Rob MacDonald on Sixth Finch
When did you start Sixth Finch, and why?
Our first issue came out in 2008. I was a looking for a way to generate more connections between writers and visual artists. Here in Boston, there are plenty of poets and photographers and painters doing amazing work, but there aren't a lot of places where those worlds intersect. I thought that an online journal with a balance of poetry and art might be a simple way to bring creative people together.
What makes Sixth Finch different from other places to read poetry on the internet?
Every journal has its own aesthetic, and I hope that our content alone makes us different. In each issue, you'll find work that's relatively accessible, but you'll also find work that pushes boundaries and challenges some of the common assumptions about both poetry and art. Roberto Montes helps me read submissions, and I'm grateful that he and I have tastes that seem to complement each other.
We want to be a destination for readers who are already familiar with this world, and we want to provide an entrance for readers who are just learning about the current landscape.
There are a wide range of design approaches for online journals, and I think that our clean look also makes us different—I try to keep the layout as simple as possible to let the work speak for itself.
What is something that you have recently published that really excited you, and why?
We just put out our first two chapbooks, and I'm really proud of both of them. Gale Thompson's "Expeditions to the Polar Seas" is strange and haunting and comforting all at once. Ryan Ridge's "22nd Century Man" is wildly different—a collage of internet chatbots' responses that feel like important secrets waiting to be decoded. They're both extraordinary poets, and we're honored to be able to put out their work.
I wasn't sure how our first venture into print would go, but the response has been incredible, and Nate Slawson deserves a lot of credit for making the chapbooks look so good.
I love everything in our current issue, too, of course. I even love a bunch of the poems that we rejected.
What should someone submitting new work to Sixth Finch know about the site?
I just want people to send us their best work. Let us worry about the rest.
I do think it's important for poets to think about the power of online journals. It's not about competition, but I'm not sure that even the heavy-hitting print journals can reach the sort of audience that online journals like us can. At this point, we're getting around 200 visitors on a typical day, and we'll spike to over 4000 on a day when a new issue is released. Meanwhile, the top print journals say that they're reaching about 10,000 people in a year, so I think there's a solid case for poets to send their strongest work to online journals like Sixth Finch. Ten years ago, maybe it made sense to send online journals your b-sides, but these days, that's a pretty terrible idea.
What other literary journals, online or print, are your favorites?
In print, I love jubilat and Conduit and Forklift, Ohio. Online, I'd say that Fou and H_NGM_N and Sink Review are some favorites. And there are new journals popping up all the time—Swarm and The New Megaphone, for example. I could rattle off 50 other names easily—there's a lot of great stuff going on out there.