Remember the crisis in legitimacy that poets and writers underwent when the physical print journals typically associated with “quality” literature decided to embrace the web? Many gave up the husk of permabound or spine-stapled physicality to live online, amidst all those zeros and ones raining down from the Matrix onto your poem now wearing obligatorily dark shades and trench. These days, few would doubt the authority of a venue based solely on its status as an online journal when so many of them kick ass while the action stops and the camera pivots.
In fact, some of the very best journals are online–only online, without the perfunctory small-run printing of its work to be found anywhere other than that Glorious Nowhere known as the digital.
Thus, with all due caveats, qualifications, admissions of biases, and full disclosures of subjectivity aside–though they are blinking as brightly as the red pill that let’s you stay in Wonderland–I give you a list of a few of the very best places online to send your poetry.
Why Boaat? Because, as RAQUEL SALAS-RIVERA tells you in
“WORK IS THE FATHER AND EARTH THE MOTHER”
or each scalpel you bury
a triceratops conch is born,
umbrella screw, celestial octagon.
for each scalpel you bury
a dollar goes to
the governmental development bank.
Need another sketch? Try
Here is an excerpt from a schematic-poem:
I’m partial to the opening lines of
I talk back to the videos. Someone ate paper. Someone isn’t eating anymore.
Mornings like this, I wish I never loved anyone. What is it to be a lucky city, a row of white houses strung with Christmas lights.
There is no minute.
For more incontrovertible claims, take a gander at the first line of this poem, which wants us to imagine a future that is also weirdly knowable in terms of the precise scientific stuff we (certainly) won’t be thinking:
When you look at a long wave of kelp stretched out
as it if were a mess of some drowned girl’s hair, you won’t
be thinking of the functionality of the ovoid bladders
like tiny buoys holding the flat wide blades toward
the sun for maximally efficient photosynthesis.
The resonant, the tuning-fork-off-the-knee-so-hard-it-hurts kind of resonant, ending found in:
“Wild Fire” by Michael Broek
but I’ve been ready all along. How to say
I left a lifetime ago. How to say I want to burn
I’m particularly fond of the ending of My Grandpa Emails Me Regarding My Plans to Return to Kurdistan
by Tracy May Fuad
4. Sixth Finch
Molly Brodak’s poem “Friendship” ends with an image of a beautiful alternative to love:
To begin our navigation through the verdant wellspring of poetic excellence here, you’ll need a serviceable Field Guide. Happily, the editors have arranged for one to be provided.
Promethea Midsummer vibrato. Nightfall of yellow poplar, spicebush and sassafras. Sex at altitude will end in the underbrush. Our next subject: the moon.
Who enjoys ekphrasis? Those in the know, know what I mean, or shall I paint you a picture and then write a poem about that picture and spell it out for you? No time for elementary instruction, the master class is in session in this poem…
A favorite of mine there is by
LENA KHALAF TUFFAHA, whose “My English Teacher Tells Me“
stirs with its relentless investment in the idea that words contain portals as well as barriers–no matter what English teachers will have you believe!
There are many quality journals for flash fiction in 2017. The following list offers a few of them. About a third are selective journals. The rest are relatively more accepting of new and emerging flash fiction writers.
As always, the list reflects my own quirky sense of the market at this time. Many excellent journals dedicated to flash do not appear (NANO Fiction, PANK, Word Riot, Hobart, etc.).
I picked the titles on this list because they are excellent and because each one of them featured a recent piece of flash that caught my eye.
Proceed, therefore, with the aim of getting to know these journals better, along with the many dozens of others hosting today’s best flash and awaiting your submissions.
Flash Fiction Online One supple line arrests my skimming eye from “Marking the Witch” by Lina Rather:
Her aunt took her baby to one to heal his clubfoot, and he returned walking but with blue-jay wings on his back.
matchboook “The Man Next Door” by David Mohan begins with a confessional snapshot of contrast:
I kept this photo we took one time of both of us in his bath: our skin is blue-white in the unkindness of the flash, my face flushed, his streaked with sweat.
Gravel The first sentence of “Contract” by Jacqueline Masumian accomplishes much succinctly, carving its airport out of both physical and emotional space:
The sign painted in bold yellow letters on the concrete wall was clear as day–RENTAL CARS PULL AHEAD TO HERE–but Walt, always Mr. Cautious, had to drive to the end of a long line where harried travelers hauled suitcases from their trunks and waved rental contracts to draw an attendant.
The Offing A micro by NANCY JOOYOUN KIM–“La Jungla”–grabs you with its blend of biography and poetry:
FLAPPERHOUSE As they say themselves:
Our Winter 2016 issue is plagued by the perils of parenthood, and crawling with creepy monsters– both of which you can find in Janelle Garcia‘s haunting flash fiction “Mothers and Demons and the In-Between.”
Frigg “The Guy I Used to Date” by Christopher Allen rides a train of gender that crosses and re-crosses stations of identity:
The woman across from me on the train looks like the guy I used to date. I’m too polite to stare, so I find her reflection in the window. I do the geometry, know she’s looking at me.
Sundog Lit “The American Forest Museum” by L.W. Nicholson takes us on tour of trees recreated out of “toothpicks, beads, and small drops of glue.” But, please, do not ask about the chipmunks–they’re asked about on every tour. My favorite part of the exhibit:
It grew all on its own. I came downstairs one day after hours of carving Styrofoam into the shapes of boulders, and something bright caught my eye. I thought a tourist may have left behind a bottle or a banana candy. Instead, this was growing, straggly but brave.
Smoke Long Quarterly I never tire of discovering epiphany in words curated for me by the reliable editing of SmokeLong. The latest came in the finale to “Ruby” by Veronica Montes, which nutshells so tenderly a singular moment of transformation, when a young woman returns from a date forever changed:
another creature altogether, blind and groping and fettered to an enormous, feral love.
The Collagist “Death in the Woods” by Peter Markus is a polished gem–part flash, part horror poem. It is Blair Witch with a T.S. Eliot behind the word-camera. Here’s a judicious specimen from the middle of the coven:
No one but for the boys who hid in the dark and made like two trees and who brought stones to her witch head and flame to her skin and bones, they were the ones who dared, who stood up to her and to her witch ways, for there was no one else in these woods who would dare do it, they had it set hard in their own boy heads, you could see it in their dirt eyes: that one of these days, just wait and see, death in these woods for this witch would be here to stay.
Wigleaf In “An Object of Concern” Emma Smith-Stevens writes sentences that are worlds in miniature, stories all in themselves that you wish would never end:
Tamara wonders whether her sister Carmen, who lives in Arizona with three rescue dogs and a pot-bellied pig, childless, would—if she had a daughter, and if she were chronically ill—feel the same desire that Tamara feels now: a yearning for solitude in a life, a house, a mind, which makes solitude, in all of its crisp and airy and boundless splendor, an impossible thing ever to have.
Step One entomophobia: draw idea
Step Three apiphobia: develop the outlines in two tones (black and white)
Step Four spheksophobia: develop the forms & shapes in three tones (black, gray, white)
I am still at that step, by the way. It is the long and winding road known as grisaille–a painting process of laying many transparent glazes of color over a monochromatic underpainting, monochromatic as in grey or gris in French, hence gris-aille.
What you see above is my underpainting in oil paint (Titanium White, Lamp Black, Ivory Black, with hints of Prussian Blue & Alizarian Crimson). Once I am satisfied with it I shall move on to explore the luminescent effects of laying various layers of bright yellow onto a very stark under painting–made up only of darks and lights and one or two midtones.
My aim: to recreate a superstitious fear in both nature and color theory. Both equate the contiguity of bright yellow and deep black as a form of chromatic warning–an alarm. Caution tape and taxis, coral snakes and yellowjackets, sunflowers and buntings ring the siren well.
I approached this prohibition of color from the perspective of a mixed-race person and perhaps that is why the artist’s as well as the sting-weary traveler’s caution for the fraternization of these supposedly opposing colors made me want to make a painting about it… with Klansmen firing off shotguns near school buses, trying–in their words, I’m sure–only to detain and question the swarm, not to put it down but to bring it to heel (or, in this case, to its tarsal claws), or only to look in its pockets and trunks and then maybe to stop it, if we have to, out of fear and in the name of all that is right and good (a crucial part of the ideology of any sacrificial logic)…which brings us to those nuns in habits who appear in the drawing above waving censers, their habits designed to reflect the love they have for the yellow and the black–a downright love for the pairing, a weird but no less planet-sustaining love even for living things that sting, slithery or abuzz.
Step Five cnidophobia: glaze in color
I keep having this terroir where I wake up endoftheworld slaked. Buckets of water wouldn’t quench the mouth full of sand I got. I’d probably drown first. So I scramble out of bed and as soon as I open the door, instead of the stairs, it’s E. 59th St.—the late night gas station on the corner unafraid. I go there for liquid large as drums. I’m blue-tongue thirsty. Moving day in hell thirsty. I step into this place and out of the humming streetlights that want to show me cigarette stubs linting a blanket of concrete at the threshold. For a few opendoor seconds, necrotic fluorescents sing along, buzzing mosquito music. None of it does anything for my thirst. I walk in and a key lime sign comes for me. A hotdog perfectly murdered with mustard. There are no words for the optic tang. There’s also the plastic shimmer of the scratch ticket rotisseries by the counter. There are words for those. “Scam” is one. “Empty” is another, because they are. So is the counter. No one’s here. The security camera monitor is in the corner. Instead of showing me in grainy dot matrix walking by dusted motor oils and freshly squeezed bread, a cartoon plays. A cat goes for a bird but grabs hot sauce by accident, drinking it to burstingredfaced proportions. Whiskers runs to chug a bottle of Not-Water—given that skull on the label, Hans Holbein huge. But I don’t care. I’m only interested in the back corner. They keep liquids there: smoky cold behind glass—but not the new cases that open smoother than Enterprise bay doors and close slow on their own like hermit crabs. No, these have heavy louver doors. They won’t slide against the muck in the tracks, catch and bump, building up in the tracks since green bottle days of tin pulltabs and penny candy. Sliding one of these glass anvils over to get armfuls of liquid is going to be a bicep challenge. I think I may have to stretch out first. Maybe do some jogging in place before I rip these coolers open and get those drinks, cause I’m thirsty as hell. Why not do some light calisthenics? The attendant still isn’t there by the razed forest of lotto dispensaries stumping the counter. But then I notice the drinks through the battleship’s portal plexiglass of the cooler. Where I think I’ll see the usual waters, plus or minus sugar and bubble, there’s nothing but cheese-flavored beverages. A colonnade of them, shiny and absurd in their rows. There’s ’VARTI, the Martian martini, and bottles upon bottles of Garden of Edam. Pre-lactasean: their culture’s double cream, cheese curd, no mite, Dutch-type. Never ammoniated cow waters. Only cave aged, barrel block, blue vein. Lock tight. Nacho crock. There’s the inevitable Coco-Colby. More affinage than bloomy. And Chevre Chalk and RIND! ‘That Muenster Flavor Without the Monster Aftertaste.’ Gouda-ade! medieval flavored. Swiss—BLIND! And Big Barny. Grated microbial. Lipase. CHEDDA! Got curdling? Yeah, well these got it too. So do the pictures on their labels. It’s a cutesy caseophilia for the eyes. A real turophile freak show full of smiling wedges and orange winklings, extra sharp. One can of Dr. Jack has a whole story printed on it about Benjamin Franklin “distilling the fine ichor, the very essence of cheese.” On the front is a googly-eyed red pepper in a sombrero and bandoleers firing off cans of the stuff (the font for the BANG of the first gun is made up of little buttery wedges, flecked green and red). Garden of Edam: Large Curd shows Eve in a medieval triptych, learning from the snake how to milk, brick, and then remilk cheese—“so refreshing, it’s sinful.” But I don’t want to read anymore, or watch cartoons, or be dreaming anything so gross when all I want is something to drink. The dryness of my mouth is the hole in the ozone. It wants the stock market to crash. It hates freedom and all will be exposed in ‘Thirsty-Gate’ and the media attention will solve the world’s famine, I’m sure, but in the meantime, who is going to get me something to fucking drink? Then I notice a stray picture on a label of Briesca. A bunch of cans all in a row, a special shape, so special that upon seeing it I instantly know what I have to do. I begin robbing the cases of their worthless bottles and cans, their jugs and cartons. I open all the lids and pull off all the tabs and turn and twist all the caps. The vessels hiss at me, hiccupping and shushing, in proof of the classic tomes “that the possessed shall speak in languages unbeknownst.” Behold, the power of cheese (compels you). But I know that’s not it. That shit doesn’t exist except in commercials and church and I’m certain of it now more than ever. Before I light the fuses. The containers whistle more blasphemies up to the popcorn ceiling. I’m still thirsty, but at least the cheese is free.
< Originally published in The Los Angeles Review >