Saboteur Awards 2018: Spotlight on the Best Magazine Shortlist

Voting continues a pace in this year’s Saboteur Awards! Below you’ll find out a little more about the shortlisted magazine – why not take out a subscription?


Confingo is a biannual literary and arts magazine. It has been published for four years. It is edited by Tim Shearer and designed by Zie McLean.

Why voters think it should win:

Confingo is a beautifully presented collection of art and literature with some exciting new voices. A feast for the eyes and the soul!

Fabulous stories, beautiful layout

Into the Void Magazine

Into the Void is an award-winning print, digital and online literary magazine dedicated to providing a platform for fantastic fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and visual art from all over the world, as well as book and film reviews and articles on all things art and literature.

Why voters think it should win:

A beautiful mix of words in all forms and images. Outstanding magazine.

Fresh, original and diverse.  A pleasure to read.

The Journal

The Journal began in the mid 1990s as The Journal of Contemporay Anglo-Scandinavian Poetry, but after 10 issues ran out of Scandanavians and has since been in its present format – 40 pages of poetry and reviews in stylish – if I say so myself – A4.

Why voters think it should win:

A longstanding magazine with consistently interesting content and reviews of notable integrity – one of the magazines which also promotes translation work.

The editor has an infallible eye – and ear – for poems which ‘make it new.’

Riggwelter Press

riggwelter (verb) – a dialect word from the North of England. a sheep, having fallen onto its back, being unable to right itself is said to be riggweltered (e.g. bloody thing’s riggweltered again).

Riggwelter is a journal of creative arts founded by Amy Kinsman in 2017. It releases an issue once a month containing poetry, short fiction, visual art and experimental/mixed media. Riggwelter also publishes essays and reviews on an as and when basis. (For clarity’s sake: we are not affiliated with Black Sheep brewery or the lovely ale that they produce that shares our name).

“Fashions 21” by Alex Nodopaka

Why voters think it should win:

A new magazine known for the quality of work and the wonderful speed of replies.

New. Fresh. Energy-driven. Already showcasing a wide range in a wide range of genres. Great reading.



Strix is a poetry and short fiction magazine that comes out three times a year. It’s currently hand produced, and has featured established writers alongside people seeing their work in print for the first time. Carol Rumens featured a poem from issue 1 on the Guardian Poem of the Week blog, and she called Strix “handsome, streamlined and sharp-eyed…”. Submissions for issue 4 will be open throughout May.

Photo by B-E-N-D

Why voters think it should win:

In starting a print magazine at a time when many magazines are going digital, and making a huge success of it, Strix have done something bold and important.

An exquisite handmade magazine carrying exciting new voices in poetry and fiction. Very stylish but incredibly readable – renaissance fonts!!! And they’re not supported – it’s true do-it-yourself. Very impressive, very beautiful.

LitMag #1, Spring 2017, ed. by Marc Berley, Vered Sussman, Jill Wright & Paul Sloan

Reviewed by Edward Ferrari

Submit to LitMag and you won’t be charged a fee, and, if your work is accepted, you can expect to be paid handsomely. Editor Marc Berley’s strategy, explained in his piece in Publisher’s Weekly, is “to nurture writers rather than add to the haze of exploitation that has come to surround magazines.” Speaking to that ‘haze’, Berley says the aim of LitMag is to “build … the community” by not “diminish[ing] the range of writers who can submit.”

The respect for writers Berley sets out to foster is clearly represented in the high production values of the magazine. From the generous margins and lavish full page quotes, to the understated cover, LitMag presents the short stories, essays, and poems selected for its first issue in the best possible light.

With more than two thirds of LitMag’s pages taken up with the short stories of nine authors, a reader would be justified in seeing this issue as more of a fiction anthology than a general ‘lit’ magazine. This is great news for the fiction writers such as Chinelo Okparanta, Valerie O’Riordan, and Kevin Moffett, who come to represent the core strength of the magazine.

Moffett’s incisive short story, “City of Trees,” satirizes bougie Claremont, California—“City of Trees and PhDs”—where David Foster Wallace ended his life, and where Moffett teaches. Moffett’s stylistic approach, his crisp surrealist images, brutally succinct syntax, and dark humor lend LitMag a bit of bite:

One night my son woke up crying because of some noise outside and I pulled back the blinds to show him everything was okay. There on our front yard were four ecstatic-looking coyotes devouring a neighbour’s cat. This did not reassure him. Why are they doing that? he asked. After he’d stopped crying. They’ll starve if they don’t, I told him. But, hey, isn’t it kind of wonderful how all four were cooperating with each other? He didn’t think it was wonderful.

Similarly perceptive, Chinelo Okparanta’s short story “David & Osi” offers—through the lens of a mixed race relationship—a sharp and observant analysis of identity politics. Alternating perspectives between David and Osi, Okparanta captures the mounting tension in their relationship in a way that illuminates both the interior and exterior pressures of lives lived on the borders of identity.

She would teach them that a Nigerian was capable of winning more cases than all of them put together. All of this had caused him to think longingly back to that time before their lives grew to revolve only around her work and her identity. Now, even the girls took a backseat to her workplace identity lessons.

While Okparanta’s vital and compelling narrative reveals the interior workings of a relationship, Valerie O’Riordan captures the fraught process of growing up in the post-industrial North of England. Through her mastery of dialect and detail, O’Riordan manages to sketch a range of memorable characters in very little space.

John Ashbery leads the selection of five poets chosen by the editors with “Just the One Episode.” It’s good Ashbery if you like that sort of thing, and strikes an elegiac note that will be felt particularly poignant given his recent death.

The French doors of truth are closed
against the tragically hemispheric
wall of our deliverance, and my eyes are open.
Otherwise there’s not much to say.

The poetry here is further evidence against his rumoured ‘obscurity,’ and could perhaps be the ‘key’ to him for some. Yet, poignant or not, the poems in LitMag seem like an afterthought, and little can be done to dismiss the elegiac mood summoned by Ashbery. Although each poem is generously presented with a blank page preceding it, at 8 pages out of 226, a poetry reader looking for enough range to find something they can’t live without will have better luck elsewhere.

This issue of LitMag also prints three nonfiction essays: a defense of Shakespeare by Harold Bloom, a semi-autobiographical ars poetica by poet Kelly Cherry, and an extract from William H. Gass’s book Baroque Prose. The 31 pages dedicated to Gass are the highlight—and the reason for purchase—for fans of the esteemed writer, and the scholarship on display from both Cherry and Gass is impressive; there is much to take away and remember. Readers who want to read Bloom will be happy with his piece too. Whether readers should expect the same sententious tone in future issues remains to be seen.

Ultimately even the reader who buys LitMag to read Bloom, Gass or Ashberry will be affected by the publication’s constrained approach to selection. Rather than “pick[ing] the best” (“your gems”), LitMag’s selection process seems to work on the basis of discriminatory patronage, where the work of younger, less established — and, it has to be said, less white — writers may only be presented with the patronage of established and exclusively white names. With only one writer of color represented, the editor’s claims to range and community do not seem manifest. While it must make pragmatic sense to include Bloom, Gass and other such octogenarians to sell the magazine, such choices will determine LitMag’s potential future influence and readership.

Push #2 (ed. Joe England)

-Reviewed by Siobhan Denton

Conceived as a thoroughly working class collection of fiction and poetry, with punk aspirations, Push #2 is just one instalment of the fanzine created by Joe England in 2013.

The concept of highlighting artistic voices who may not have come from backgrounds that are more typically associated with art, is highly admirable, and should be praised. Too often literature, particularly fiction and poetry, is monopolised by writers from an increasingly narrow background, resulting in a monolithic culture and voice. The very formation of Push #2, then, should be praised for its intention, which is entirely valid and worthwhile.

It is a shame then, that the content does not always succeed, and in turn, effectively undermines its artistic pursuit. When the texts contained within the collection work, they are effective and impactful, remaining with the reader long afterwards. The fiction contained is, largely, of high quality, resulting in well-written, succinct and accessible narratives that engage throughout.

‘Mapledune’ is particularly worthy of note, detailing an outreach worker’s attempts to set up a youth workshop at a local prison. In this juxtaposition, his naivety is successfully contrasted with the prison warden’s cynicism. The reader initially trusts the narrator’s judgement, believing in his self-professed ability to engage youth through music. With his past successes helping to further cement his ability, his self-belief is never in doubt. As he sets up his session, the on-looking prison warden pontificates, warning him of the youths’ behaviour and manner. This direct contrast between the world-weary, and the unsullied, engages the reader, effectively creating dramatic tension that is, intelligently, never truly resolved. Take the lines:

‘Though I felt warm sweat dripping under both arms, I wisely always wear dark shirts when working for Annie, I don’t remember projecting any kind of astonishment when he mentioned how there had been a situation last night.’

The visceral motifs spattering the narrative help to add to the realism and contrast of the naive and fatigued.

The poetry though, is largely far less successful, and often reads as if they would have benefited from some rather punitive editing. Rhyming couplets, when used knowingly, can be effective, but here, as in the case of ‘fire’, simply restrict the fluency of the reading. It is as if the writer had conceived the form before the content, and in turn, restricted the reach of the content.

Similarly, ‘Climate Blind’, reads as the reproduction of song lyrics of a band in its early formation, and it is no surprise to read in the biography listed at the end of the collection that author Raymond Gorman, is a member of a band. Take the lines:

‘My love, my love this world secretes the truth yet seems so cruel blind alleyways allay elusive jewels’.

The language, while semantically linked, does little to develop or progress the reader and their reflection and engagement.

Poetry is, too often, viewed as simple to produce, particularly when one professes to be artistically inspired. Unfortunately, while it should certainly be accessible, the form needs to be understood in order for it to be amended and manipulated. Transcribing simplistic song lyrics does not, unfortunately, automatically generate great poetry.

While the poetry is not always successful, the strength of the fiction pieces helps to ensure that Push #2 is both a commendable and worthy effort that demands attention.

La Errante #1

-Reviewed by Jenna Clake-

La Errante, a new multi-lingual zine of poetry and illustration, unfolds like album artwork to reveal a poster sized collaboration of art and poetry. The editors explain that ‘words and pictures are on equal footing’ in the journal. Everything is cohesively blue and white with touches of black. Word and image sit side-by-side, but also intersect: Fiona Sampson and Rikardo Arregi’s poems are placed over a large, thick, sweeping brushstroke. ‘Errante’ translates to ‘wandering’ in English, and these large brushstrokes and artworks lead the reader’s eye across the page.

The journal is a collaborative project between a group of writers, editors, artists and booksellers working between Madrid and London, but the contributors also have Singaporean, Italian and Chilean heritage. Where the work appears in its original language, a translation is placed alongside. In some cases, the poems are bilingual. Livia Franchini’s untitled poem is written in both Italian and English. In the poem, both languages are integral to the speaker’s identity:

Cari cari I miei cari,
o dear me, il caro vita,
non c’è lavoro, she still lives at home,
I tick the box for ‘visiting family’
Dear mother, I worry the time is coming
when I’ll no longer see you shouting at the telly –


Cara, cara, daughter dearest,
tutto quell che è buono si scolora in bianco
white dots in oil, I slot this fish back
into its chilly bed, 10 degrees colder
Dear father I am sorry I made you carry
another tired bag into this empty flat

We see that the Italian language, Franchini’s mother tongue, is central to the speaker’s sense of belonging with her family. Though leaving home is necessary ‘she still lives at home’ seems to be imbued with a sense of shame. However, there is a deep sadness and homesickness too, as though the new home is lonely and not what the speaker expected:

Caro diario, I write to you
From this welcoming land today
All I ate was cold beans

This introduces a theme that recurs in the journal: isolation. The artwork does not always immediately seem to relate to the poems (this is not an ekphrastic journal, after all), but across the page Amanda Baeza’s artwork depicts a simian-like woman alone in the departures lounge of an airport. Baeza’s work complements Franchini’s poem subtly.

Isolation returns in Ella Webb’s artwork. Three figures are lost in a sea of indistinct shapes, perhaps lost on the side of a mountain. In Andres Lozano’s illustration, a man prostrate on the sofa is surrounded by paintings, records, a keyboard, notebooks and pens. There is a sense of contentment in this solitariness: a cat happily sleeps by the man. Toby de las Rivas’s poem sits adjacent to the illustration. The speaker of Martinez de las Rivas’s poem is alone with his thoughts:

One day, I shall have to give an account
of my self with my knees couched
in dirt & the great cities tumbling like stars.
If not to hím then to that portion of my
self that holds the rod & sits in judgement.

Reflections on identity and culpability are apparent in the poem: the emphases on ‘my’ stress the speaker’s need to find meaning, to understand the world. The speaker struggles throughout the poem, and addresses himself in exasperation: ‘This is so fucking point-/less, Tobe.’ Ultimately, there is a sense of self, even if it is only indistinct, that ‘you are not theirs’. The speaker of Fiona Sampson’s ‘Saw’ is encompassed by her isolation:

trespasser with a chainsaw
going into the arena
blindfold not seeing how
its space opens round you tier
after tier how could you not feel
darkness watching from between
the trees willing them to fall
toward you no visitor

is welcome unannounced their home
is not your home

Isolation takes on a nightmarish presence in this poem, but we are told that ‘we cannot dream it’. The poem, then, enacts a sort of trap, drawing us into this disturbing world and refusing to allow us an escape. The speaker’s isolation is all-consuming and terrifying.

Patricia Esteban’s ‘Readers’ is a prose poem that ironically explores the idea of being a famous poet:

Two of my friends stopped talking to one another because one of them was sure that ‘the branches swayed by the wind’ in one of my poems were those of the poplar in her garden, whereas the other insisted on the exclusive inspiration of her willow. And after reading my fourth book my hairdresser, one of my sharpest readers, refused, very politely, to carry on cutting my hair.

Esteban’s poem is full of irony, ridiculing the idea of fame by locating it in the close confines of her own neighbourhood. It is Absurdist in its humorous and exaggerated interactions, especially when the speaker’s neighbours and friends are extremely petty. The speaker notes that ‘they would strike strange poses or else every now and then blow cigarette smoke into my face’. For this speaker, fame – however specious – is isolating.

Layla Benitez-James’ ‘Fire Hazard Barbie’ is idiosyncratic and delightfully dark:

Fire hazard Barbie leaves a tortilla in the toaster-oven until it puffs up so high it touches
the red heating coils and bursts into flames.

Fire hazard Barbie lights her life with old bare bulbs and flocks of candles. She loves
the frayed wires, marvelous mimosa blossoms, loves her lava-colored country, loves
the lullaby of its promised apocalypse.

Fire hazard Barbie is wonderfully reckless and unrecognisable in the poem. Her name is repeated frequently to highlight this dichotomy between the well-established image of the toy and this new incarnation. The repetition also builds to Ken’s frustration:

Fire hazard Barbie knows that Ken will try, and that his tiny plastic ax will not make a dent
in any door,

again and again, it will not make a dent,

it will not make a dent, again and again,


The repetition here mimics the futility of Ken’s attempts to reach Barbie, and this is utterly pleasing: we are left with an image of Fire hazard Barbie enjoying or destroying her life in the exact manner she wants to.

In such limited space, La Errante triumphs in presenting cohesive artwork, translation, bilingual poetry and writing that intertwines and complements each other so well.

Saboteur Awards 2017: Spotlight on the Best Magazine Shortlist

Next up in our spotlight features on each category shortlisted in the Saboteur Awards: magazines! Don’t forget to vote for your favourites before the end of the month here.


Being short-listed is not just recognition for us as editors, but for every writer, artist and performer we have featured. -Christopher Moriarty

Bunbury Magazine is an arts and literature magazine, covering everything from writing in all forms and genres, to fine art, from music to stand up comedy and everything in between. Our ethos is ‘If you love it, we’ll love it’. We have had all kinds of submissions since we started and really enjoy seeing new faces come to us as well as welcoming back regular contributors time after time.

Why voters think it should win:

  • Vibrant, eclectic variety of media. Well put together. Gives a mouthpiece to new starter writers. Supportive of the artistic community. All-round goodness.
  • They do so much to support and encourage both new and local writers with ‘almost free to attend’ writing groups, open mic nights and bringing bigger names into the local area to perform for local people – all this on top of producing a fabulous magazine.
  • Bunbury is one of the best underground Zines going and has turned me on to so many great writers and artists with every issue. It is very well put together and easy to access. Their first printed anthology was awesome and hopefully the first of many yet to come.

Butcher’s Dog

We’re totally stoked to have been selected for the Saboteur Awards Best Magazine shortlist! -Degna Stone

Butcher’s Dog is a biannual poetry magazine showcasing exciting new work by poets from all over the UK and Republic of Ireland – with a special focus on the poetry and poets of the North. Every issue has a different combination of editors and each limited edition magazine is a beautiful object created with care and attention. There is no set theme, we just want poets to send us their best work.

Why voters think it should win:

  • Beautifully produced, and showcasing a variety of poetry with the emphasis on the north of England, a counterbalance to London-centric output
  • Beautifully designed, always a delight and pleasure to read. You don’t have to be an avowed poetry lover to enjoy – but it will make you become one. Great editorial balance, surprising, moving, intelligent. Takes itself seriously but believes in readers first.
  • This magazine consistently impresses with its selection of innovative, high quality poetry. The cover designs are as memorable as the content.

Into the void

To make the shortlist for Best Magazine truly means the world to us. We’re not big-name writers or industry professionals, we’re just four ordinary literature-lovers passionate about getting great art out into the world. We don’t receive any grants or other backing but do this completely by ourselves because we believe in the amazing work so many wonderfully talented people choose to send to us. We’re extremely grateful to everyone who nominated us and to all our contributors and everyone who has ever sent us their work or purchased an issue. We will use the momentum gained from this nomination to blast us into the stratosphere and have an even more amazing Year 2! -Philip Elliott

Into the Void is a nonprofit print and digital literary magazine based in Dublin, Ireland dedicated to providing a platform for fantastic fiction, nonfiction, poetry and visual art from all over the world. We accept work of all styles and strive to publish that which we feel is honest, heartfelt, and screaming to be seen. We are committed to giving writers and artists of all experience levels an opportunity–it’s all about the work.

Why voters think it should win:

  • In the brief time it’s been in existence (one year), Into the Void has found a place and made its mark on the literary landscape. Its very deserving of this award and recognition.
  • Cover to cover, all the work in this collection is compelling and rich. The cover, and the interplay between writing and artwork within make reading Into The Void a pleasure.
  • They are a highly inclusive publication with no outside backing or grants. They are personable and make their contributors feel like they are part of something important.

The Lonely Crowd

Everyone at The Lonely Crowd is delighted to have been shortlisted for Best Magazine at the Saboteur Awards 2017. It is an award voted for purely by fans of innovative, independent new literature and as such it is an award that means a great deal to us. -John Lavin

The Lonely Crowd is a Welsh-based print and digital literary journal, devoted to publishing the best new short fiction, poetry, photography and criticism. We publish three print anthologies each year as well as occasional online-only pieces, including a regular series that focusses on approaches to the creative process.

Why voters think it should win:

  • Clear, precise and beautifully laid out. it has managed to gain a large following fast, due to its fantastic and diverse writers and a commitment to young talent
  • Consistent high quality material, well edited and beautifully presented, this magazine has made a serious and considerable contribution to Welsh and British literature, providing paid work & an excellent platform for legion writers, both established and undiscovered.
  • Galvanising Welsh writing

Reach Poetry

Yay! Reach Poetry made the short-list 2 years running. Thank you to ALL who got us there. It’s now the 225th monthly issue – doesn’t that sound a perfect number to win on :) We’ve given over £11K back to help poets over the years – hope some of them press the vote button next to our name! -Ronnie Goodyer

Edited by Ronnie Goodyer, Reach Poetry has given  many poets their first publication. Some have gone on to great things. We publish new/established poets in a monthly print magazine now in its 225th issue (oh, the work we do…)  and nearly 19 years old. We give £50 each issue to winners of a readers vote – that’s £11,000+! Quality free and formal verse, haiku – a broad church. Our subscriber base is loyal, we’re proud of that, and because Reach is monthly, it has a familiar family feel (with alliteration, a welcome plonk on the mat. Come join the band!

Why voters think it should win:

  • A friendly, good quality magazine that’s stood the test of time, and feels as if you’ve joined a cosy club when you read it.
  • Because everyone is welcome to submit to this diverse and interesting magazine which has a touch of sensitivity and humour. Readers vote establishes the best poems.
  • A monthly mix of cracking poetry from new and established poets. Readers invited to vote in each edition and top three poems share a prize of £50! Plus really useful comments pages, feedback from readers on your poem in the edition.