Underblong is an intriguing new online poetry journal recently founded by poets Chen Chen and Sam Herschel Wein.
Their second issue just went live and is bursting with incredible poetry! Make sure not to miss the audio recordings of the poets reading their poems. There’s just simply nothing better than hearing the poems in the voice of the poet and I love the simplicity and ease of the journal’s format, the ability to click from one poem to the next. The editor’s note describes this issue well, “These poems gurgle and toil and launch our bodies to dance, from our wiggling toes to our careening clavicles, walking around saying yes, most certainly, thank you. We are seen in our most inner selves and nuzzled, thoroughly.”
I wondered how and why this literary magazine came to be, so I asked them a few questions to find out. See my interview with Chen and Wein and a link to their submission guidelines below.
HOPKINSON: Tell me a little bit about Underblong.
CHEN/WEIN: Underblong :: noun / verb / adjective / gaseous state / planetary magique / squishy soul-matter / nefarious sound. The sound of underblong is the sound of honey stirred into a hot beverage, the sound of a tortoise greeting you, the sound of something maybe sort of erotic sometimes, the sound of friends eating omelets while it is snowing outside and raining inside.
Underblong :: A portmanteau of "undertow" and "oblong," nicknames the editors have given each other based on a long collaborative poem they may someday continue or turn into a multimedia art installation.
Let us underblong to Merriam-Webster for further underblonging.
1. the current beneath the surface that sets seaward or along the beach when waves are breaking upon the shore
2. an underlying current, force, or tendency that is in opposition to what is apparent
deviating from a square, circular, or spherical form by elongation in one dimension
Thus :: underblong is that which deviates in shape and travels beneath what is usually visible.
Thus :: underblong is a love for language doing bendy, twisty, knotty, naughty things.
Thus :: underblong is a poetry journal.
HOPKINSON: How/why was Underblong originally started?
CHEN/WEIN: We started Underblong, how else? On a late night phone conversation, reading poem after poem back and forth, picking apart what we loved in each of them. We read Sarah Gambito’s, “Toro,” and laughed deep, joyous laughs. We cried as we read from Aracelis Girmay's the black maria and held our phones close, like spoons. We flew to each other and read Mary Reufle’s comic Go Home and Go to Bed. We took turns reading lines from Jericho Brown’s poem, “Heart Condition,” and when we returned to our respective cities, we got on the phone late night again, reading from Jennifer S. Cheng’s new book, House A. We thought, let’s build our literary space in this world, together. We thought, let’s design it first, and the poems will come. We spoke, aloud, through an electronic connection, “Underblong.”
HOPKINSON: What type of work are you looking for?
CHEN/WEIN: We are so excited to have our first ever call for submissions--for this beautiful, little journal we began this year. And has this been a year. We think Underblong is the direct output of 2016--in its defiance, in its queerness, in its impolitely asking you to turn the music down so we can scream poems out the car windows. Underblong is everything 2016 wasn't able to achieve, for it hadn't dreamed enough. But Underblong is steeped in dreams, in wallowing memories, in wild-eyed magic. We want your singing and hand-holding among leafy crown treetops, knitting sweaters from your spleens, seeping the grass with what we are building, what we pour into each other. We want a poem that can make white supremacy fucking burn. We welcome you, all of you, to grab a branch, or a purple ball of yarn, and hold, steady as can be, a tower of shoulders. Our words, together, they bind us, hold us. We believe in that. Underblong is proof.
HOPKINSON: What are some of your favorite lit mags/journals?
CHEN/WEIN: Gosh, there are so many. We adore the Boston Review, The Margins (the online magazine of the Asian American Writers' Workshop), Birdfeast, The Adroit Journal, Apogee, New Delta Review, Dusie, NightBlock, Hyphen, Lantern Review, and Nepantla: A Journal Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color. We also have been loving new journals we’ve seen popping up, like the Shade Journal, Pnk Prl (an online zine that focuses on blackout/erasure poetry by queer writers), The Shallow Ends, Wusgood.black, and many others!
HOPKINSON: Where can folks send submissions?
CHEN/WEIN: We have a lovely designed send link on our website: http://underblong.com/sendplz. This link describes, in creative terms, what we are looking for, and how many poems to send. Get on it, magical unicorn writers!
CHEN/WEIN: We are currently big fans of this new age art of emailing, so you can always email us at underblong at gmail dot com. Additionally, you can find us on twitter at @underblong, and we are on Facebook as well, at facebook.com/underblong. So many ways to find us! We hope you don’t get lost!
DEADLINE: Open year-round
SUBMISSION FEE: None