As its website says, “Founded in 1921, The Lyric is the oldest magazine in North America in continuous publication devoted to traditional poetry.” It provided one of the only outlets for serious formal verse on the continent throughout the decades in which formal verse seemed otherwise limited to pop songs, advertising jingles and Burma-Shave roadside signs.
The Lyric poetry magazine
The Lyric Foundation, established in the early 1950s, provides financial support for the magazine as well as for the university education of young poets and care for older ones. The magazine is currently edited by the daughters of formalist poet Leslie Mellichamp – he edited it himself until his death in 2000.
The magazine suffers from being somewhat behind the times. It is hard to imagine that it gets the same richness of submissions as other outlets, when it is resolutely old-fashioned in management as well as themes. “Email submissions are only accepted from out of country.” The tone of the printed work is consequently less varied and dynamic than other formalist and formal-friendly magazines. Even the Foundation that supports it is hard to learn about and, as far as I can tell, has no website.
However The Lyric remains a good resource for new poets, as well as more established ones, to place their work in if it falls within the lyric tradition. And with almost a century of publication behind it, there is hope that it will survive and thrive indefinitely.
Probably the oldest continuously published poetry zine on the web – possibly the oldest literary zine of any type – is Snakeskin, published monthly by George Simmers since December 1995.
George Simmers, editor of Snakeskin
There are many unique aspects to Snakeskin, including in the archives:
- the pervasive wit and humour, tolerantly secular, expressed in the zine’s name from the first issue with Wayne Carvosso’s poem “Credo” – “we are the kindred of the snake.”
- a long interview of George conducted by Helena Nelson, entirely in iambic pentameter (for George is a skilled and fluent poet, though he rarely publishes in Snakeskin these days)
- projects and experiments, including various hypertexts
- and a standard feature for the past several years, Bruce Bentzman’s blog-like soliloquies, or essays – a very sensitive and deeply emotional journey.
But what is particularly nice for poets is that George has no interest in names, reputations or bios – he just reads the poems, and chooses what takes his fancy. Very few of the issues are themed in advance, but they may reflect his mood or the time of year or whatever, and end up with a mood of their own.
And, despite what the Credo states —
“Nor shall we sit to lunch with those
Who moralise in semi-prose.
A poem should be rich as cake,
Say the kindred of the snake” —
George takes any form or lack of form, so long as the piece works for him. This may reflect the tolerance of someone who had a career as a teacher; or it may reflect the Yorkshireman’s well-known preference for the practical over mere theory. In either case, it presents a wonderful opportunity for a new poet to break into publication in an internationally recognised magazine.
Read an issue or two – there’s something for everyone!
The next titles in the Potcake Chapbooks series are tentatively named “Careers and Other Catastrophes” and “Families and Other Fiascoes”. This is a call for submissions to them.
Poems should be in formal verse, from 2 to 24 lines in length preferred but up to 50 lines possible, witty, vivid, elegant, and previously published. Contributors receive five copies, and a discounted rate on additional purchases.
By submitting you acknowledge you are the sole author and give us the right to publish your poem; you retain copyright. Please identify the place of prior publication so that we can acknowledge it. Simultaneous submissions are fine. The chapbooks are scheduled for publication in January/February 2019.
Email in a doc file to robinhelweglarsen -at- gmail.com