PANK’s New Boys and Girls


PANK’s new editors are John Gosslee, Chris Campanioni, and Ashley M. Jones.

The article THE RISE AND FALL AND RISE OF A GREAT AMERICAN LITERARY JOURNAL is up at LitHub, but as one of the new editors I wanted to share the non-lit Lit Hub fun version, which Lit Hub felt was a little less scrubbed than what they wanted to run.


Literature is important. Adopting literature is important, helping it to grow up and speak its mind and learn to scream from the rooftops because people are only used to hearing a whisper is perhaps the most important thing. PANK is the rooftop and the bullhorn amplifying those voices and I’ve always listened. Biting literature is important. If you’re hungry it feeds you, if you aren’t feeling enough, it reminds you that you are made of blood. Yes, if you’re reading this you are made of blood and you already think literature is important, but according to the National Endowment for the Arts study, “To Read or Not to Read” there was a 7 percent decline in all readers over 18 from 1992 to 2002 and part of the problem is that it’s the most recent study. If I remember correctly, 2002 was a different world where I’d just begun drinking legally and the first camera phone hit the market.

Maybe the decline in reading was because there just wasn’t enough engaging material out there for people that wanted a little more risk, a little more growl, a lot more nerve. Kind of like today’s vanilla with The Fault in Our Stars or Insert-Decently-Written-but-otherwise-boring-garbage HERE, there’s not enough edge or openness. Maybe it’s the education system’s meat factory that curdles all of that blood or it’s that there aren’t enough publications that can take on the risk of non-canonical work. Honestly, it’s good that people are reading even if its ad copy on the cereal box for free Underdog cartoons. Oh god, I take that sentence back.

Some background on my orientation, in 2006 I made my first bid to purchase a small Canadian poetry magazine that had a strong following, but needed some real work. In 2006 in a kind of response, Matt Seigel and Roxanne Gay started PANK Magazine to publish “emerging and innovative poetry and prose, publishing the brightest and most promising writers for the most adventurous readers.” And since then everyone has tried to land a gig in arguably the most interesting, engaging and risky magazine on the scene.

The other magazine declined my offer and said they were going to keep running it. They closed in 2007. I found PANK in 2007 and began submitting. In early 2010 I told my undergraduate school that I wanted to take the undergraduate literary journal into national circulation and after a lot of meetings I told the head of the English Department, “I don’t understand why you won’t let me do this.” She replied, “Sometimes I can’t do things my superiors won’t let me do either.” The professor who ran the magazine and didn’t agree with the vision lives in New York and you don’t know him. I started Fjords that fall and now we’re in 1000 bookstores in 8 countries. I live the literary scene, I breath the words, it’s all that there is for me in the world.

Like many authors, I’d received plenty of rejections from PANK, but in 2013 as an editor I had some in-roads. I approached PANK about doing an ad trade with Fjords and the response was warm. Then the literary gods put our tables side by side at the AWP. Roxane said, “they knew, they knew.” In early 2015 I hosted M. Bartley Seigel on the Transatlantic Poetry Series when he was in Croatia teaching, so we had an affinity.

Then I saw the announcement, PANK was shuttering. In that moment I thought, I should buy it from them and keep the blood of this beast coursing through our collective veins. PANK represents a freshness of dialogue and willingness to publish sophisticated material with an edge that I haven’t found anywhere else. I decided to wait on making an offer. I was traveling from Los Angeles to New York City every couple of weeks and didn’t want to put any new blood in my glass. That thing is always running over anyway, which is why my jeans are always stained. In October I received my final rejection from PANK and replied to Matt, “What would you think about my purchasing PANK?” I couldn’t stand to see something I loved, something so singular that so many people care about close. Let me say it like this, IT’S PANK. Our first talk was in early October when I was on the ground at the Cleveland airport and after a couple of weeks we’d agreed on terms. I’m enthusiastic about bringing the magazine’s rich Best American Poetry, New York Times noted and so-many-other-strong-recommendations history into becoming a full-fledged teenager with a driver’s license. PANK has published everyone you know and everyone you should know.

Matt’s note on why they picked me for the position he wrote on December 4th, 2015. “Roxane and I have been editing and publishing PANK for almost a decade. That’s a long time in the contemporary lit mag world. Little magazines are, for the most part, like mayflies, they come and go. Both Roxane and I are older now, well into our careers, lots of irons in the fire so to speak, and lit mags are for a different, dare I say younger kind of hustler. Neither of us were feeling that energy in the same way we did 10 years ago. So it was time to either hand PANK Magazine over to newer blood or consider closing it down. We assumed it would be the latter. We didn’t like the idea of just giving it to someone, this thing we had built up from scratch. Neither did we have any expectation that there was a market for the brand. Lit mags don’t sell, right? That’s not a thing? So when interested parties started coming forward with a willingness to buy, we were surprised, to say the least. But neither are we interested in people fixating on the money; we’re not talking about much of it here, just enough for us to feel assured that whoever inherited the throne would conduct themselves in serious and professional manner. We needed someone to put their money where their mouth is, just for that assurance, or we would have simply walked away. There could have been other ways to get that job done, I’m sure, but those didn’t materialize. When John stepped up we knew we had in him the right inheritor, one with the wherewithal and experience necessary to hit the ground running and make good on the job we started. John’s going to crush it, in the best sense, and both Roxane and I are very excited for the future of the magazine and for literary magazines in general.”

What’s next for PANK? Really, it’s going to stay the same, extra nerve, full soul, strong mouth, but it’s not like PANK’s profile needs a vitamin shot.