Tengen is a creative writing magazine, started at UCL in 2009. The title comes from the Japanese game ‘Go’, where ‘Tengen’ is the central point, the “moment in space from which patterns arise”, as Francis Gene-Rowe, the magazine’s editor, put it to me. It was conceived as, and remains, a magazine aimed at London students . “We aspire to reach Granta’s level, but also want to have fresher material than them. We want the up-and-coming.” So far there has been one issue a year, but they are moving to two. “It takes awhile to get it together,” Gene-Rowe tells me, “because we are quite discerning of what we select and commission.” This first issue received funding from UCL English department, but that funding seems to have dwindled. The editorial team considered becoming a UCLU or ULU soc, but, as Gene-Rowe points out, “that would bind us to a congenial respectability. That’s the price you pay. We’re thinking, however, of applying to the Wellcome Trust for funding.” This is a magazine considering breaking away altogether from University, while retaining its student submissions and student audience. The current editorial team, who will stay together over the next few years, wants to retain a loose affiliation – but equally to have a critical distance, and autonomy with regards to editorial policy. Does the magazine, then, have a strong editorial line? “Well, yes and no… We have a theme for each issue, though some of the content remains unthematized. We are not narrow in terms of type of material: it’s good to showcase older forms alongside more modern ones.”
The magazine’s content can be found online, for free, since nowadays “a print run is only so important.” You can find poetry, prose, and an interview with China Miéville. The next issue will be on social violence and discord (“a theme selected before the riots”) and will feature an interview with the novelist Tom McCarthy, exclusive artwork from Kanitta Meechubot and Erika Altosaar, an extract from Colleen Hind’s excellent Trigger Warning (also available in full from Critical Documents, Justin Katko’s press), and poetry from Stephen Mooney. All alongside new high-quality, laminated tried-in-the-fire writing from students across Britain.
Check out their site.