Calamus Journal publishes flash fiction to 600 words and poetry. The journal has "a particular interest in showcasing work from members of marginalized groups, as well as showcasing work that might be considered experimental, surreal, or even eccentric.” Read the complete guidelines here.
SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
Eric Cline: Back when I was in high school, I served on my school's literary magazine staff. I had a great time reading through all of our submissions, as well as helping to design the magazine. In the years since graduating high school, I often noted how much I missed editing, but for one reason or another I always decided I was too busy. This year, after having put a lot of effort and time into my own writing career, I decided that I wanted a change of pace, and to go back to editing. I love experiencing other people's work and publishing it. As someone who reads literary magazines on a regular basis, I wanted to create a quality journal that others could read and enjoy. From this mission came Calamus Journal. In defining what the journal sought to publish, I aimed to provide a space where innovation in form and experimentation in style would be welcomed. I also wanted the journal to provide space for poems pertaining to important social issues and personal experiences.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
EC: Trevor (the assistant editor) and I look for work that feels personal and authentic. We really enjoy work that deals with emotion in an artful way, work that finds just the right image or phrase to convey a feeling. I think it's fair to say we prefer emotionally-invested works over poems and stories that just kind of describe scenes without achieving much payoff.
We also love non-standard formatting. We're not inherently opposed to poems written in traditional forms, but we really like work that plays with white space or feels uniquely interactive in the way it is constructed.
Third, I would say th at we look for really specific images. That's not to say that every aspect of a poem needs to be defined in extreme detail, but we don't care for poems that deal only in abstract concepts (i.e. "love" or "pain") but do nothing to show how those concepts manifest.
SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?
EC: Submissions that do not follow our guidelines. We take time out of our days to read through people's work, and we believe the least a submitter can do is read through a short series of guidelines before sending their work. It's a matter of respect and professional courtesy.
Beyond that, we don't generally care for poems that are overly vague. We also don't care for work that is misogynistic, racist, etc. We love writing that confronts these issues and describes people's experiences, but we don't want to read pieces that just reinforce negative stereotypes about groups of people, or that reeks of a hatred for women on the author's part.
SQF: Who are some of your favorite authors of short fiction and poetry?
EC: Some poets we love are Andrea Gibson, Sappho, Walt Whitman, and Langston Hughes. Our tastes in fiction are pretty broad, from more literary authors to horror and sci-fi, but we tend to like work that is in some way or other "weird." What weird means can vary, of course, but perhaps its worth pointing out that we particularly like magical realism and stories in which the implausible becomes plausible.
SQF: You recently published your second issue. What has you most excited about this adventure?
EC: We're excited to share the great work we receive with our readers, and to provide our authors with a platform. I love the feeling I get when we receive a submission that we immediately know we want to publish, and I love sharing such great pieces with our audience. I want Calamus to continue to be a place where lovers of poetry and short fiction can find quality work, and I'm excited for Calamus to continue to publish more issues and showcase more writers, more voices, more styles.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
EC: Where does the name "Calamus Journal" come from?
Calamus, besides being a type of plant, is the title of a series of male-male love poems from Whitman's Leaves of Grass. I've always loved those poems' use of imagery to convey deep emotion, and I would like to think we publish emotionally impactful work as well. It also establishes a connection between the journal's name and the history of same-sex romantic subject matter in poetry. I felt that this was fitting due to our particular interest in showcasing work by LGBT people, along with members of other traditionally marginalized groups.
Thank you, Eric. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.