Many thanks to Existere for publishing my poem “In Having Been to the Capella Sistina” about exactly that, a not too long ago visit to the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City that feels worlds and worlds away. Just as I was finding the means to travel and the inspiration of experiencing in person the fine art I’d only ever seen in photos, the pandemic took hold and I resorted to virtual museum tours via digital screen. The lines from my poem “compare the scene to all / the kitsch—mugs and mousepads, / postcards and pamphlets, / digital images—zoomed in / on god’s finger reaching” seem far too real and much less ironic than I originally meant them to be.
Existere is a Journal of Arts and Literature founded in 1978, established and administered by students at York University in Toronto, Canada. The publish biannual issues in fall/winter and spring/summer of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and artwork. They are currently open for their next issue and pay their contributors $50 along with a print copy of the issue. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, they are now offering free copies of Volume 39 Issue 1, downloadable as a PDF! So you can check out the issue, read the wonderful variety of work, and see what types of work they accept before submitting.
I love the aesthetic of their site, so I interviewed Senior Poetry Editor Emily Norton to find out more. See my interview with Norton and a link to submission guidelines below.
HOPKINSON: Tell me a little bit about Existere.
NORTON: Existere is a student and faculty run literary journal at York University. We accept works of art, short fiction, non-fiction, and poetry from contributors all around the world. Our editorial team is modest in size and built solely of volunteers. Every team member of this journal is passionate and excited about what we create.
HOPKINSON: What type of work are you looking for?
NORTON: At Existere, we typically don’t call for themed submissions and encourage submissions from established and new writers alike. We want work that says something, makes us think, or causes tension. We love reading work that truly makes us feel, so don’t hesitate to delve into typically underrepresented issues or subject matter if you submit. We want to read what you care about writing. We are open to reading experimental work within the genres we accept, but the experimentation should be intentional. Each word on the page should be working toward making the piece impactful.
HOPKINSON: What do you wish you’d see submitted, but rarely comes in?
NORTON: We receive a wide variety of submissions in terms of content, but most of the work we receive is poetry and short fiction. I’d love to see more non-fiction submitted to the journal. Personal essays specifically are a unique genre that make space to create some really cool stories, so I’d love to see more of those sent in to Existere!
HOPKINSON: What are some of your favorite lit mags/journals?
NORTON: I love reading Grain, Vagabond City Lit, YES poetry, Dear Damsels, and Inventio. These are definitely my go-to’s that I like to keep up with. I find that they all do a good job of showcasing a variety of voices.
I also love just heading to a bookstore and seeing what lit journals or independent zines are on the shelves! You never know what might be waiting out there for you to find.
HOPKINSON: What is your favorite part of being on staff with Existere?
NORTON: My favourite part of being a member of Existere’s team is the people I am surrounded by. Each member of the journal truly cares about the work that we do and it is inspiring to see such a huge amount of passion and hope for literature and art on a university campus. When we hold our submission meetings, the room is buzzing with noise. Everyone is brimming with ideas, feedback, and genuine care for the journal and the work of the contributors. I always leave our meetings feeling motivated in my own writing. Interacting with passionate people and the great submissions we receive acts as a strong push in continuing to pursue my passion for literature.
HOPKINSON: Where can we send submissions?
NORTON: You can submit work at Existere’s submittable page!
HOPKINSON: If someone has a question, how can they contact you?
NORTON: Any questions can be sent to Existere’s e-mail. However we do ask that you refrain from asking questions about the status of your submission and instead check your Submittable feed for that information!
SUBMISSION DEADLINE: Currently open
FORMAT: print/electronic issues
SUBMISSION FEE: None
PAYMENT: Existere pays authors $50 per accepted submission (maximum $250), along with a complimentary copy of Existere.
FORMS: poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and artwork