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Spotlight on New Queer Literature: A Conversation with Impossible Archetype

Spotlight on New Queer Literature: A Conversation with Impossible Archetype

Author: Alyssa Greene

May 16, 2019

Impossible Archetype “aims to be a journal of queer poets from all over the world, all coming together with one piece, making a tapestry of queer poetry today.”

Spotlight on New Queer Literature is a monthly series highlighting publications that are LGBTQIA owned, promote queer and trans writers, or publish work on LGBTQIA themes, seeking to connect Lambda’s readership with contemporary queer publishers and authors.

This month, Lambda spoke with Mark Ward, founder and editor of Impossible Archetype, about creating an online, international repository of contemporary queer poetry.

Tell us a little bit about Impossible Archetype and its mission.

Impossible Archetype started on a bus ride. The phrase popped into my head and I wondered what to do with it–it didn’t feel like a poem. And by the end of the journey, I had decided to make an LGBTQ+ poetry journal. Part of where this came from is that my favourite queer journals had stopped publishing, such as Assaracus and Glitterwolf. Part of this I wondered if it was because of the economics of doing a print journal–and since I decided that that wasn’t for me–I centered on Impossible Archetype being an online journal, where not only issues could be put out, but it would become a repository of queer poetry.

How long has Impossible Archetype been around? How has it developed or changed since it began?

It was announced in late 2016, with the first issue published in March 2017. I put out two issues per year, March and August, with the two months preceding each as the submission window.

In some ways, it hasn’t changed at all – on a practical level, IA (despite the propensity with which I use We in emails) is just me. My good friend Matt from Inskpiral Design gave me some beautiful templates, and I went ahead and made the journal. And this is unlikely to change–I like its publishing schedule; it’s manageable, and I like reading and choosing the poems, without having to have all the chats with a co-editor or a team. And so, whilst I strive to, and hopefully succeed in, having a wide variety and styles in each issue, it is, first and foremost a journal of poetry that I respond to–that resonates with me. And a critical, curatorial eye isn’t a bad thing!

One thing I’m delighted with is that with each issue, our audience, and the number of poets that submit are growing. We regularly get first time poets, emerging poets and well-established poets, but they all get the same rule–one poem that resonates with me. And I’m picky, when it comes to poetry. But it has grown, and now I’ve had to cap each issue at 50 poets/poems, so it doesn’t get too unwieldy, and that seems to be a good place for an issue. Also, the more I put the issues together, the better they come together.

What kind of work do you publish?

We just publish poetry by LGBTQ+ poets. The work need not be identifiably LGBTQ+ themed, only the poet. All styles and forms are welcome–but poetry that works well on the page is essential. IA is open to experimental work and works with poets whose poems feature unusual formatting/layouts.

Ultimately, what we say we are looking for is: “work that is striking, beautiful and musical. We are a journal that is not afraid of form – send us your villanelles, sonnets, and sestinas–neither are we afraid of unusual formatting or experimental work. We also like free verse. Basically we like all poetry but what is crucial to all submitted work is that it grabs us, that it has a depth of craft, musicality and passion. Send us impassioned pleas, captured moments, and distilled emotions.”

We publish short poems, and long poems, and have a soft spot for form, but equally, are open to anything. That said, we only publish poetry, as that is where our strength lies!

How would you describe Impossible Archetype’s aesthetic?

A friend of mine told me, when starting, to refer to IA as ‘an international journal of LGBTQ+ poetry’, to give it an extra cachet, but I think it has informed it as well: IA aims to be a journal of queer poets from all over the world, all coming together with one piece, making a tapestry of queer poetry today. We like to feature a range of voices, styles and topics, and are not afraid to ruffle feathers. I think–like any journal–we hope to, and seem to be, building a community of contemporary queer poets, and unlike a lot of journals, if you are published in an issue, we welcome you to submit for the next, so we have had a number of poets publish in every issue, and build up a body of work (such as Evelyn Deshane, and Yakov Azriel).

Where can new readers start?

Over time, as well as being in the PDF, each poem (when I’ve a spare minute) is aimed to be put as an individual page on the Impossible Archetype site. The most complete so far, in that regard, is Issue 3, so I’ve taken these selections from there (although I fully recommend reading Issue 4 and 5 too).

“Indiana Jones and The Abyss” by Eric Norris. Eric writes wonderfully precise, largely formal although not always, poetry, and is a great example of the musicality and craft that we’re looking for.

“Sirenia” by Emily Holland. This is a great example of free verse, short concise poetry and a forthrightness mixed with sensuality. I couldn’t get this out of my head for weeks.

“Faux” by Stephen Jackson. Stephen’s first published poem – which we’re delighted to be the home for, and for whom we’ve published more work–is a beautifully written and skillfully controlled poem.

What would you like writers interested in submitting to Impossible Archetype to know?

Our next submission period is open from 1st June – 1st August 2019. Send us 1-4 poems (any length, up to ten pages total) to We tend to respond quickly, very quickly at times, and whilst we give every poem due consideration, this is something I’ve always held to be a positive. We also nominate for Best of the Net and Pushcart, which I feel more journals should do, especially since it’s free!

Also, if I tell you to send more, or send next time, do – that’s not a pat cover letter!

Image credit: Mark Ward
Alyssa Greene photo

About: Alyssa Greene

Alyssa Greene is a writer, fiction editor for Quarterly West, and editorial assistant for the Lambda Literary Review. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Passages North, The Southeast Review, Gone Lawn, MoonPark Review, and Jellyfish Review. Find her on Twitter at @acgreenest.

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