Saturday, October 19, 2013

Indie Spotlight: Banango Lit

A few weeks ago, as I was searching the internet for places to pitch the books I work with, falling down the rabbit hole of blogger and lit journal's sidebar link after sidebar link after sidebar link... I happily stumbled across Banango Lit. A fairly young literary blog, and even younger lit journal, Banango's got their sight set on the future of literature, and I eagerly await the awesomeness to come.

Check out this guest post by co-creator Rachel Hyman, as she gives you the Banango backstory from birth to baby steps to the next big bite:

The Birth of a Lit Journal

I like to think of Banango as a seed. A seed that has germinated over time, flowered and borne fruit we couldn’t even envision when we planted the thing. This metaphor is probably bad; Banango is better.

In the beginning, there was Banango Lit. The blog was first birthed in early summer 2011, long before Justin Carter and I ever met in person. We first came into contact as editors on the Poetry by Emily Dickinson project that Steve Roggenbuck had started. We liked what each other were doing, shared a bunch of interests around contemporary lit and poetry, and started the blog as a fun project to encourage our own critical thinking around those same topics. One of my first posts defended the artistic legitimacy of flarf as a poetic method; one of Justin’s first posts was about Steve himself, actually.

Reading backwards, the shroud of inevitability covers everything that followed. Both Justin and I found our place in online (and IRL) literature communities. We kept blogging, reviewing things that we liked and that people sent us. We interviewed people. We brought on other writers, like Diana Salier, Matt Margo, Jackson Niuewland, Wallace Barker. I appreciated (and still do) having a space for critical inquiry on my own terms. That’s been one of the best parts of everything Banango: it’s self-led, and I do it because I love it. Not because I’m obliged to.

Sometime in winter 2012, we got the idea to expand our online presence to a lit journal, Banango Street. It just seemed like a logical step after doing the blog and learning more about the type of creative work that Justin and I are drawn to. We still struggle to define it, but Justin and I are very aligned in our aesthetic preferences. I think the best Banango Street poems (and stories) create atmospheres unto themselves. They’re poems that break us (and themselves) in interesting ways; that take dives from the highboard and then try to jump back upwards and fall into the water at the same time.

The first Banango Street issue, we published a lot of our friends, which is expected. That’s who we knew at the time. We’ve released five issues now; with each successive one, there are fewer and fewer contributors I can tag on Facebook, which I take as a good sign. We believe we’ve made strides in the caliber of work we’re publishing. And I love the chance to showcase art on the cover and interior, and now within the issues themselves. Banango Lit has been around for longer, and it’s definitely my baby, but I feel really proud of what we’ve done with Banango Street in its short lifetime. Justin and I have a lot of ambitions for what we want to do with the journal.

And then that brings us to the third expansion in the Banango brand. Starting in 2014, we’re going to publish echapbooks (tentative name: Banango Editions). It makes a lot of sense as a next step: we know what we like, we know good people, we’ve build up an audience who trusts our ability to put out good material, and this allows us to expand the scope of what we do. I’m excited for the chance to get out longer works to people.

So in the end, Banango is a lot of things: a brand, a platform, a community, an empire (on good days), and a bunch of people who are passionate about all things lit. Keep an eye out for Banango developments on Facebook and Twitter. We’re always looking for more reviewers and contributors for the blog, so shoot us an email at if you’d like to get involved! 


Rachel Hyman was born in Chicago and currently resides in Detroit. She is the head editor of Anthology of Chicago and co-editor of Banango Street. Rachel is the author of two chapbooks, Such Phantom and Until All The Blues And Greens Reveal Themselves Each Dawn (NAP). Other writing has been published in Red Lightbulbs, Untoward, the Rumpus, and HTMLGIANT.

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