In part three of my ongoing (and hopefully never ending) series of profiles of online lit mags, Matt Seigel, founder of PANK magazine, discusses the magazine’s taste for writing that has a “little dirt under its nails” and PANK parties where there a few “awkward make-out sessions, and at least one fight that ends in tears.”
Yes, I’m clamoring for an invitation and ready to board a flight to Michigan to attend such a Pankish bash.
Enough of me. Here’s Matt.
What’s behind the name PANK?
I teach at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan. I had a student, Megan Collier, working with me when I started the magazine. We needed a name. Megan suggested “pank.” In the idiom of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, pank is a verb meaning to pack or tamp down, usually in regards to snow, to make a path. “I’m going to go pank down the path to the garage.” It was also used in the mines to describe packing dynamite into blast holes. We liked both meanings. Bob Hicok wrote a poem about the word that we published a while back.
You publish experimental prose and poetry. What kind of experimental writing are you looking for?
PANK has been described as edgy and experimental. I’m always flattered by that, but I’ve never known exactly what it means, either. We definitely like work that has a little dirt under its nails, work that is adventurous, work that is trying to push at the margins of something. Beyond that, I’m not sure we know what we’re looking for until it finds us.
What kind of writing do you wish you saw more of?
All of it. We’re gluttons for language.
You mention on your website that you only accept 1% of the submissions that you receive. Do you receive a lot of bad stuff, or is it just not right for PANK? Or do you just receive way too many submissions?
We received hundreds and hundreds of submission a month and we can only publish a fraction of the awesome. Our clown car is only so big.
If you could publish any living writer, who would you pick?
That unknown writer who goes on to change the world with their work.
What does PANK think about Jonathon Franzen?
I’m not sure we have an official Franzen policy at PANK. I liked The Corrections, not so much the newest one, and while I’m not a fan of all the megalomania, I’ve never met the guy so the only things I know about him are gossip.
If Lady Gaga sent you a story, would you publish it?
If it was good, we would.
Do you read other lit mags? Which are your favorite, including online and print?
Yes, obsessively. My favorite list would have to include H_NGM_N, Forklift Ohio, Lumberyard, Hobart, McSweeney’s, Le Petite Zine, DIAGRAM, and Bateau.
Editing a magazine takes time away from your own writing. How do you deal with that?
Editing a magazine inspires my writing. It’s like being in the most kick-ass writing workshop surrounded by the most kick-ass writers every day of my life. I produce so much more as an editor than I probably would if I were left to my own devices. Honestly, the busier I get in life (wife, kids, friends, family, teaching, editing, writing…), the more productive I get. Time-schmime.
Describe one of PANK‘s parties.
Messy, embarrassing, and heartfelt. There will be a lot of slurring of words, a few misunderstandings, raised voices and loud laughter, several awkward make-out sessions, and at least one fight that ends in tears, hugs, and forgiveness. By 6am, we will have all shared a giant bottle of aspirin and a bunch of us will go out together for breakfast.
What was PANK‘s favorite movie of the past year?
Mine was Howl. Ginsberg, c’mon! Franco rules.