Hot Off the Press: Some Literary Journals in L.A.

While one count puts the current crop at near 40, here is a brief cross - section of literary magazines in Los Angeles.

As Jack Grapes, editor of the L.A.-based literary magazine ONTHEBUS tells it, for too long L.A. writers have suffered from RDS, Rodney Dangerfield Syndrome. “We never got any respect,” says Grapes. “I wanted to produce a literary magazine that would get respect.” He and his all-volunteer staff have taken ONTHEBUS from a thin compilation of workshop poems to a 350-page compendium of poetry, interviews, essays, reviews and art. Success has required a lot of hand-to-hand selling. “To get into a new bookstore,” Grapes says, “you’ve got to call the owner, you’ve got to go there yourself.” With a circulation of 3,500, ONTHEBUS is now one of the largest-selling literary magazines in the world. (A three-issue subscription is $24 from Bombshelter Press, 6421 1/2 Orange St., L. A., CA 90048.)

Another outstanding local product is Jim Krusoe’s Santa Monica Review. While almost 50% of the work comes from Southern California writers such as Amy Gerstler and Bill Mohr, SMR also has a strong base in the New York School (for instance, James Schuyler and Eileen Myles). (A two-issue subscription is $12 from the Center for the Humanities, Santa Monica College, 1900 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90405.)

UCLA’s Jacaranda Review has the look and feel of a traditional literary journal. In addition to poetry and fiction, it also presents reviews, literary essays and criticism. While a number of its writers hail from Southern California, its focus is on world literature, broadly conceived, frequently presenting works in translation. (A two-issue subscription is $10 from The Jacaranda Review, Department of English, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90024.)


Also internationalist in its concerns, but non-traditional in its presentation, is Rohwedder. According to associate editor Robert Dassanowsky-Harris, Rohwedder is an attempt to connect polyglot L.A. with the rest of the world. (Individual copies of Rohwedder are $4, from P.O. Box 29490, L. A., CA 90029.)

Literary magazines thrive not only on the breadth of their vision but also on the intensity of their feelings. Intensity is the stock in trade of local Long Beach publication Pearl. Published since 1987, Pearl brings together a number of writers often associated with Neo-Pop, the new Populist writing, such as Charles Webb, Lisa Glatt and Fred Voss. Humor is often an important ingredient in the work they publish, as in a piece by Richard E. Lee entitled “To the Student Who Wrote ‘UDDER SHOCK’ When He Meant Utter Shock.’ Writes Lee: “Anyone can write ‘utter shock.’ / May you have the courage of your Freudian slip. . . .persist in yr idiocy / & you will become great.” (Pearl is $10 a year, from 3030 E. Second St., Long Beach, CA 90803.)

A hefty annual, editor Joyce Schwartz’s Sculpture Gardens Review may be taking over where Helen Friedland’s Poetry/LA, one of the longest-running local literary journals, is ceasing after 12 years. Sculpture Gardens Review’s first three issues have included many of the best-known local poets, for instance, Kate Braverman and Robert Peters, as well as talented newcomers such as Mark Henke and Robin Lieberman.

(A two-issue subscription is $14 from Pacific Voices Press, 249 S. Bentley, L. A., CA 90049.)

Bakunin and Red Dancefloor Press are a couple of feisty new kids on the block. Jordan Jones’ Bakunin offers itself “for the dead Russian anarchist in all of us.” Published in Simi Valley, Bakunin’s upcoming April issue will have a special section on last year’s riots. (A one-year subscription to Bakunin is $8 from P.O. Box 1853, Simi Valley, CA 93062-1853.)

David Goldschlag of Red Dancefloor Press looks for diversity in the material he offers readers. So far 400 different poets have appeared in Red Dancefloor Press, representing all the various strands of contemporary poetry: experiment, pastoral, confessional, Beat.

(A one-year subscription to Red Dancefloor Press is $17 from P.O. Box 7392, Van Nuys, CA 91409.)

Also keep in mind: “Westword,” published biannually by The Writer’s Program, Department of the Arts, UCLA Extension (10995 Le Conte Ave . , 313, Los Angeles, CA, 90024); “Faultline: A Journal of Art and Literature” from the University of California, Irvine (P . Oine . Box 599-4960, Irvine, CA 92716-4960); “Northridge Review” (Department of English, California State University, Northridge, CA 91330) and “Griot: A Journal of Native Consciousness” (226 San Juan Ave . , Venice, CA 90291; 310-396-6876).