op-ed pieces on child abuse, he includes an essay on memoir, explaining that: “As a writer—and more than that, as a reader, since I read much more than I write—I want to know how it is that we have lost the connection between what people write and think and feel and say and the world in which they live. I want to know who sets out the terms by which we try to understand our lives and what strictures and taboos stand in the way of our finding meanings that feel authentic to us.” He invites us to participate in that quest.
Sharon Bryan: The Poetry Conversation
Poet Sharon Bryan began her thoughtful and informative website and weekly blog (review) fully a year ago. As a website, it promotes her books, teaching, and editing services, but as a regularly updated blog and email feed, it primarily serves as a lively conversation about taste, model poems, and craft. “I hope you’ll join in,” she writes. “I think of this site as a big room with comfortable chairs where we can gather to talk about poems and poets, craft, translation, what it is to be a poet, what others are reading and listening to, whatever interests you. I’ll be inviting other poets to do guest posts, so please feel free to make suggestions.” In each post, she offers poems that on are her mind and discusses why. Recent features include poems by Terrance Hayes, Tim Seibles, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop; poems addressing the tensions and realizations of American identity (Philllis Wheatley, Anne Bradstreet, Sherman Alexie); poems about music (Whitman,” “I Hear America Singing”; Langston Hughes, “Weary Blues”; Marianne Boruch, “Little Fugue”; Betsy Sholl, “Lullaby in Blue”; Phil Levine, “On 52nd Street”; Robert Pinsky, “Street Music”; Mark Strand, “Delirium Waltz”; Robert Creeley’s “Water Music”); and more.
She also offers a tab with her own poems, another with her essays on Berryman and Ginsberg, another with audio interviews and poems, another with the site’s archive. As one might expect of a respected poet, a former editor of River City, and currently a teacher at Lesley University, her enthusiasms are never trivial or sectarian. Recent posts in response include those by Corey Meister, Susan Wood, and Eileen Cleary. Bryan models sophisticated, passionate and insightful reading, and the conversation is infectious.
Howard Junker: Meta-memoirist.
Howard Junker, the writer, the founding editor of Zyzzyva magazine, and the man, wants us to imagine him; to write his biography, or at least to novelize his life. Unlike most memoirists, he does not presume to imagine himself. Instead he lets his published writing, blog entries, Facebook posts, interviews, photographs, art/film/book reviews, and postcards (and more) speak for themselves, as fragmentary shards. These are broken up into eighteen paperback volumes—more than Proust’s seven of Remembrance of Lost Times—and constitute a creatively-organized junk-yard, if you will, in which we are “well-advised to shuffle, skim, and skip.”
In the final Volume 18, wittily entitled From the Morgue: the story of my brand as told by the San Francisco Chronicle, he writes: “I don’t offer myself as a charming story teller; I don’t interpret and extrapolate; I let the record speak for itself…It is my struggle with the limited means at my disposal, pace Karl Ove Knausgard, that matters…Actually, parody ranks high for me, but I don’t aspire to it. My complications are rooted in personal sadness and loss, not public spite.”
The full project is outlined on his site, which also offers a blog (archived back to 2011), events, bio (short version), photos, interviews, comments, videos of his readings, and photos of his notorious “pop-up book tour.” Each title can be sampled on Amazon, with a special site for the first twelve. In view of the effort to make a VR game of Joyce’s Ulysses, perhaps Junker’s opus will be next.
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