Tender #6

Reviewed by James O’Leary

Tender is a quarterly journal edited by Rachael Allen and Sophie Collins, seeking work by female-identified (inclusive of trans and gender-fluid) writers and artists. Each issue is a combination of poetry, prose, interviews, comics, photography, painting, illustration and collage.

From issue one (April 2013), the journal established its own particular point of view. The first two issues begin with thoughtful editorials outlining why this is a female-identified journal only, the necessity for this and potential arguments against it. They are compelling, offering an insight into the way the editors think about the journal, it’s ethos and it’s place in the world. From issue three onwards, there are no introductions, only the work itself.

My first impression is that this is carefully and beautifully put together. It is easy to navigate, elegantly designed, and self-contained.

The work within is altogether unconfined. This is art that deals with the real, the vulnerable, and the ambivalent. The subject matter is diverse, from Kathryn Maris‘ playful opening piece, “Jesus with cigarette” to Holly Pester’s “But why does my tailbone hurt? (other side effects of early medical abortion)”, a complex poem exploring something not often enough talked about through art or in daily life.

The visual artwork also readily moves between styles and moods, from abstract to classical, satirical to representational. The written and the visual live together and draw from one another, their relationship symbiotic. This journal is constantly surprising, each page giving something new: a story, a watercolour, a single-panel comic. Yet there is nothing scattershot about the collection.

Rachael and Sophie have chosen eclectic work, but work that somehow feels like it belongs together. This type of multi-media quarterly demands more attention from me, which is no bad thing. I sometimes have a tendency to skip over pictures to get to the next bit of writing, but when I started doing this here, I felt that I was missing out. I went back and I skipped ahead, let myself jump around and reconsider. This format lends itself to this type of reading, and in that way, Tender is somehow more magazine-like than many other online journals.

In this era in which there is no shortage of literary journals, it takes a lot to be vital, to stand out enough to be added to the regular reading list. Because there are so many, a literary journal must be attentively curated and have a specific identity if it’s going to attract and keep a readership. Tender reaches this higher standard, and the current issue is a great place to jump in. The contributors for issue 6 (Rachel Benson, Kathryn Maris, Émilie Gleason, Kimiko Hahn, Sarah Boulton, Fie Norsker, Yukiko Motoya, Holly Pester, Marthe Jung, Ellen Addison, Bonny Cassidy, Kate Kilalea, Harriet Moore, Flaminia Cavagnaro, Rebecca Perry and Sarah Potts) have distinct voices, and are asking interesting questions.