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A Closer Look at Literary Journals

      The first poem I ever had published made its debut in my high school’s literary journal. If my memory serves me correctly, I think it was about angels, but that’s all I remember about my poem. It probably wasn’t very good when measured by critical standards, but I happened to like it, and I was both shy and eager to see it in print. At the time I didn’t realize that I was making a contribution to just one publication among many in an important literary tradition.

      One of the earliest literary journals was The Dial, which emerged as a principal journal among Transcendentalist writings when it was first published in 1840. While glancing at the introduction of the first volume, the reader will find these words: “The purpose of this work is to furnish a medium for the freest expression of thought on the questions which interest earnest minds in every community.” Today’s literary journals strive to do the same as they provide space for writers of different backgrounds to explore issues of meaning. Themes such as identity and personhood, subjects that can be treated in this medium with a unique fullness and diversity of perspective, can be found in the pages of many literary journals.

      Quite simply, literary journals  reflect  human lives. Much of the work published in Creative Nonfiction, a journal that was founded in 1993 for the purpose of sharing “true stories, well told” through the genre of creative nonfiction, features themes “ranging from joy to learning from nature, and from…childhood to marriage.” These pieces engage matters of life from various perspectives, the perspectives of people who have lived all sorts of stories.

      Some literary journals aim to share the stories of particular groups of people whose narratives are not often heard in the public arena. Apogee is one such journal, founded in 2010 by people of color and international students at Columbia University. Apogee exists to “amplify marginalized voices” in printing works that examine issues of race, gender, sexuality, class, ability and intersectional identities.

      Many universities have their own literary journals which offer space for work created by members of their communities. Eastern University’s student-run literary journal, Inklings, has been publishing the creative work of Eastern students, faculty  and staff every year since 1966. Every person in the community is invited to submit poetry, short fiction, prose, creative nonfiction, photography or art to be considered for inclusion in the journal.

      Blake Plimpton, Editor-in-Chief of Inklings, says, “We seek to provide an outlet for the Eastern community…to share their creativity with others and to promote the arts in as many ways as possible.” Plimpton feels that “the arts are very rarely found on campus,” and publishing an annual literary journal is “our way of trying to meet that need.” For this purpose, Inklings hosted a reading on Tuesday, April 11, at which people who have been published in this year’s journal read their work.

      The Community of Literary Magazines and Presses articulates it this way: literary journals “play a vital role in our culture by connecting the greatest diversity of distinctive writers to equally diverse communities of readers.” Like Plimpton, who recognizes that “truth is almost always found in the creative arts, and many times from those you’d least expect,” let us read literary journals for each person who shares a piece of their life therein: for all of the people whose stories speak truth and whose creations celebrate our individual and collective humanity with its many colors and stripes.

      Pick up your copy of Inklings at the English senior thesis readings (April 18 and 20) or in the offices of the English department, or contact Blake Plimpton at bplimpto@eastern.edu.

      Sources: Apogee, archive.vcu.edu,  Blake Plimpton, clmp.org, Creative Nonfiction, eastern.edu

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