Journal Feature: The Blueshift (2015)

I had the pleasure of speaking with Tyler Tsay, the editor-in-chief, of the profound new literary journal The Blueshift Journal. This journal features young, relatively undiscovered writers and artists, hoping that great art will provide an ethereal closeness between humans. Tsay is only a senior in high school himself and yet he has managed to create a beautiful web-based literary journal featuring the works of young literary enthusiasts around the globe.

As a young editor myself, I was quickly captivated by the tenacity and wholesome ambition of Tsay. I asked him questions about how the journal functions (considering many of the other editors are scattered across the US) as well as his aspirations for the future. Tsay is one of those special human beings who retains the optimism of art and literature, when so many of us have long given up hope for the future.

 

The Blueshift Journal

  •  How does the journal fund itself? Does it rely mostly on donations and profits from fundraising?
We originally raised $1,500 for the journal itself, and since then have been running off that.  We have limited donations via Tip Jar submissions, where authors/artists submit for a donation fee of $3.00 (of which we make about $2), and through the donation tab on our website, theblueshiftjournal.com.  However, as a small, online press, we generally do not have to worry too much about funding.  By issue 4, we might need to start fundraising again, but in the meantime, we’re in a good place.
  • What sort of circulation does your journal have?
Our audience is mainly young.  About 70% of our readers are around the ages of 17-35 for both male and female.  However, we publish all ages, have published all ages, and never see age as a factor for our issues.  Our staff is young, and the journal itself is young, so we obviously attract a younger crowd.  Eventually, we will start to move away from that, as both our staff and the journal itself mature.
  • What is the biggest challenge for the journal? Were there any major obstacles in the way?
 
There were plenty of obstacles, mainly being that there’s not really a how-to on starting a literary magazine.  I think starting out was the hardest part.  For the first three weeks of our start, we were actually The Copper Context on an advertisement-ridden Google website.  Obviously, that has changed a lot.  Getting the issue itself was much more difficult than we imagined, since Claire (managing), Lily (exec), and I were in separate parts of the world (I think Claire was in Greece, Lily was in the forests of Maine, and I was somewhere all around in the US).  But we’ve really worked out the kinks for this next issue.  We switched over the Submittable, brought on a Layout Manager and more Interns, and we’re definitely getting the hang of things.
  • What are the biggest challenges for the editors?
If you’re referring to the upper management (Claire, Lily, and I), I would say that it’s hard to keep everything together when we’re at three separate schools in three separate locations trying to create an issue.  But that’s always a challenge.
In terms of the actual editors and readers, I think that the biggest challenge is probably the fact that very few of us have met each other in person.  We’re going to try to organize get-togethers, but sometimes, I can feel that it’s hard to interact when we haven’t yet put the faces to the names to the people to the voices.  In order to combat this, we offer our staff a position back every issue (unless something drastic changes, or they have to leave for undisclosed reasons), so that they can see the magazine grow with them, and get to know each other along the way.  I think we’ve truly gotten close as a staff.  It’s my favorite part of the whole thing that I never really anticipated.
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  • What does an editor like most and least about being an editor?
I know that as an editor, I’ve grown so much as a writer being exposed to the incredible array of submissions we receive, both good and bad.  Albeit, I haven’t written much in the past few years, only privately.  But I know that editing is one of the best ways to improve your writing.  You learn what works, what doesn’t, what styles appeal to you, what don’t.  There’s a bridge between exposing yourself and copying, of course, but if you are mindful of the gap, you can grow a lot.
The biggest challenge is going against the flow of other readers and editors.  I don’t encourage controversy, but I especially work hard to make sure that if five readers like a piece and one doesn’t, that one reader doesn’t feel pressured into liking the piece.  Because we’re all online and comments/votes by all readers are posted online through Submittable and are visible to all readers, that can be a challenge sometimes.  We’ve gotten more comfortable with each other, though, so I think that we’re more ok with arguing against each other if need be.
  • Where do you see your journal in 10 years?
I don’t think I even know where I want to be in 10 years, much less the journal.  At this point, I see a very clear cut path for my role at the journal through college.  To be honest, I’m in this because of art for art’s sake.  As long as we can keep discovering and publishing good art, I see no reason to change our trajectory.
  • Would you consider aesthetic more important than the content of the magazine, vice versa, or are both equally important to the magazine?
The content shapes the aesthetic, so I think that both are equally important.  As I said above, art for art’s sake.  We want to find good work.  We rarely happen to have a bias, or a certain theme or trajectory in mind.  I think there’s definitely a style of writing we like.  We have always played with the idea of perspective and loneliness.  But we’re out there to discover good writing and good art, so I would probably choose content over aesthetic if I had to go for one.
  • What kind of feedback do you get from your readers? Mostly positive or mostly negative?
We’ve been getting great feedback!  We actually just had a review published by The Review Review, giving us 4/5 stars for our first issue.  We’re shooting for that 5 for next issue, of course 🙂

Tsay’s optimism shines through with every piece printed in the journal, allowing the works of others to bring us all closer as one, feeling, thinking thing. The journal’s ultimate goal is human connection and I can say for certain that in reading the works published in issues one and two, I have never felt closer to a group of young strangers in my life. I look forward to see what new adventures through the human mind await in their next issue.

An Interview with Asinine Poetry Editor Shay Tasaday (2015)

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Over the past few weeks, my fellow editors and I have been working on a journal project. We selected two literary journals, one of mine being Asinine Poetry, did some research and presented on them. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to have an interview with the editor of Asinine Poetry via e-mail. Here is our conversation:
EC: How did Asinine Poetry get its start?
ST: Asinine Poetry started as a print zine done by some friends in the 1990s. Typical zine publishing–designed, printed, copied, and stapled at somebody’s job after everyone else left for the day. These were short themed issues, very much like mini-chapbooks, and were produced out of order: issue #3 was the first one finished, then issue #5, because the editors wanted to make sure they knew what they were doing before they actually did an issue #1! Asinine Poetry remained a very obscure zine until one of the contributors helped us bring it to the Internet, about 1999 or 2000. And so then we made a website and have been trolling along ever since.

EC: How did you come up with the unique concept for the journal?
ST: I think, to be honest, in the beginning Asinine Poetry was just a juvenile reaction to a bunch of us being constantly (and in most cases, rightfully) rejected by bigwig literary magazines. “Oh yeah, Kenyon Review? Take that, Ploughshares! Take that!” The name Asinine Poetry was both an accusation against those super-serious, pretentious citadels of literature and a declaration of our own intent. “Literature is ridiculous! Let’s be ridiculous!” So we wrote absurd limericks and rhymey, punny throwaways–and early on, it really was just a few of us doing all the writing, sort of like Mad Magazine–and then for some reason people from all over the world began to contribute. Eventually, over the years, AP evolved into an outlet for humorous poetry that is trying to say something underneath, on top of, or just to the left of the jokes. Not just stupid sonnets and silly haiku (although we still enjoy those), but poetry that uses humor and satire as a way to better understand the human condition. Think a whole issue of Billy Collins and Denise Duhamel-type poetry. Which kind of makes us sound pretentious. Dang. What one hates, one must inevitably become!

EC: How do you guys get most of your funding?
ST: Funding?! What funding? Have you seen our offices? Like many lit magazines, we run on coffee and booze. All our editors are volunteer, we (sadly) do not pay contributors, and we have a friend who runs a server, so we don’t have to pay to keep the site up. We do make a small amount of money selling compilations, like Asinine Love Poetry, or chapbooks like Asinine/11. Just recently we jumped on the erotica bandwagon and published two asinine erotic poetry anthologies, Shiny Avocado of Lust and 50 Shades of Avocado, edited by our lovely friend and frequent contributor Kate Showalter.

EC: What are your circulation numbers?
ST: Oh my. I’m not entirely sure. We used to be really into getting circ numbers, and we used to do a lot more promotionto push that along. But we’re all very busy with other projects now, so we put the issues together and send it out there, and whoever reads it, reads it, and we’re very grateful to them. At our height, we were getting about 500 readers a month. Now it’s probably about 100, tops.

You should all check out this small but one of a kind magazine! http://www.asininepoetry.com/

An Interview with Rattle Magazine Editor Timothy Green (2015)

About a week ago, I had the pleasure to interview Timothy Green, an editor for Rattle.
For those who don’t know, Rattle is a literary magazine based out of Los Angeles and founded in 1994 by Alan Fox. What is interesting about this is that Alan Fox is not someone who you would think of as a literary writer—he was a lawyer and real estate investor long before he began his own literary magazine. Because Alan Fox is a “non-poet,” if you will, Rattle has a different aesthetic from any other magazine out there. The magazine strives to keep poetry from being a medium exclusive to literary crowds or other poets; it wants poetry to be read by everyday people. Perhaps Rattle’s goal is best summed up by the following sentence from their website: “it shouldn’t take a scholar to be moved by the written word—great literature has something to offer everyone.”
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Without further introduction, the following is my interview with Timothy Green:
JC: What do you think makes Rattle different from all of the other hundreds of magazines out there?
TG: Well, first of all we’re much larger.  There are only a handful (maybe six?) magazines that publish poetry and have a larger circulation or more web traffic. We’re also far more independent than most — with no ties whatsoever to any academic community.  None of us are literary insiders — we try to build a community from the ground up, and care a lot about openness and equanimity. We only publish poems that have been submitted to the “slush pile,” as they call it — we don’t solicit poems from anyone.  If Billy Collins is in our issue, it’s because he submitted like anyone else.  We encourage submissions and feel like it’s central to what we do as a non-profit.

JC: What do you imagine as Rattle’s ideal reader?

Our founding editor, Alan Fox, is a real estate investor and lawyer, not a “professional” poet. Our ideal reader is really him — someone who like to think about the world and our place within it, but doesn’t self-identify as a poet, necessarily.  We imagine a random person picking up a copy of Rattle in a doctor’s office waiting room, because it’s more curious than Cosmo — they see that it’s poetry, but think they don’t like poetry.  Then they read a poem and say, Hey, poetry’s pretty cool, I liked that.  That’s our ideal reader.JC: What do you want your readers to get out of Rattle?  To put this another way, what kind of conversation do you see the Rattle having with its readers? 

We want them to remember the poems they read, to feel “rattled,” so to speak, and to be inspired to write and share poems of their own.  Nothing’s more fun than publishing a poem that was a response to a previous poem that we published — that’s happened quite a few times, and it’s always great to see.  Poetry is a dialogue more than anything else — we want people to want to be part of the dialogue.JC: Is there anything in particular look for in the submissions you receive?

Memorable things that we haven’t seen before, things that makes us feel new feelings and see the world in new ways, musical lines that stick in our heads.  That’s pretty much it.  I read 100,000 poems a year — it’s hard to be unique or original next to that volume.  When poems are unique, they stand out, and you remember them.  If I remember them, having read that many poems, I figure our readers will remember them, too, and that’s the point.

JC: What would you like people to know the most about Rattle?

 

We don’t play stupid literary games; we just like poetry when it means something and sings, and we’re probably the best home for your poems there is today.

JC: Is there any advice you would like to give to young, unpublished writers?

Just keep plugging away.  It is a game, and rejection is part of the game.  The most “successful” poets aren’t necessarily the most talented, they’re just the ones that stick in it the longest without getting bored or giving up.  If you’re patient, there’s no doubt you’ll get things published, and if you keep working at telling your story, there are people who will love to listen.
Please check out the magazine at their website, http://www.rattle.com.

Artist Interview with Erica Laucella in the Print Shop (2015)

At 11pm on a Monday, I had the opportunity to talk to Erica L, a 5th year senior in the art department. She specializes in print making, and we happened to be in the print shop. I knew Erica casually, but I had noted that she had a bright sense of humor atop a tender human quality that removed any indications of “pretentious artist.”

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It was fitting that she started the interview with asking me how I liked the environment of the print shop which is located in the basement of the Bishop center. A few mutual friends of Erica and I and a group of students from Long River Review were working on their zines, music was playing, people were talking over each other, creating.

Erica, where are you from? What’s your art story?
I’m from Middletown, CT. I didn’t do art in high school but I was always into it, I just never actually did it.

So it’s never too late to do art? Even if it’s almost midnight on a Monday?
No, haha. It is never too late.

 

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Let’s get into it- what’s your senior project?
I made 10 screen prints that were mounted on 10 panels, it was a composition split into 10 panels. 10, 10 by 10 inch prints.

Any significance to the number 10?
Not really, it was inspired by other artists. And I liked the square shape.

How did you come to do print making?
I came to this department, I wanted to be a photographer. I changed my major 3 times before I decided on art. I took basic print making and fell in love with in it. After that, I took more advanced classes and fell even more in love with it.

Describe your aesthetic.
I have a really graphic aesthetic like bold shapes, colors.

How did you come to your aesthetic?
Oh—uh- sorry, I don’t know how I feel about talking about myself haha. I would say that my work conveys an interest in relationships, contrast, balance and organizing space. My imagery that I’ve been compiling for the past few years — casually makes reference to nature, mundane objects and geometric forms. It also alludes to structures that are both natural and artificial.

Why screen printing for your aesthetic?
Screen printing gives you the freedom to layer a lot of images easily, colors and a wide range of colors to choose from. You work with transparency which helps with the layering process.

Who on campus has influenced you?
Lori Sloane. Lori Sloane is lead print making professor. She literally taught me everything that you need to know about print making- she’s a print making god and she gave me access to everything in this shop and alumni still come back here and use the print shop. I find comfort in the fact that I’ll still have access to the shop.

What other artists are you influenced by?
I’m influenced by Mel Bochner, Sonnenzimmer, -they’re my screen printing idols.

What artists should I check out?
Ellsworth Kelly. I’m super into Instagram and Tumblr, I look at a lot of other people’s work through social media.

How has art helped you cope with life?
So I find that I totally have OCD-tendencies, maybe control-issues and I feel like this is perfect for me to handle those issues. Because it’s my own work, nobody else has to touch it. I’ve made a lot of amazing friends and connections with professors and I’ve had a completely positive experience with the department.

Are you influenced by other mediums? Like music? You picked the music that is playing right now.
My dream job- I guess I could say that- I would love to work with bands. But I don’t make music, I don’t want to make music but I want to work with people who do and make art for them.
What are some galleries that we should check out?
Chelsea Gallery in New York because they’re always changing. Museum of fine arts in Boston, because it is overwhelming but in the best way possible. And MOMA.

Can you comment about the hands on aspect of print making?
In print making, this is going to sound so cliché, but it’s really important to embrace your mistakes- because they are always- well, not always but mostly always better than what you planned for.

What are you doing after graduation?
Move to Boston in September, find a print shop there, hopefully.

You have a great sense of humor, you make people laugh. Is it fair to say that this is your element?
I made a lot of friends here. I transferred here. I didn’t have any friends in my old school. I opened up and I am a really honest person now.

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