Four Chambers Literary Magazine Is a Pleasant, Thought-Provoking Read

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Shoving your nose in a favorite bit of reading material is a beloved coping mechanism this time of year, so we're tickled with the timing of the latest issue of Four Chambers, released in October.

The Four Chambers folk, who are based in Phoenix, describe their work as an "independent community literary magazine." They're all about raising the visibility of literary arts and increasing community engagement with the local literary scene.

See also: George Morrison's Retrospective "Modern Spirit" Takes the Long View at Phoenix's Heard Museum

Their first issue, published in December 2013, includes pieces by 49 authors. It features 42 poems and 15 works of prose. Their recently-published second issue features 62 poems and 13 works of prose from 64 authors. Both include four illustrations by local artists, plus cover art by Isaac Caruso. Inside covers bear maps of familiar Phoenix streets.

Issue 2 is a welcome addition to our holiday survival kit. It's filled with literary gems from local writers and beyond, and sized at 6-by-9-inches so it's easy to cart around in purse, backpack, or book bag -- then whip out as needed while riding the light rail, waiting in line, or hitting our favorite pub or coffee joint.

Changes made between first and second issues, including a move to larger font, make this volume easier on the eyes. Themes reflect the usual suspects in contemporary culture, including therapy and sex. But also plenty of topics you won't find splashed across the headlines. The latest Four Chambers offering is a pleasant yet thought-provoking read.

Four Chambers is the work of enterprising volunteers whose literary adventures rely on the "moral + financial" support of more than a dozen sponsors that include creative writing centers, small businesses, a community coalition, a professional wordsmith, and more.

The masthead gang includes Jake Friedman (founder/editor in chief), Kelsey Pinckney (assistant director), Jared Duran (events and programming), Isaac Caruso (art and design), John Haas (photography and film), and Jeff Smith (managing editor) -- in addition to a five-person editorial board and 12 associate editors that include Duran.

They're keen on sharing the lit love, rather than merely doing their own thing. Hit the Four Chambers website, and you'll find links to local literary and cultural resources, writing groups, and assorted lit-related performances including readings and open-mic events.

They disavow having a specific aesthetic, saying they're simply looking for good work. Think "eclectic, contemporary, and stylistically diverse." It's reflected in both issues, which are filled with engaging works savvy enough for diehard lit lovers yet accessible enough for casual users.

But its real value is this: Four Chambers is an intoxicating gateway drug, capable of luring the uninitiated into the world of literature -- then moving them towards greater participation in the local literary scene, which depends on fresh voices to survive and thrive.

You can meet the fine folks of Four Chambers at several upcoming events - including Phoenix Festival of the Arts (Friday, December 12 to Sunday, December 14) at Margaret T. Hance Park and Phoestivus (on Wednesdays, December 10 and 17) at Phoenix Public Market.

Four Chambers recently closed submissions for its third volume, scheduled for spring 2015 release. Get busy now if you're keen on writing something to submit during their next call for work. You'll find guidelines, plus news of all things Four Chambers, on their website.

They welcome submission from new, emerging, and established writers. Currently about half the work they publish is local, but they're eager to up that amount over time. We're hoping they'll increase the number of illustrations as well, which add real charm to these collections.

In the current issue, Leon Hedstrom's "Borealis" is illustrated by Joseph "Sentrock" Perez, Shevaun Brannigan's "Local Church Falls in Love with Area Library" by Rebecca Green, Elizabeth McNeil's "A Release: Out of the "Obsene Folklore of Children"" by James B. Hunt, and Chelsea Whitton's "Dear June" by Carol Roque.

Four Chambers is sold at Stinkweeds and MADE Art Boutique, as well as both Changing Hands Bookstore locations. You can buy both issues, plus prints of artist illustrations, online from Four Chambers Press. Issue 1 is $10; Issue 2 is $12.

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