I keep seeing people posting online/tweeting/facebooking about great new e-journals. This reminds me that I edit an e-journal, though I’ve never once called it that. I used to call it an online journal but then I decided it was silly to make that distinction and stopped. Is making sure everyone knows it’s an e-journal so very important? And how does this even signify when so many print journals have e-issues? Or e-samples? Or e-mail? Oh wait, you don’t have to say e DASH mail anymore. The AP Stylebook finally lost the hyphen. Does that make e-journal an ejournal now?
The distinction between an e-journal and a plain old paper journal is, I believe, one of status. Everything online is terribly gauche and new, despite the decades-long existence of the internet. Print journals (I’m looking at you Poetry and The New Yorker) have a sort of embedded upper-class sheen that e-journals do not. This sheen of awesomeness carries over to everything print in the literary world, so that even a baby paper journal, fresh off its maker’s homemade press and with a distribution of oh, say ten, has a sense of literary hauteur attached to it that makes it better than an e-journal.
To this I say ptew! I spit on you, paper journal fanatics! Pjournals (hmm, that’s kinda interesting, onomatopoeiacally-speaking) are no more or less well-constructed than e-journals in this era of web-literacy. Attaching ridiculous distinctions to web-only journals is one of the things that continues to divide poets. We’ve got online poets and academic poets. Old poets and young poets. New formalists and lang-po practitioners. It’s like an episode of celebrity death match! Watch the dude who only uses his 1953 typewriter go at it against the smart phone guru! Bah.
All of these conflicts are a result of ego. Poets practice an obscure art which makes little to no money. The only way to keep score is to win contests and get published. Generally speaking, getting published in print leads to tenure. Getting published online leads to more readers. The decision between which venue to pursue is agonizing for all of us. Don’t you hate trying to decide where to send your poems? I know I do. The cure? Let’s all drop our Ps and Es and focus on quality publications rather than paper or pixels. Submit to both, then tell everyone about that great new journal you love without adding extraneous letters to a poor, defenseless word. After all, poetry is all about paring down the excess verbiage, right?