If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with the mission of Utne Reader: To promote the best of the alternative and independent press. Well, to that end, there are a couple of new magazines out there that have recently arrived in both our physical inbox and our digital one. They are both worthy of your attention, and we’ll be excited to showcase their work in the future.
The first comes to us from Los Angeles. It’s called Slake and it was started by former L.A. Weekly editors Joe Donnelly and Laurie Ochoa. They are three issues in, and flipping through the third issue—“War and Peace”—is quite the experience. The content is sprawling: from a black-and-white photo essay of a muay thai instructor (to “find the calm interiors that go with [muay thai fighters] warlike exteriors”) to poetry and fiction to long-form journalism to a graphic story. The editors want to create “a new template for the next generation of print publications—collectible, not disposable; destined for the bedside table instead of the recycling bin.” With their first three issues, they seem to be succeeding.
The other publication that’s recently come to our attention does not offer the same tangible experience as Slake, as it’s online only, but its goals are no less laudable. Sampsonia Way is the web magazine of City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, which hosts persecuted writers from around the world in houses along a street of the same name as its magazine. The history of the homes is fascinating, starting with the first exiled writer-in-residence, who covered his new temporary home in his poetry. As George Packer wrote for The New Yorker:
The first writer was a Chinese poet named Huang Xiang, who had spent twelve years in jail and labor camps for taking part in the Democracy Wall movement. The abuse he endured had been so bad that, when he came to Pittsburgh in 2004, he locked himself in the former crack house and wouldn’t go out. Soon, though, he was up on a ladder, writing his poems in beautiful calligraphy across the exterior walls: an act of self-liberation that turned his banned writing into a startling sight on a street that still looks like the set for an August Wilson play.
Sampsonia Way, the magazine, looks to provide the same shelter offered by the homes on its namesake. “Each defends free speech by protecting the people who actually do the writing and speaking. The homes provide shelter for writers; the magazine provides shelter for their work.”
We encourage you to check out both of these wonderful magazines. It will be worth it, I promise.