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New Lit on the Block :: Compass Rose Literary Journal

Compass Rose Literary Journal Spring 2023 issue cover image

“A compass rose,” explains Kelly Easton, founding Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of the online quarterly Compass Rose Literary Journal, “is the visual representation of the cardinal directions on a map, nautical chart, or compass. CRLJ was founded in late 2022 as a home for all voices that seek direction. As our mission intersects the literary, the philosophical, and the spiritual, the compass rose speaks to our shared journeys as fellow searchers. Our tagline is ‘bushwhacking through art’; we are unafraid of tackling the wild, the unknown, the messy, the difficult, to find our way. We are particularly welcoming to traditionally underrepresented voices, including BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and the neurodivergent, along with survivors of addiction.”

Easton background includes an MA in French Translation and Interpretation from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS). Before founding CRLJ, she translated and interpreted for heads of state in the halls of diplomacy. Her poetry was recently featured in The Galway Review and Cathexis Northwest Press. Joining her on this new journey is Lauren Rapp, DC-based artist currently focused on painting, sculpture, and furniture design. Her work has been featured on the cover of the Washington Post Magazine and she was awarded the Windsor Arts, Culture & Heritage Fund Grant. She holds an MFA from the University of Windsor in Canada.

For writers and artists seeking to submit poetry, flash prose (500 words max), and visual art, CRLJ utilizes Submittable. “We aim to respond within 30 days,” Easton explains, “and often respond within 7 days. All poetry and flash prose submissions are read by our Editor-in-Chief and/or our Poetry Reader KB Ballentine. All visual art submissions are reviewed by our Art Editor and by our Editor-in-Chief. We recently launched our Editorial Feedback option via Submittable. With Editorial Feedback, submitters receive mark-ups plus a short summary of strengths and potential areas for improvement. Our Editor-in-Chief reviews and provides critique for all feedback submissions.”

For visitors to the site, “CRLJ lives at the intersection of the literary, the philosophical, and the spiritual,” Easton reiterates, “so readers can expect to read and see diverse voices contemplating the many directions of life. We are the seeking, the lost, the found, the wayward. Our issues probe questions at the very heart of existence, joy, sorrow, life, and love. Readers can expect to see mastery of language and a fresh take on visual art. CRLJ draws on traditional questions and art forms but with a decidedly modern take.” Some recent contributors include Jonathan Chibuike Ukah, Cassandra Moss, Jude Abu Zaineh, Jodi Hays, Carl Atiya Swanson, DB Jonas, Eugene Stevenson, Mary Buchinger, K8e Sage, Lisa Delan, Kim Malinowski, Isabelle BL, and Molly Lynde. In addition to quarterly issues online, new pieces separate from the issues are added to the website approximately every 3-4 days.

Starting a literary endeavor of any kind has unique and formidable challenges, yet Easton’s advice to kindred spirits: “If you are thinking of starting a literary journal, my advice is quite simply to ‘go for it!’ – the experience of launching and sustaining CRLJ has been nothing short of joyful, and much easier than initially anticipated. Even in our very early days, we were surprised to receive numerous submissions. Poets, writers, and artists are on the lookout for new and exciting places to submit and are eager to have their work published. The world of poetry submissions in particular can be an unwelcoming place, with long response times and piles of rejection letters. We have had the honor of offering several writers their first-ever publication. Likewise, it’s an honor each time to publish well-established and incredibly talented writers and artists. We learn from each submission we receive and are consistently moved by the quality of work that comes over the transom.

“Additionally,” she advises, “do not be afraid to iterate as you go. At our start, CRLJ had very basic web design with stock images. This did not deter submitters. We improved the site and our processes as we went and continue to gradually expand. Truly, there have been no negatives thus far, and looking to the future, we’re hoping to expand to print publication (paid) within the next 6-12 months.

“Our next big project continues our commitment to breaking barriers between art forms with our inaugural Musical Ekphrastic Challenge, inviting poets and visual artists to submit pieces inspired by a musical selection. Look for the inaugural challenge in the coming 1-2 months.”

Submissions are currently open for the summer issue “SOUTH.” The issue will contemplate all aspects of “south,” from the physical to the metaphysical. Each CRLJ issue has a theme; the autumn issue will explore “WEST.”

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