saltfront “is an environmental humanities literary and art journal priming society for a radically new type of ecological storytelling.” They provide samples of the work they prefer as well as a list of “bearings and positions” to help submitters understand what they are looking for. They accept prose, poetry, and visual art, including “all artistic mediums–as singles or as essays. Currently, we only print in black and white. We encourage interdisciplinary and multimedia projects.”
I wondered how and why this anthology came to be, so I asked editor Michael McLane a few questions to find out. See my interview with McLane and a link to their submission guidelines below.
HOPKINSON: Tell me a little bit about saltfront.
MCLANE: At the most base level, saltfront is an environmental literary journal. Every person involved with the staff thus far is a graduate of, or is currently enrolled in, the Environmental Humanities program at the University of Utah. But I think all three current editors pause before using the term “environmental” because it feels reductive and stigmatized somehow. And anytime the word “environmental” gets thrown out, especially in calls for submissions, you can count on a tidal wave of poems about birds, or wildflowers, or poems about sublime experiences in national parks. And I don’t mean to disparage that, because we do publish some of that material as well. I think the word “ecology” resonates a bit more with us, particularly in regards to a rejection of the dichotomy of humans/nature or civilization/nature and in regards to human ecology–how humans shape, use and misuse, or are acted upon by the places they call home, so both built and natural environments. Issue 5, for example, which is admittedly darker than the first 4 issues, contains work dealing with cemeteries, roadkill, Chernobyl, and a piece on loss and language. We cover a lot of ground under that “habit(at)” in our subtitle, but then humans have about as many stories of home as there are humans. Ultimately, we believe that the role of personalizing the narratives of climate change and ecological shifts is critical. Science stepped up to the plate a long time ago, and has been doing it’s part for decades, regardless of what the deniers might say. But there is a role to be played by the artists and storytellers here as well, and that’s what we hope to participate in.
HOPKINSON: How/why was saltfront originally started?
MCLANE: The journal started in the basement of The Beerhive in SLC. A bunch of students from the EH program were sitting around chatting over beers and discussing successes and failures with journals. We pretty quickly realized that, while there are plenty of places for someone in that field to send peer-reviewed work, there were very few outlets for creative work. Since Utah’s EH program was really the first of its kind in the country, it seemed natural that something like this should live here, too, even if it is independent from the university itself (though they have been incredibly supportive of us!). Our suspicions about the dearth of venues for this kind of work have been confirmed by how quickly we started receiving work from outside the U.S. as well. Issue 4 had, I believe, half a dozen nations represented, and may more were in the submission pile. We’re loving that. The U.S. has no corner on the market for these kinds of stories.
HOPKINSON: What type of work are you looking for?
MCLANE: I think I addressed some of this earlier on, but we are really interested in human actions upon, and interactions with, their various built and natural environments. That is not to say we’re looking for soapboxing on particular ecological issues or disasters, though those issues arise organically in the work all the time and are, at least in our opinion, really artfully handled. And we’re always conscious of trying to avoid what might be called eco-porn or disaster tourism. Climate change is disastrous, but new narratives arise from it’s shadow all the time. Humans are every bit as adaptive as they are destructive, and we love to see work where that shines through. Much like the journal Dark Mountain developed a manifesto to guide both readers and potential contributors, we came up with our “bearings & positions,” which live on the “submit” portion of the website. We hope it’s somewhat helpful for those looking to send work.
HOPKINSON: What are some of your favorite lit mags/journals?
MCLANE: Two of my favorites are definitely Sugar House Review and Colorado Review (in the interest of full disclosure, I worked for CR in grad school and am currently an editor with SHR). However, some other favorites that are also the models for saltfront in many ways are Ecotone, Terrain.org, and Dark Mountain, which is out of the UK and is co-edited by Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine. They do beautiful hardcover issues a few times a years and they are producing what we at saltfront think to be some of the most important creative work on ecology, materialism, and the Anthropocene (though I think their writers are a bit at odds over that name). Others that I always keep an eye on are DIAGRAM, Forklift, Ohio, and The Fairy Tale Review.
HOPKINSON: Where can folks send submissions?
MCLANE: We’re working on getting a Submittable account set up, but for now submissions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our submission period for Issue 6 closes on May 15th.
HOPKINSON: If someone has a question, how can they contact you?
DEADLINE: May 15
SUBMISSION FEE: None
FORMS: prose, poetry, and visual art