One Photograph, One Story, Ten Poems
The inaugural issue of 1110 does an admirable job of fulfilling the intentions of its editor as stated on the journal’s website. It is indeed “an object that is attractive and approachable” and it contains “high-quality, daring, inventive, and beautiful poems, prose, and photography.” I wouldn’t say every piece is all of these things but a reader will find works within that fit those adjectives.
I love their acknowledgment that people often have busy lives and thus are more likely to actually read and fully enjoy a slim journal. I have often wondered why poetry, which generally involves a briefer time commitment for a first reading than a work of fiction, isn’t more popular in this era when it seems we only slow down when we’re stuck in a line. Why not pull out your unobtrusive yet elegant, perfect-bound, forty-page 1110 literary journal and read a poem while creeping toward the drive-thru window?
Journals of this size are so manageable in our everyday lives we might even be tempted to go back and reread some of the poems. That inclination may be even greater with 1110 than other slim journals because the editors have a stated preference for surrealism. The first read may leave one wondering, “Who was that masked man?” Some may like to leave the mystery be, while others may enjoy returning to the scene of the excitement to look more carefully at the layering and juxtapositions. Or perhaps one may want to return to certain lines or stanzas that were beautiful or intriguing.
With ten poems such revisiting is easy to do. There’s almost an invitation to take one’s time, to savor or resample. I most enjoyed rereading Rachel Moritz’s “Birch (Betula)” with its “flank of forest / ambushed, weaving nothing / but mist” and “twigs, a song / in wild plum & sky.” In James Cihlar’s “Lonely, Deeply,” I returned to “The lovers’ faces are monuments to light / in the brownstones’ shadows,” and “Today is a day made out of diamonds.” I had time to appreciate Alyson Price Sinclair’s window into the lives of two sisters coping with anger and abandonment in “The Last Part, I Don’t Remember” with its searing accusation: “You say, sister, you are no protector.” Despite the virtues of the poems mentioned thus far, the one that most delighted me was Josh Wallaert’s prose poetry jazz on numbers and time in “While We’re Being Honest.” From the poem’s center:
“I have a habit of saying I’m thirty years old when I mean my wife turned thirty last year. The King James Bible is only six and a half of us. That’s nothing. My wife and I are not long units of time.”
The fiction offering in this first issue wasn’t the least bit surreal but rather a penetrating examination of a young boy’s emotional turmoil over his parents’ divorce and his father’s demand that he feel differently. Material that’s been done before? Yes, of course. But author Ali Gharavi develops tension quickly with an unreasonable ultimatum from the father and the stepmother’s offer of help that we’re not sure she can follow through on. I’m not a big fan of short stories but became completely engrossed in this one.
Via a horizontal teaser window in the cover, we are given a glimpse of the featured photograph, which doesn’t immediately dazzle. It’s composed of dingy grain elevators on a gray day in a flat landscape. Yet its composition is pleasing. It’s divided into thirds both vertically and horizontally. Stacked horizontally are the following: a featureless stretch of sandy road, a featureless gray sky at the top and buildings in the middle third. And within that middle segment are three vertical elements: two dominant grain elevators to the left and right, with their columnar silos and in the middle the tiny columnar skyscrapers of a distant metropolis. There are precious few angles outside of 90 degrees in this photo by Andrew Schroeder, evoking both stability and desolation.
Of course, it’s inappropriate to draw conclusions about editorial preferences from one photograph or one story except that they’re serious about presenting well-crafted work. As I mentioned earlier, their particular focus is surrealism. However, printing the best material, surreal or not, is the primary goal. It could be they didn’t receive many surreal photo or fiction submissions or that those they received weren’t as accomplished as those eventually chosen for publication.
It’s a little easier to comment on the editorial preferences revealed in the ten poems. Feel free to send prose poems. There were four in this issue. Twisted or truncated syntax is not a barrier to acceptance here. Take, for example, the line “Fast you scared of uzi at your nose, just above the superman pajama neck,” from Laressa Dickey’s “6." This same poem has found elements--and may be entirely found. Phrases taken from another author are italicized and given credit. This shows the editors’ respect for copyright. Give credit where it’s due in your submissions if your work uses material from the work of others.
Though 1110 is intentionally limited in the amount of material presented, potential contributors shouldn’t engage in self-censorship where length is concerned. There was one four line poem and one four page poem. The story was nine pages. On the journal’s website, the editors state they do not have a length limit for individual pieces.
The contributors of this inaugural issue consist of ten Americans and two writers residing in Europe. This struck me as odd for a journal produced in Great Britain, so I asked editor irann Lorsung if introducing American poets to Britain was part of the goal. Not so. It was merely circumstance. I was told the work of two British writers had already been selected for the next issue and they are happy to see English language submissions from anywhere in the world. Of the eleven writers, almost half have published previously and two have experience as literary journal editors. Consider 1110 an international journal featuring surrealism but also publishing excellent work outside that category. They want to be surprised so surprise them. Consider this statement on their website as throwing down a gauntlet: “We’re willing to like things we’ve never imagined.”