Loving Lit Mags: David Messineo

paper dreams frontIn August, we publish Paper Dreams: Writers and Editors on the American Literary Magazine, a compilation of the continued history and conversations of the people who love new and interesting literature so much they spend their lives dedicated to sharing it with the world. But before we make history, it is only polite to introduce you to the literary magazines that most impress us — Atticus staff, authors, and associates.

Allow us the guilt-free pleasure of leading you to publications that have turned us into better writers and voracious readers and to hopefully, carry on the conversation.


As in our last post, this Paper Dreams contributor has a preference for print. While appearance and design can definitely add to the aesthetic experience of a magazine online, there are some design elements–texture, size, shape–that exist only as tangible objects.

David Messineo, publisher and poetry editor of Sensations Magazine, recommends two lit mags that had the right “blend” of form and writing that made them complete works of art.

* Click here to read more lit mag recommendations.

Sensations Magazine

Atticus: With 50 printed issues since 1987, it’s amazing that Sensations Magazine has successfully survived this long without federal, government, or university funding, especially when many of the profits from fundraisers they host goes to New Jersey food pantries. In addition to their philanthropic efforts, they also host Sensations Magazine Creative Events Series, one of 10 longest running poetry series in America. And don’t forget about the poetry, fiction, and research they publish, each issue with a theme. Be sure to check out their forthcoming index covering 1987-2012, appearing this coming December.

David: As Publisher of Sensations Magazine, I attempted to bridge publishing an independent literary magazine, often at low cost, with approaching each issue as a work of distinct art. Of our 50 magazines issues released, 49 of them were full 8-1/2 x 11 in size, almost always with full-color covers, featuring either art or photography. Our award-winning Coney Island Issue was tabloid-sized, folding out to 12 x about 35″ horizontally, and blending fiction and poetry with over 120 photographs of historic Coney Island. Even our Issue 50, on the theme of “Titanic,” effectively achieved that artistic blend of research, pull quotes, design, photography, and (we believe) great poetry.

So along with good quality in published material, when I look at the total sum quality of a literary magazine, I strongly consider aesthetics and uniqueness. I have a great appreciation for publications that break the cookie-cutter journal size and style, publications that blend art and design internally while also being a joy to read. By “blend,” I also mean taking an aesthetically pleasing approach with continuity, rather than throwing together an array of disjointed design elements and calling it art.

One of the publications I enjoyed most was a short-lived literary magazine in New York state titled Tea for One. Their first issue wowed me on many of these levels. I believe it ran only 2-4 issues before it closed.


Another was a publication titled 14, which featured 14 line poems and recently completed its intended 14-issue run. Though the design was a bit minimalist, I found the quality of material to be uniformly high.

Because of my history and print experience, I always will have preference for print publications over online publications. While the Internet and print-on-demand have created a greater number of publishing endeavors than ever before — a renaissance of literary magazines, of sorts — the end result I’m currently seeing is more publications competing for the same small share of audience, and few succeeding at sustaining and growing their subscriptions in a substantial way across more than five years. Many publications are trying different ways of handling that concern, and some of their creative methods often are as interesting to me as the publications themselves.

While I welcome all the newcomers, it’s important to recognize that fewer than 300 American print literary magazines survive today that are over 25 years old. Sensations Magazine is among those 300 – and unlike many among those 300, we achieved that goal without a single dollar in federal, state, or local government grant funding. We put a lot of hard work into it, and are pleased to be included in that rare league of publications that put in the effort and created a clear track record of success in serving the poetry writing and reading public for decades.

Post Contributor

David Messineo is publisher and poetry editor of Sensations Magazine, a three-time winner in the national American Literary Magazine Awards. The author of eight books of poetry, his poetry has been published on four continents.


1 thought on “Loving Lit Mags: David Messineo”

  1. Thank you for including us in the conversation, and in doing so recognizing the thousands of hours of unpaid volunteer work put in by me and my editorial staff needed to sustain any literary magazine for 25+ years. Our Creative Events Series continues into 2014 and beyond. On a more personal note, my eighth poetry book – focusing on American history and time travel – is titled Historiopticon, and is now available at http://www.blurb.com.

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