Tuesday 16 December 2008

The American poetry magazine scene

Most UK poets don't realise how many more US magazines there are than in the UK. First, in the US most English departments have their own literary magazine, a practice that's rare in the UK. Second, the proliferation of creative writing programs has been accompanied by a proliferation of magazines and small presses founded by their graduates. Third, partly because of the greater influence of experimental and ethnic poetics on the mainstream, the range of poetries--the range simply within what's considered mainstream--is much, much broader. Consequently there's no "one" magazine that's It; there are a lot of Its, depending on your taste. In the UK I find that people feel they've made it once they've appeared in TLS, Poetry Review, or The Rialto (in descending order). Here's a starting list for comparably admired and desired magazines in the US, starting with the most esteemed:

American Poetry Review
The Atlantic Monthly
Boston Review
The Chicago Review
The Iowa Review
The Georgia Review
Hudson Review
New American Writing
The New Republic
The New Yorker
The Paris Review
The Southern Review
The Virginia Quarterly Review

These magazines publish comparably high quality poetry, are considered excellent places to publish, and are held in high esteem (still comparable in the quality of the work they publish to TLS and Poetry Review):

American Letters and Commentary
The Antioch Review
Barrow Street
Bombay Gin
Callaloo (black writers only)
Colorado Review
Denver Quarterly
Drunken Boat (online only)
The Gettysburg Review
Gulf Coast
Five Fingers Review
Five Points
Harvard Review
Hotel Amerika
Indiana Review
The Kenyon Review
Michigan Quarterly Review
The New England Review
Ninth Letter
Prairie Schooner
A Public Space
Seneca Review
Sewanee Review
Southwest Review
Tarpaulin Sky
The Threepenny Review
Western Humanities Review
The Yale Review
Zyzzyva (open only to US West Coast writers)

Also impressive, but less widely esteemed and/or of not quite the quality of the above:

Alaska Quarterly Review
Arts & Letters
Blackbird (online only)
Black Warrior Review
The Bloomsbury Review
Court Green
Free Verse (online only)
Green Mountains Review
HOW2 (online and women only)
The Massachusetts Review
Missouri Review
New Orleans Review
Northwest Review
Notre Dame Review
Quarterly West
Parthenon West Review
Slope (online only)
Sonora Review
Third Coast
Willow Springs

There are many more well produced, quality literary magazines besides: Calyx, Chattahoochee Review, Cimarron Review, Crab Orchard Review, Faultline, The Greensboro Review, Hanging Loose, Hayden's Ferry Review, The Literary Review, Many Mountains Moving, Mississippi Review, New Letters, The Seattle Review, Tampa Review, West Branch--and more.

These categories are blurred, to be sure; many of them seem to me to be on the fence between two. I'd be glad to hear from other American poets about their views on the most esteemed and highest quality journals; I haven't seen Canary, for one, so I'm unsure where to put it. I'll probably post a longer, revised list once I've been to the AWP.


  1. Hi, Carrie. Good list.

    I actually have 300+ litmags arranged by "difficulty", which is not the same thing as quality, of course. See http://www.jefferybahr.com/Publications/PubRankings.asp.


  2. Anonymous1:16 pm

    Thanks for this. Now I must become a poet. I'm so glad to see that Hotel Amerika is back and living.

  3. Anonymous10:39 am

    Thanks Carrie, this is really interesting - I had no idea there were so many well-respected magazines.

  4. Hi, I've been meaning to say hi since I got your facebook message. This is a great list. To be honest, I stopped submitting to US journals a short while ago, concentrating (poetry-wise) on my UK submissions. Don't ask me why...just seemed like the thing to do at the mo. But maybe I'll revisit the idea in the New Year. Also, I didn't realize you're an American, as am I (sort of -- living in Britain for nearly 20 years has made it a bit murky). All the best. Enjoy the holidays!

  5. Thank you; that's a fascinating list. Do you think any of these, great or small, are particularly hospitable to submissions from the UK? If so, do please add a P S!

    Happy Christmas and New Year! Look forward to future bulletins!

  6. What an incredibly useful list, and series of comments too. I would also look forward to a P.S.

    Perhaps a U.S. publishing workshop could happen, please put me as a very interested workshopee.