Genre Guidelines

Commentary — We favor commentary that delivers its message less through exposition than through artistry. The commentary we select is often lyrical, narrative, or poetic. But our view of the genre is broad. “Commentary” is our word for the stuff that others define negatively as non-fiction, nominally as essay, or naively as truth. Examples you can find in our own pages include “Plum Island” by Andrew Coburn, “Ascension” by Kevin Heath, and “A Spring Sunday” by Heywood Broun. Our commentary editor is Jeff McMahon.

Poetry — We believe poetry is contrary by nature, always defying, always tonguing the tang of novelty. We look especially for plurality of meaning, for dual reverberation of beauty and concern. Contrary’s poetry in particular often mimics the effects of fiction or commentary. We find ourselves enamored of prose poems because they are naturally contrary toward form – they tug on the forces of exposition or narrative – but prose poems remain the minority of all the poetic forms we publish. Please consider that Contrary receives vast amounts of poetry and that we can publish only a small percentage of that work. Please submit no more than three poems per issue. Our poetry editor is Shaindel Beers.

Fiction — We ask our fiction writers to imagine their readers navigating a story with one finger poised over a mouse button. Can your story stay that finger to the end? We have published long stories on the belief that they succeed, but we feel more comfortable with 1,500 words or less. Some people call those short-shorts. We just call them concise. We favor fiction that is contrary in any number of ways, but our fiction typically defies traditional story form. A story may bring us to closure, for example, without ever delivering an ending. And it may be as poetic as any poem. Our fiction editor is Frances Badgett.

Reviews – Contrary has a stable of regular reviewers, and we rarely add new ones. But we accept new reviewers when we can. Please note that payment is not guaranteed for reviews; in the past we have paid our reviewers annually when fundraising exceeded our obligations to the authors and poets who provide the original literary content described above. The maximum word count for reviews is 750. If you would like to review for us, please review our Rules for Reviewers first.

The ‘Other’ category should be used only sparingly to submit work that can’t be described by any of the preceding categories, including hybrid forms and artwork.

Contrary Blog accepts guest posts. If you are interested in submitting a guest post or becoming a contributor, please contact Editor Jeff McMahon.


Contact any of these editors, read our Guidelines for Manuscripts or proceed to the Submissions Form.