Publishing twice a year as a free downloadable PDF, Zhagaram Literary Magazine was founded to create a literary magazine of Indian origin that publishes international work. “In Tamizh, one of the oldest languages,” Editor Suchita Senthil Kumar explains of the publication’s name, “Zhagaram is a word that refers to a sound. The zh sound is pronounced as ɻ and is a reflex approximant (not the zz sound although it is written that way. The ɻ is a sound resembling an L and R sound together). Zhagaram is the word that refers to this zh sound.
“We aim at publishing work that explores the human condition through the lens of culture, heritage, and language,” Kumar says. “Thus, Zhagaram aims to be a creative space accessible to writers of marginalized communities, giving them an international platform to express their voices. At the same time, we are also open to submissions from international writers, which makes a magazine displaying a vast tapestry of cultures in our diverse publication.”
Accepting poetry in all forms (including prose poems and experimental works), visual art, and photography, Zhagaram is led by Kumar, young writer and engineering student from Bengaluru, India. Her background includes working on a Poetry Mediathon project for UNICEF through Voices of Youth, and publications in Honey Literary and Shot Glass Journal, amongst others.
For writers looking to submit works, Kumar shares, “We have a maximum response of two months, although we do respond within a few weeks of submission. Some poems are accepted immediately,” she says. “Others are placed on a short-list and are considered further until the end of our reading period. We don’t provide feedback on all submissions, but instead, we open a free feedback submission window during our submission period for a few days. Some poems, if expressing harmful or hateful ideas, are rejected immediately.”
Submissions are all collected through a Google form. “These submissions are read with utmost care by me,” says Kumar. “Since Zhagaram is a magazine publishing work that is rooted in culture, we realize the gaps that may be caused since the editor may not be aware of all cultures in the world and in the depth that is required to assess a particular piece of writing. To manage this gap as much as possible, we give writers the space to provide context, translation of words in other languages, and any other information that they think is necessary before reading their work.”
“For readers,” Kumar says “Zhagaram offers poems that explore the various experiences of the human condition from the lens of culture, heritage, and language. Since we are an international magazine, readers can get a sense of cultures from all around the world in a diverse poetic tapestry. Readers and poetry enthusiasts can also attend free poetry readings and open mics (if they intend to dip toes in writing).”
Some recent contributors include Amanda Budujen, Cailey Tin, Coleman Riggins, CW Bryan, Devon Neal, James Lilliefors, Kris Spencer, Kristan Saint-Preux, Kushal Poddar, Makenzie Matthews-Beard, Sonia Chauhan, and Sarah Basalim.
The learning curve is unique for each publication start-up, and Kumar shares her own experience, “As the editor of a magazine, I have to be responsible in the work I choose to publish through Zhagaram. As a magazine focused on publishing culturally-rooted poetry, I underestimated the number of submissions showing problematic ideas and hatred towards other communities or genders. It is quite disturbing to receive these submissions even after clearly mentioning in our submission guidelines that we don’t tolerate such work.” Kudos to Kumar for upholding the publication’s mission and curating quality submissions for Zhagaram’s readers.
Looking to the future, Kumar says, “We’re hoping to collect donations to be able to buy an official domain to host the magazine’s website. International payments are currently disabled in our region making it a massive challenge, but we are in the process of figuring out a solution for this.”
On a more positive note, Kumar adds, “We are currently in the process of forming a Zhagaram Poetry Society which functions like a book club but solely for poetry. We’ve received a few interested participants and are excited at the prospect of starting this new community initiative. Other than that, we also plan on hosting a free workshop in January 2024 that pertains to the theme of our upcoming issue.”