This time, I’m looking at three of our current publications that regularly produce excellent issues and don’t cost an arm and a leg. This month’s Vanity Fair contains a pleasing mix of scandal and depth, in profiles of entertainer Rihanna, writer Tom Wolfe, and TV star Kelly Rutherford, and a reckoning with those dubious Michelin Stars. Both glossy and thought-provoking, this magazine gives the reader a glimpse of who was there and what they wore, but with an elevated sensibility, in terms of journalism, insight, and quality interviews. This month, John Heilpern goes out for noodles with Patti Smith and discusses her new memoir, M Train, Smith’s favorite childhood reading experiences Little Women and Silver Pennies (a collection of poems about elves and fairies), and the prospect of living forever.
Poetry is one of my absolute favorite literary publications. It’s pocket-sized, with a simple design that emphasizes the work above all else, consistently showcases an eclectic variety of excellent new and established poets, and it’s approachable. And by approachable, I suppose what I really mean is that it’s affordable: for a measly $3.75, about what many of us spend on a fancy coffee each day, yours is the pleasure of some of the best words in poetry today. Reading an issue of Poetry is a bit like entering into the long, ongoing conversation with current voices in the world of this art. The publication always reminds me of the ways poetry speaks that no other art can. In this issue, there’s an absolutely wonderful trio of poems by emerging writer Javier Zamora. (And here’s a great interview with Zamora and Natalie Scenters-Zapico on the Best American Poetry blog). I’ve been re-reading Hai-Dang Phan’s long poem “My Father’s ‘Norton Introduction to Literature,’ Third Edition (1981)” again and again, wonderstruck by lines like “Its thin translucent pages are webbed with his marginalia,/graphite ghosts of a living hand, and the notes often sound/just like him…”) And if you’re already a reader of more established poets, Brenda Shaughnessy, Marcus Wicker, John Beer, or Frank Lima, they each present strong work in this issue, and there’s a fascinating essay about Lima’s oeuvre. I’m grateful to this magazine for introducing me each month to poets whose books aren’t yet on the shelves amongst the ones I already know.
Are you reading The Sun? Its motto is “Personal. Political. Provocative. Ad-Free,” and it’s one of the most intelligent, uncompromising independent literary publications I know. Each issue follows a theme (this month’s is the conversation surrounding modern pregnancy and parenting) and pursues that theme through stunning black and white photography, interviews, essays, memoir, fiction and poetry. (And, like Poetry and Vanity Fair, it’s under ten bucks: only $5.95 for an issue you will want to keep). Jennifer Senior, author of parenting-trend-proof All Joy and No Fun, gives an outstanding interview about our contemporary notions of best practices parenting, and all of the flaws and disappointments therein. Refreshing, redemptive, but not oversimplified, either. There’s also some fabulous poems on tricky familial memories, from Louise Glück, Nikki Giovanni, Sharon Olds, and others. Another feature that’s great about this award-winning magazine? The Sun also features “True Stories” and “Correspondence” from their readers–strange, secret-laden first-person letters on the issue’s theme that certainly take on the disarming power of confessional.