Culture | Squeezing the juice out of Lemon Hound

The online literary journal celebrates its first anniversary

“It’s crazy, it’s fabulous, it’s crazy,” says Sina Queyras, founder and editor of Lemon Hound. It is the one year anniversary celebration of Lemon Hound’s evolution from blog to fully fledged online literary journal. Standing in the corner of a packed bookshop, readying the place for an evening of readings and wine, Queyras explains how the transition has been brilliant but hectic, with the server crashing the day before. She smiles as she says this; her pride and excitement are palpable. They are also well deserved. Lemon Hound began in 2005 as Queyras’ own small, single-authored blog. Now it is a multi-authored, bimonthly site posting a range of poetry, prose, essays, and reviews, all with a focus on experimental writing and free thinking.

Queyras explains how she repeatedly attempted to shut the blog down but, she says, “people kept saying if you shut down there’s not going to be this voice for all these women, and I said yeah but I can’t be the voice for all these women.” The publication does have many female contributors, and one might expect Lemon Hound to be a purely feminist arena, but Queyras is clear that this is not her intention. “They need to get their own blogs, have their own voice. And also I didn’t want it to be a segregated space,” she explains. “The aim is to create a space for really diverse voices and also cross borders. A lot of subscribers are American. [There are] a lot of male subscribers. It’s really international. I’m interested in creating a space where people who wouldn’t normally talk to each other are discussing literature. I’ve got a young working class writer from Vancouver next to Lydia Davis. I love that.”

As poet and contributor Nicholas Papxanthos argues, “There’s certainly that edge to it I think. When you set the foundation with something in such a strong way you have a strong sort of undertone. I think that’s going to resonate throughout but so far as I see it, it’s just about who sends in good work. Of course there are feelings about whether you’re a female contributor or a male contributor but really quality is the concern.” Certainly Lemon Hound seems to have achieved a balance between giving female voices a place to be heard and creating a forum where all are free to speak.

Quality writing and open dialogue are noble aims but breaking down boundaries is a tricky business. The question must be asked, how accessible is Lemon Hound really? Anyone can click the link, anyone can read an article, but can just anyone understand and enjoy this journal’s level of literary analysis? The anniversary attendees included a couple of graduate students, a writer, and a few too many young intellectuals in hipster beanies. With readers like these, and article titles like “Brushing the Silence: The Politics of Urban Articulation in Nicole Brossard’s Notebook of Roses and Civilization,” it seems the range of writers and readers won’t be limited by the simple fact that, without an English Literature degree, this seems to be a difficult conversation to contribute to.

However, the reply from the evening’s readers and contributors was unanimous: there is a place for everyone on Lemon Hound. You don’t need an English Literature degree to enjoy reading poetry. If one piece of criticism proves inaccessible because of its highly academic register, simply look for another. The site is broad and multifaceted. As Queyras puts it, “I think people find their spots. I don’t think I’m writing to a specific audience other than people who are literary. People who are interested in books.”

A visit to Lemon Hound may require sifting through a few posts to find the ones you like, but should prove well worth it. Kathryn Mockler’s essay “On Printing Out the Internet” gives an accessible analysis of how capitalism influences art production and the need to literally “print out the internet,” while Stephen Collis’ “Towards a Dialectical Poetry” breaks down the more complex terminology of poetry analysis before launching into his take on dialectical poetry.

An anniversary is not just a time to look at the past, but also an opportunity to take stock of the present and look to the future. “I’m going to focus on really trying to get the best fiction writing and poetry. I want people to want their first story to appear on Lemon Hound,” says Queyras. Submission is a simple online procedure and every submission is read, every piece of work given a chance. Jamie Lee Kirtz, a poetry editor at the journal, offers this advice to potential contributors, “Don’t be afraid. And also one thing that we always look for is people taking risks and people doing something subversive or something ‘other.’” In short, if your writing seems a bit crazy, for Lemon Hound, it might just be fabulous.