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Literary Spotlight: Atticus Review

The editors of this established journal look for quirky, raw, ‘non-academic work outside the academy.’ By Melissa Hart

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The website for the 10-year-old journal Atticus Review has a lot going on. You can read fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction by contributors from around the world. You can subscribe to “The Weekly Atticus” for short essays and letters penned by the editors. You can read blog posts pertaining to the journal, and you can click on the “Mixed Media” link for hybrid pieces ranging from short video essays and poems to works that combine literature and visual art.

On the website, editors note that they “like hybrid, unconventional work that pushes boundaries, elevates and edifies on an intellectual level, that investigates the inscrutable essence of a thing, that avoids artifice to stand firmly in its unique voice.” Spend some time looking through the archives, and you’ll see right away that contributors feel free to experiment and to play with both language and imagery.

Tone, editorial content of Atticus Review 

Recently, Christopher Linforth became editor-in-chief at Atticus Review. He notes that the journal has historically maintained a raw, quirky tone and that staff have continually gravitated toward showcasing marginalized voices and experimental pieces. “We look for non-academic work outside the academy,” he says.

He and the other editors welcome sonic compositions, audio soundscapes, short films, and digital interactive literature as well as more traditional poetry and prose. “Regardless of form, we like well-crafted, well-written pieces which encourage conversations about literature,” Linforth says.

The editors at Atticus Review enjoy pieces that inspire readers to consider old subjects in a new and different manner. “And we definitely have an affection for dark stories that can be slightly surreal,” Linforth adds. One of these is “Mercy,” flash fiction by Curtis Smith (Nov. 2, 2021) that tells the story of a boy assaulted by his classmates. His mother attempts to teach him how to hit back. Smith writes:

She pushes him, just hard enough to rock him onto his heels. She thinks of hyenas, their bared fangs. Thinks of fairy tales and goodnight kisses and all the other currencies she’d prayed could shield his heart. She’s crying now, for him, for the foolish things she once believed about mercy.

“The fiction staff love flash fiction,” Linforth says. “Atticus Review is known for the quality and breadth of its flash fiction.”

Editors have recently introduced themed issues. In August 2022, contributors examine different ways in which the internet has shaped and reinvented literature. “Some pieces will examine meme culture, some will look at internet-related novels, and some will look at how we speak and how we communicate in the digital age,” Linforth explains.

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The December 2022 issue will focus on the experience of language, including works in translation, poetry, computer languages, and sign language.

Contributors

Poets Jeffrey Bean and R.L. Maizes have published in Atticus Review, as have Tingyu Liu, Trivarna Hariharan, and Josette Akresh-Gonzales. Editors published Rita Mae Reese’s video poem “People Also Ask” (Dec. 4, 2021) inspired by questions that her search engine suggested. Quirky instrumental music juxtaposes with archival family movies from the 1950s, punctuated by questions including “what is the average weight of a panda?” and “what is the length of spaghetti?” and, poignantly, near the end, “where are you now?”

“It’s a very, very, very odd imagery mix,” Linforth says of Reese’s mixed media piece. “That kind of strangeness, that rawness, that quirkiness is our cup of tea.”

He also points to Gary Fincke’s flash fiction piece titled “Milkman” (Dec. 7, 2021) as the sort of evocative piece he loves to publish. “It’s about a man who’s back from the Vietnam War and working on this dairy farm. It’s very emotional, very affecting,” he says. “These types of pieces are short and punchy and powerful.”

He also appreciates Tom McAllister’s flash nonfiction titled “2013” (Oct. 24, 2019). In it, McAllister tells a simple story about leaving a birthday party at his house to buy orange juice, which inspires him to think about his life choices and role among family and friends. Near the end of the piece, he writes:

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Here’s the punchline of this story, I always forget the punchlines: nobody knew I was gone. I had left my own house, in my car, and driven a half mile away, and everyone had continued as if I had been there the whole time. It’s not that I needed them to be waiting at the door with balloons and firecrackers. But of course I wondered how long I would have to be gone before someone noticed.

“Often, he writes about key moments in his life and how they’ve changed him,” Linforth explains. “What’s so interesting about these pieces is the kind of detail we get about his life.”

Advice for potential contributors

Editors at Atticus Review particularly appreciate shorter pieces – for creative nonfiction, they gravitate toward stories of 800 words or fewer. On the website, they write, “We like seeing the small set against the big picture…We like lyrical. We like dark humor. We like pieces that look inward and confront shame.”

For poetry submissions, they prefer lyrical narrative poems with a snapshot sensibility. They’re not interested in preachy, didactic poems. From the poetry submission guidelines, “They can be shocking, serene, heartbreaking, elegant, savage, narrative, surreal – or all of the above.” Linforth and other editors appreciate a brief cover letter, especially if the writer has submitted an experimental piece.

The review includes a “New Voices” section on its website, featuring writers with fewer than five publications. Five free-submission days a year allow potential contributors to send work without paying the $3 fee. “We really want to encourage unrepresented writers, minority writers, and people who have difficulty accessing literary magazines,” Linforth says. “And we’re so very happy to work with new and emerging writers.”

 

Atticus Review at a glance

 

“Our aim at Atticus Review is to provoke and encourage conversation through the publishing of art and literature from under-represented artists and writers.”

Reading period: Year-round.

Genres: Fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, graphic art, mixed media.

Length: Five poems; prose to 4,000 words.

Submission format: Submit via form on website.

Payment: $10 per story or group of poems.

Contact: Editor-in-Chief Christopher Linforth,
[email protected], atticusreview.org.

 

Melissa Hart is the author, most recently, of Daisy Woodworm Changes the World (Jolly Fish, 2022). Instagram/Twitter: @WildMelissaHart

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