We’ve made the trek from the deep south to the southwest: 1,700 miles from Montgomery to Phoenix, but lucky for you, it only takes a second to navigate between webpages. Dive in to our dissection of the literary world of Arizona!
To understand the Arizona literary scene you must first understand the Arizona landscape: there is the Phoenix metropolitan area, which houses the bulk of the state’s population and most of its concrete/drywall buildings. To the north lays the Flagstaff area, a pine-studded enclave of anyone escaping the desert heat on a temporary or permanent basis. Then there’s Tucson to the south, often considered “scruffy” by some and “artsy” by others (think the “Austin” or “Berkeley” of Arizona, but with more cactus) and only 45 minutes from the Mexican border. To the sides of all these main metropolitan areas hides a whole slew of reservations, ranchland, ghost towns, national monuments, mining sites old and new, military mysteries, ancient ruins, meteoric craters, and so on and so forth. If you haven’t carved out a month or more to explore Arizona, put it on your bucket list. But in the meantime, put your finger on the pulse of one or a few of these publications to see what the gravity of a strange place like this creates and collects.
With cover art consistently labelable as some version of “desert mod,” which is a good thing, SR is the peak example of work that toys with and is borne out of the sparseness-fullness polarity of a desert. While SR is not afraid to tout its David Foster Wallace connections, its ongoing success relies on the hard work of current University of Arizona MFA students and the consistent presence of high caliber poetry and prose. Pro tip: Sonora Review only has 2 submission windows each year for poems, essays, and fiction, but they accept unsolicited book reviews and interviews on an ongoing basis.
The ASU Triad
It’s no surprise that one of the largest universities in the country (pushing nearly 100,000 from its combined campuses and programs) has not one but at least three solid, smoothly-running lit mags. Hayden’s Ferry Review has a list of past contributing others that will first make you drool with envy and then deeply want to submit ASAP to join the ranks. And luckily, you can do so without sacrificing your current identity/s, sense of experimentation, and authenticity to the ever-flattening ideal of “traditional literature”: HFR’s archives house the work of longstanding legends like Raymond Carver and John Updike, and also places fresh, aggressive, and stunning emerging voices above the fold. Next, based out of ASU’s Mesa side, Superstition Review has a host of web design students backing it up, lending a well-structured online sharing network that lets your work get a head start on its way across the world wide web. A thriving blog and a heavy multicultural lens have kept SR running for just over a decade now. And finally, Canyon Voices is the youngest of the triad, a publication started in 2010 by students and faculty at the ASU’s New School’s (lots of schools to keep track of, guys) School of Humanities, Arts, and Cultural Studies.
For a traditional essayist or storywriter it takes a moment, admittedly, to wrap one’s head around what’s going on at The Diagram. Once you tap into that sort-of-engineery or sort-of-liked-biochem or sort-of-wanted-to-be-an-astronaut space in your head, tho (that’s not to say this is in any way a science literary magazine; that’s to say this is a literary space uniquely attuned to parts and happenings). The Diagram is a hodgepodge of the greatest finesse, and they’re interested in everything: they take art, they take reviews, they take stories and poems and pages clipped out of books you found in your great uncles’ garage.
So entitled because of its five-thousand-foot elevation rise above Phoenix, this pub is as quiet, unassuming, strong, and gentle as the pine desert breeze. Reading Thin Air Magazine is a little like going to the Grand Canyon: pretty far out of your way, but totally worth it. With an annual print magazine and work published online year-round, Thin Air welcomes a wide range of poetry, prose, and art and takes an especially favorable outlook on hybrid works.
FTR exists because Snow White retellings never get old, and say, what defines a fairy tale anyways? The baby and brainchild of fairytale championess (and TMR anthology judge) Kate Bernheimer, FTR’s subversive mission is one of diversity and inclusion. It is deeply interested in rewriting the canon, and what better way to do that than with poison apples, evil stepmothers, magic lamps, and more? Bonus whimsical and perhaps-inspiring detail: print issues are named after colors, i.e. “The Pink Issue,” “The Ochre Issue,” “The Translucent Issue.” Submit to one that fits your work’s aura!
It might be a compliment or an oversimplification to call Terrain.org an “online version of Orion Magazine,” but in doing so we only seek to say that environmental literature and work of place is alive, well, and especially excellent when based out of this online hub. Terrain.org is the place to go for eco-geeks, recyclers, naturalist-writers, people seeking to scribble out the complicated vibes they from about their hometown or some city they passed through, or anyone who’s been online too long today who needs to remember what the environment is and feels and means. Annual contests and a new-to-2019 podcast series keep Terrain.org a place to return to again and again, as a reader and submitter.
What started as an experiment by a handful of Tucson-area high school students earlier this year appears to still be going strong. Meet Carnegiea, a platform designed by and for young adults. Their mission, in so many words, is clear: you don’t need an MFA, a college degree, or a voter-registration-age birthdate on your ID to speak your truth into the world. Wrapped in a strong sense of place — named after the saguaro cactus found most abundantly in Tucson — this mag embraces diversity, not just of people but of craft as well. Feel free to submit embroidery, the script of a play, or video in addition to short stories, poems, and essays.
by Melissa Hinshaw