I stumbled upon Unsplendid Magazine on accident, actually. I was looking through a list of online literary journals and saw Unsplendid on the list. Intrigued by the title, I Googled the name, found their website, and was greeted with the front cover of their latest issue.
Its description: “an online journal of poetry in received and nonce forms.”
I clicked on an issue and began to read. 3 poems in, I found myself falling in love with structured poetry.
For a while I thought structured poetry, or poetry written in form, was too restrictive, too stuffy. Writing poetry in form can be hard because, unlike free verse (poetry written without a rhyme scheme or meter), there are rules to follow. And writing in form is not only harder, but it’s often linked with the “old-fashioned” too – you know, the 18th century, Victorian literature kind of writing that you find in high school textbooks – especially since there’s been a recent trend toward writing without limits, boundaries, or restrictions.
But Unsplendid challenges preconceived notions of what structured poetry is and what it can accomplish. It proves that structure does not have to be restrictive. It proves that form can be a tool, not a prison.
Take this poem written by Amanda Gunn for their February 2017 issue, titled All Things:
Across a distance you’re
the one I’ve wanted, ever.
There is no plate of fish
to fry. There’s never snow
tracked on the floor. I hear
a bottle clink the sink
across the phone and know
I’ve dreamt this. Is that sound
you, eating onion? Is
your foot beneath the dog?
I like to say I’ve brought
you here with me, but I
just have a picture: you,
as drowsy, ruddy, loose
as I can ever quite
recall, the obstacle
to what I longed for when
I left you in the fall.
All Things is clearly a structured piece, but the poem is accessible, easy to follow, and successfully conveys its message in as few words as possible. It’s simple and contained, but the content is not confined or limited by the form. In fact, it embraces the form – within each stanza, the language thrives, moves, speaks.
The poems in each issue are quite varied in terms of style, voice, and form of course, but they are all alike in that they are accessible, beautifully written, and enriched with meaning. I highly recommend visiting Unsplendid magazine’s website if you’re in the mood for contemporary poetry with a traditional twist.