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In the trade, they're called "little magazines." Usually published only once or twice a year, with print runs barely in the four figures, most often "paying" their contributors with free copies, little magazines are the welcome cutting-edge buffer between mass media, Wal-Mart America and some kind of real-life/real-time take on literature, politics, personal narrative and poetry.Little magazines have the backbone, work ethic and love of the printed word that's often missing or diluted when major-player advertising competes for space and influence. Here are five of these little gems, each deserving of notice. Most of them have local connections. You already get cable, you listen to NPR--spare some change for these literary activist artisans.

On April 25, fire destroyed the offices of The Baffler in Chicago. Two weeks earlier, issue No. 14 had been safely sent to the printers. Magazines all over the country (Harper's, The Nation, McSweeney's) pitched in to make certain the editors of The Baffler had a home to come back to. In issue No. 14, local writer Paul Maliszewski details with a journalist's eye and a late-night comedy writer's pen his life as a temp worker for a large grocery chain. You'll never share your feelings on a company survey again.

Out in San Francisco, former Chapel Hill publisher Damon Suave has just released issue No. 13 of his labor of love, Oyster Boy Review. Local folks dot the pages. Mebane poet Debra Kaufman contributes a tender poem, "Directions." Chapel Hill Renaissance man, Jeffery Beam, reviews about a dozen books, while the Indy's arts editor, Mark W. Hornburg, reviews Lyn Lifshin's latest poetry collection.

Mr. Beam also makes the cover of the latest issue of Charlotte's Main Street Rag. Beam describes his life and love of poetry in a wide-ranging interview, and offers six of his best. Writing and speaking with his ever intense honesty, Beam explores the themes of "Southerness," compassion and humility. Durham poet James Breeden, and Haw River poet Victoria Dianne Rende also contribute to the latest MSR.

Out of Lynn, N.C., comes Lonzie's Fried Chicken, always waving the flag of support for local writers. Due out any day, issue No. 7 promises humorous, poignant fiction from a pair of local writers, Dawn Shamp of Durham and Thomas Lisk of Raleigh. Pittsboro's Ruth Moose has a poem included, too.

The previous issue of Lonzie's featured work by Paul Austin, Raleigh's Phuong Hoang Ho, Lenard Moore and Tony Reevy. Reevy's poem celebrates a special bank on the Eno River. The river even has a little magazine of its own. The latest Eno is just out, filled with local lore, musings, history, and environmental activism. Editor Ed Clayton has combined the talents of a dozen local writers, naturalists and historians. A reader can't mistake the power in James Applewhite's closing line in his poetic appreciation of the Little River:

We walk within the reservoir of time,

Inhaling origin like oxygen.

You can find The Baffler online at thebaffler.com, Oyster Boy Review at oysterboyreview.com, Main Street Rag at mainstreetrag.com, Lonzie's Fried Chicken at lonziesfriedchicken.com, and Eno at enoriver.org.

  • The best of the "little magazines."

More by John Valentine

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