"Poets and Writers Magazine"

Pros: Information on neat new writers; useful industry information; grant and award listings
Cons: Fairly narrow in focus
Rating: 4 out of 5

First published 5/4/2001

I believe this quote from the May/June 2001 issue of “Poets & Writers” perhaps best sums up what this magazine is all about:

But then again, we’re talking about her favorite subject: poetry. Not about the ephemeral stuff, the hard stuff, not about the making of poetry, but about the making of poets.

This magazine is more about writers than it is about writing. It’s about what a writer’s life is like. It’s about the writers’ community in Paris. It’s about the agony of trying to find the right title for a book – but not in terms of a how-to, with tips & hints for how to find your own title; just in terms of what other authors have struggled through. This magazine is two parts writer’s life, one part industry resource, and one part how-to. (There is one article in that self-same issue that delivers concrete suggestions for how you can go about getting an agent that suits your needs.)

The industry resources are perfect for writers of any level – there are listings of grants and awards, conferences and residencies. There are articles about finding agents, and about new emerging literary niches – such as the literary journals now being published in some non-literature arenas.

The how-tos are few and far between, but they are useful. I wouldn’t buy this magazine just for the how-tos. You can find material that’s just as good on the internet. In fact, the article I mentioned above on finding agents mostly references a number of online resources and ties them together with some nuggets of advice.

Which leaves us with the material about writers. There was a section in that same issue on writing as therapy for traumatic experiences, and how some of that writing can be considered literary material above and beyond its value as therapy. This was explained through the stories of several specific writers. As I see it, this sort of material serves several purposes:

One, it shows young, aspiring writers that the more experienced people go through the same trials and tribulations. It lets us know that yes, the greatest writers of all time also had trouble coming up with titles for their books. If you feel like you haven’t been getting anywhere and need this sort of encouragement, then this is very useful.

Two, it publicizes various writers and poets who are deserving of a little recognition. I read about some interesting works in here that I’m tempted to check out. This is certainly a useful service to writers, and if you’re always looking for a new writer to add to your collection, then you’ll find this aspect of the magazine quite useful.

Three, it lets those people who daydream about being writers feel that they’re getting a taste of “what it’s really like to be a writer.” Mind you, in some ways the view of writing that comes out in this magazine is… well, the best words I can find to describe it are academic and romantic. Not that it ignores the difficult or down-to-earth parts of being a writer, but it really does have a sort of lofty air to it. It’s obvious this is aimed more at “literary” writers, and not… well, all of the other writers out there.

Four, it will show you some of the other avenues of publication open to literary writers and poets. It may inspire you to try something new!

Interestingly enough, “Poets & Writers” is a non-profit venture. Which is really neither here nor there where the content is concerned, but I thought it was kind of neat. The issues come out every other month. They’re pretty thick (that same issue is 136 pages!), and have a surprisingly small number of ads, most of which are tasteful and interesting.

I’m not sure whether I’ll renew my subscription the next time it comes up, honestly. This is an interesting magazine with some neat stuff, but for the most part it doesn’t tackle the kinds of writing that I’m interested in. I don’t care about what it’s like to write in Paris and I’d rather have concrete suggestions for title-brainstorming than random musings on the subject. Don’t get me wrong – I’m definitely a romantic at heart – but this isn’t where I want to get my romance. Make sure that it suits your writing before you spend the money on it. Try to find a copy at your local library (or borrow a friend’s) before subscribing.

Posted in Reviews, Writing

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