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Genre Guidelines

From the Mission Statement: “... we hope our magazine expresses contrarities that otherwise might go unexpressed: writings and images that confront entities, voids, and the edges of their own categories.”

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 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. We seek fiction as poetic as any poem. Our fiction editor is Frances Badgett.

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 ambiguous about form – they tug overtly on the forces of 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 very small percentage of that work. Please submit no more than three poems per issue. Our poetry editor is Shaindel Beers.

Commentary – We favor lyrical commentary, often narrative and always poetic. We seek commentary that delivers a message less through exposition and more through art. 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 from our own pages include “Plum Island” by Andrew Coburn, “Ascension” by Kevin Heath, and “A Spring Sunday” by Heywood Broun. Examples from the world include Annie Dillard on weasels, Barbara Kingsolver on hermit crabs, Nelson Algren on Chicago, James Baldwin on France, EB White saying goodbye to 48th Street. Our commentary editor is Jeff McMahon.

Reviews – Contrary has a stable of regular reviewers, but we welcome new recruits when we can. Please note that payment is not guaranteed for reviews; it depends upon fundraising. If you would like to review for us, please review our Rules for Reviewers first and query the editor at chicago at contrarymagazine dot com.

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