In a field dominated by men for so long, it gives us great joy to see the proliferation of feminist publications in the literary world! You have so many options when it comes to submitting your feminist poems. We interviewed Brenna Crotty, editor of one of our favorite journals, CALYX. And, because we love you and feminist poems, we we’ve gathered together a list of our favorite feminist publications, so you can start submitting.
How or why was Calyx founded?
CALYX Press was founded in 1976 because co-founder Margarita Donnelly looked around at the literary world, found it lacking in representing women’s voices, and decided to make a journal that would help lead to more equality in publishing. She thought CALYX would be needed for only five, maybe ten years, so it’s almost a little bittersweet to still be here forty-five years later. Margarita was a memoirist, Barbara Baldwin and Elizabeth McLagan were poets, and Meredith Jenkins was a visual artist. They wanted to see more perspectives like their own in literary journals, so they made it happen.
What do you enjoy about your work as an editor?
I absolutely love the feeling of reading a poem and being completely blown away by it. Knowing that a poem this good has been sent to us, entrusted to us, and I have the joy of accepting it and putting it into print–it’s a staggering part of the job. My other favorite thing about editorial work is when a poem is not quite there, or when there’s a slightly different version of the poem that would fit our publication better. We once accepted one of my all-time favorite poems from Marty McConnell for Vol. 29:3 called “for the last dude who asked why I’m so angry”. It was originally a two-page poem, and we asked if we could accept just the last three lines. When we made that request, she admitted that she had two versions of the piece, and the one she hadn’t sent in was just those last three lines. It’s a good feeling to work with an author like that, to help shape the final version of a poem into what the reader sees in print.
What qualities do the poems you accept for publication possess? What kind of poems are most likely to catch your attention?
I get asked this question a lot, and I always say that if there were a specific quality or formula, it wouldn’t be so damn hard to write poetry. I think what I look for personally is a certain unusual-ness: unusual language, turns of phrase, imagery, subjects. I love topics we’ve never gotten before, such as a poem we published back in Vol. 28:3 by Jennifer Givhan that imagined all the children in a community mysteriously disappearing and being replaced by eggs that the adults didn’t really mean to eat. It was phenomenally disquieting. I am also a fan of brevity–not in the length of a poem, necessarily, but in the way that a good poem uses the fewest words to say the most. I love a good shortcut to the heart.
What type of work would you like to see more of, whether thematically, formally, etc.?
I think the beauty of CALYX has always been that we don’t look for any one thing in terms of structure or theme. I know that can make it hard to know what to submit to us, though, and so people always send us what they think we want: poems about childbirth, caretaking, menstruation. We publish a lot of pieces on those subjects, but we want to see everything, the full range of human experience that can be found in women and non-binary artist’s lives and perspectives. I want to see more poems about professional spheres, about the uncanny or surreal, and about power and autonomy from different angles.
What are some of your favorite poems or poets?
We have published a lot of poems that I am just wild about. Pam Ward’s “Sunflower Seeds,” a poem about police brutality, was so good that we published it twice: in Vol. 31:1 and then again in our most recent issue, Vol. 32:1, which celebrated the centennial of the 19th Amendment. We’re publishing a new poem in our upcoming issue called “What I Mean by ‘I Love You. Goodbye.'” by Kristine Nowak, and–in the light of the pandemic and its devastating effects–I had to just put it down and cry right after reading it. With regards to poets in general, I cannot get enough of Sharon Olds and Ellen Bass.
What other literary journals or feminist publications do you enjoy reading?
Sinister Wisdom is fantastic and nearly as old as CALYX. Cordella is a wonderful online journal, and I enjoy Rattle and New South as well.
Where should poets send their submissions?
It depends when they want to send! Our general submission period is open October 1 – December 31 every year. Each submission can contain up to six poems. Any submission held for final consideration by the editorial collective receives personalized feedback from our editors. We are also currently running a competition through June 30 called the Lois Cranston Memorial Poetry Prize. Poets can send in up to three poems for consideration; the winner receives $300 and publication in the journal, while the winner and up to three runners-up receive a free one-volume subscription and publication on our website. This year’s final judge is Willa Schneberg.
If someone has a question, how can they contact you?
Send me an email at around 1:30 a.m. and you’ll probably hear back pretty quickly.
Tell Tell Poetry’s favorite feminist publications: