The world of literary journals is not necessarily well known. If today’s young adults, college students and employees are reading at all, they typically pick up cheesy young adult novels, textbooks or Internet articles that grab their attention. The common excuse for the cutback on seriously creative literature is almost always chalked up to time: not having enough of it or not wanting to waste it. What most people don’t realize, however, is that there is in fact a form that fits into busy schedules: the literary journal. Lit journals are periodical publications that are devoted to literature in an all-encompassing sense. They publish a variety of genres, usually focusing on short fiction stories, creative non-fiction essays and poetry. Some even include art pieces, book reviews, interviews and profiles. There are thousands of them out there and some may be right under your nose—the ever-popular and critically-acclaimed The New Yorker is actually a literary journal.
Maybe reading isn’t exactly your thing. But literary journals cover all sorts of topics and themes from food to music to comedy to culture. So whatever your interests, there is a lit journal out there for you—it’s just a matter of tracking it down.
For me, it’s The Common that captures what I’m interested in. It calls itself “a modern sense of place;” a motto that exemplifies the experience of reading the journal. The Common’s largest thematic scope is that of setting—there is no limit on place. It could be your house or a totally different country—it’s this broad definition of place that lets the journal achieve a mood that is traditional, yet modern.
In almost every piece that I have read in The Common, I find that there is a sense of coziness. The subject of these pieces, the journal’s visual aesthetic and its online presence give it a fresh and modern vibe. As a bibliophile whose greatest joy in life is sitting in an armchair with a book and a cup of coffee on a stormy day, I appreciate the balance of permanence and excitement that The Common provides. This includes such works as “Your Parents’ House” by Zeina Hashem Beck, “Tiny Sun” by Margot Douaihy and “Papad” by Suketu Mehta.
The Common’s web presence is truly innovative. It caters to the busy reader by providing short online passages in a variety of mediums. My favorites are the series “Dispatches,” “Features” and “The Common Studio.” All three merge the art of writing with art and photography and seem to focus more closely on physical locations such as cities and foreign countries.
“Features” is a blog written by a variety of contributors. The most recent post in this section is an interview entitled “Ask a Local: Dorthe Nors, Vedersø, Demark.” The questions asked of her include, “The most striking physical features of this town are…,” “The stereotype of the people who live here and what this stereotype misses…” and “Local/regional vocabulary or food?” These questions display what The Common is all about: the beauty of a physical place and a deeper meaning within it.
“Dispatches” is not quite a blog. Rather, it is more like a series of diary entries. It is always about exploring foreign regions all around the globe. On the left of the page is a world map and on the right is a diary entry. The entry consists of a representative work of art—usually photography—and a piece of text. The text could be a poem, a short fiction story or a work of creative non-fiction. For those who love to travel and to experience new cultures, this series is like a creative world encyclopedia.
“The Common Studio” is probably one of my favorite innovations that The Common has come up with. It’s essentially an online gallery that gives equal attention to both the art and the written work accompanying it. It also has a broad range of art mediums from classic landscapes to avant-garde photography. Of course, all of the art featured in “The Common Studio” is connected to a sense of place—whether it’s specific or vague.
Even though I’ve just been introduced to this unknown world of literary journals myself, I am enamored with its diversity and its departure from the norm. Not only that, but it’s perfect for busy college students. Need a quick study break? Instead of browsing Instagram or taking a Buzzfeed quiz, stop by the English Department office and check out a literary journal or browse online for one. You won’t regret it.