Sporting gradient headers and QR codes, the new all-female poetry and collage magazine Hotdog is everything you don’t expect a poetry magazine to be: funny, loud and unassuming.
I met up with makers Megan Conery and Molly Taylor ahead of their appearance at next week’s Printout event to talk about their personal relationships with poetry and feminism, and how it all came together.
So let’s start at the beginning – how did Hotdog start?
Megan: Our first meeting about Hotdog was in an abandoned police station in South London with trail mix and several mimosas. We sat down and said, “Alright, let’s just make some decisions and take it from there”. We knew we wanted it to include poetry, and we knew it should be fun and accessible, because poetry kind of has a reputation for not being those things.
Molly: The name Hotdog came up as joke, but then we ended up really liking it – it’s silly and phallic and everyday… It’s the opposite of calling it something like “Quill & Ink”, ha!
Your post-editorial is a conversation between the two of you talking about your personal relationships to poetry. It struck me how different you are.
Molly: I’ve always loved poetry, but mainly it’s been a very private thing. I subscribe to lots of journals and pamphlets – Belleville Park Pages for instance was a great one though sadly it recently folded. But it seemed to me like all the poetry worlds I’d gone into were completely alienating. I never felt good enough; clever enough. We wanted to make a space that was completely different from that.
Megan: I used to hate poetry. When I spoke to Octavia Bright for this issue, and she said she didn’t used to like it either, that was so mind-blowing to me. And when I think about it, it wasn’t really hatred I felt back then – it was fear because it reminds me so much of contemporary art and that whole, “Let’s talk to each other, and only each other, about how clever we are”.
Molly: No less clever people allowed! You know where Octavia says: “You have to find your heavy metal poets”?
Megan: Yeah! Personally I really like funny poems, anything that rhymes, if there’s play on words… But those things aren’t really considered cool… Octavia did a lot for me in terms of helping me become more comfortable with my own taste.
Coming to value your own feelings and personal reflections around poetry – do you think that’s just part of growing up, or the result of something that’s happening in society right now?
Molly: I don’t know. I’m still not sure if I feel that way! I just recently started doing readings and I shake so much when I talk that it sounds like I’m going to cry! I don’t think you necessarily become more confident publicly, but you become more attuned to how you respond to things; you’re better able to understand a poem in whatever way it works for you.
So what’s the common thread to the poetry featured in Hotdog?
Megan: Well, they’re all by women or people who identify as female. It’s all free verse, and a lot of it is quite sensitive; about feeling vulnerable and ashamed, but in a very open and honest way.
Molly: This issue addresses a lot of the traditional notions of femininity. I love it when Octavia says in her poem, “Don’t be so guttural in your way of being”. Don’t be so emotional, don’t be so intense: women are often told this kind of thing. But that’s what poetry is for us – it can be really intense and that’s great. We want our contributors to feel safe to be however they want to be.
Would you say that Hotdog is a feminist publication?
Megan: We’ve been talking about this quite a bit recently. While we have never promoted Hotdog as a feminist magazine, we don’t want to divorce Hotdog from our own feminism. So since we feel quite strongly about it, we’re obviously viewing stuff through a feminist lens.
Molly: We’re not making the magazine to be political, but inevitably it is. These are the people and the type of writing we’re interested in.
Could you tell me about the format?
Megan: Poetry is such a sensitive form of artistic expression, so you don’t want your format to be too strict. It’s all about responding to the content and giving it the platform it deserves.
Molly: Also we wanted it to be really referential, so we’ve capitalised all writers’ names and added footnotes so that if you want to look stuff up, it’s really easy.
Megan: Everything about Hotdog has been a considered decision between both of us. The only thing we knew about our brand identity from the start was that the logo type had to be Minion Pro Bold Italic.
Ha! Tell me more about the design – there are lots of boxes going on.
Megan: Before this I’d never really used InDesign for anything other than making my CV, but I’m really into architecture and industrial design, and one of the things I’m massively into right now is the New Aesthetic and the intersection between digital and print. So it’s inspired by the medium it was created in – wherever I could illustrate that it’s a PDF, except it obviously isn’t, I did. I think my favourite spread is the Rapidshares one (above) – those lines are the ‘snap to grid’ lines.
And of course we were really excited when the hotdog emoji came out so that’s in there.
Hotdog magazine is currently open for submissions to the next issue. Head over to their website for more info, and if you want to hear more from them plus other new women’s magazines, come to our Printout event on Tuesday 26 January