Literary magazines have always been a popular platform for writers, acting as powerful agents for expressing and challenging Australia’s intellectual and artistic culture.
One of Australia’s best and oldest literary journals is Meanjin (pronounced Mee-an-jin). The name is derived from the Aboriginal word for the land that central Brisbane sits on, and where founder Clem Christesen began the magazine in 1940. Christesen claimed the magazine was a:
… journal of ideas, built around books, to encourage free expression and intelligent criticism, to put forward ‘advance guard’ material, develop contacts abroad- – a Literary Lend-lease”.
Since its move in 1945 Meanjin has been a Melbourne-based publication and is now an ‘imprint’ of Melbourne University Publishing. The publication receives the majority of its funding from Melbourne University, the Literature Fund of the Australian Council for Arts which it is able to perpetuate through followers, subscriptions and sales.
Their 75th anniversary is now quickly approaching, and in its many decades the publication has made a name for itself in Australia as a magazine ‘reflecting the breadth of contemporary thinking’ with a high calibre of Australian and international contributors including names like Kurt Vonnegut and Jean-Paul Sartre. The magazine covers a variety of genres and mediums including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essay, and memoir, encompassing a wide distribution of content through its anthology and blog that support both new and established writers including: Shaun Prescott, Anne Summers, Alex Miller, Oslo Davis (and too many more to name here).
The magazine is known to respond to and reflect on important cultural, social, and political issues. In the 1970s and 80s the journal supported writing by women and migrants, community issues that were considered important in Australia at the time. Current editor Zora Sanders often produces issues responding to academic and cultural interests in subjects like food, travel, suburban life, museums, corporatisation, and queer studies.
Meanjin isn’t just a magazine or website, but a centre for literary and cultural activities of all kinds” – Zora Sanders, Editor
The magazine and its editorial staff hope that one day the magazine will be able to offer more services to readers and writers outside the publication of the journal. Pursuing further activities is often difficult for a literary journal, so for the magazine to grow they need their audience to be as invested in their future as their editorial staff are.
…essentially we would like Meanjin to be a hub which nurtures new talent and can provide support and advice for Australian writers” – Catherine McInnis, Deputy Editor
Literary magazines like Meanjin provide a breadth of reading material for avid readers and they help keep the creative market alive and bountiful. Writers Relief offers some great information on the benefits of literary publications that stand out within the mainstream media, which is worth looking at.
Meanjin and publications like it are one of few creative platforms available for writers to express themselves freely, nurturing their talents and provoking new ideas. It’s also one of the few platforms in Australia that give writers the space to write in long-form. Long-form non-fiction writing allows emerging writers to establish themselves and their credentials before going on to write book-length works. For example, Sian Prior’s essay in Meanjin, ‘Shy Young Thing’ became the memoir Shy.
Meanjin is representative of a culture of high quality literature that doesn’t discriminate in content, or writers. Thankfully, funding and subscriptions keep this legendary publication alive and available for writers and readers alike to indulge in.