Púca Magazine is representing all voices

Oona Kauppi interviews Trinity postgraduate Christopher Joyce on his literary journal Púca Magazine, in time for their second issue’s submissions call

Christopher Joyce, the 23-year-old Trinity postgraduate student behind Púca Magazine, joins the call. Púca’s first issue came out just last month – their second issue is due to come out in December 2021. “I always had a fierce admiration for people setting projects up on their own,” Joyce tells me. “I thought I wouldn’t be able to do that, because it requires a lot of different skills […] But then I thought, maybe you can”. Since the publishing of their first issue, Púca has amassed a considerable social media following, and has gained attention in Dublin’s literature circles.

The idea for Púca came to Joyce during one of Ireland’s many lockdowns. An ardent writer and poet, Joyce’s work has been published in the likes of Sonder, This Is Not Where I Belong and the now defunct Nemesis. While he had experience guest editing at other literary journals, and taking part in publishing panels, founding a literary journal seemed a little out of reach. But the yearning that Joyce felt for a literary community encouraged him to begin his project. “I found the pandemic incredibly stunting, as a writer,“ Joyce explains. The isolation of working a full-time job, freshly graduated from college, alongside a separation from Trinity’s creative outlets, proved challenging.

“In folklore, the púca is a mischievous creature that is sometimes referred to as a ghost or goblin, or as Joyce says, a “shapeshifting entity”.”

The term ‘púca’ comes from the Irish. In folklore, the púca is a mischievous creature that is sometimes referred to as a ghost or goblin, or as Joyce says, a “shapeshifting entity”. Púca Magazine’s story begins with this word. “The word ‘púca’ just kept sticking with me,” says Joyce, and references its vagueness as one of its appeals. “For a literary journal, ambiguity was quite an attractive concept,” he tells me. The range of works featured in Púca play into its name. As Joyce says, “Each journal issue will be quite different,” a goal that he hopes to achieve by having guest editors.

The multitude of forms that Púca’s works take also relate to the variety of perspectives that Joyce aims to bring into every issue. On their website, Púca states their mission is to “create a community of writing which reflects multiple versions of the self”. Previously focused solely on Irish writing, and the diversity that it contains, the magazine now extends to all nationalities. The choice to make Púca a journal focused on Irish writing, by Irish writers and writers based in Ireland, was a practical one, but also related to the upsurge in support for national output during the pandemic. Although its mission has been broadened to include all manner of human experience, Púca’s name still holds its Irish roots.

“I’ve always found identity to be such an interesting topic. There’s an inherent ambiguity and multiplicity to it”

On the theme of the self in writing, Joyce is more than happy to expand: “I’ve always found identity to be such an interesting topic. There’s an inherent ambiguity and multiplicity to it, and art is so attached to it. Even if you’re not writing about yourself, you’re engaging with the self.” Joyce goes to praise writing that is unabashedly individual. “It’s quite enjoyable to ask people to submit something so personal. I mean, it’s personal but also detached, because you’re creating something of yourself. Trying to bind all of these identities into a journal is quite invigorating,” Joyce admits. He describes the submissions as “snapshots” of different peoples’ lives. The magic comes in when the issue is completed, and, as Joyce explains, “it’s multiple snapshots in conversation with each other”.

The merits of literary journals are manifold, according to Joyce. “Literary journals really do provide a space for writers to not only get their bearings, but also develop their craft,” he affirms. “They’re ideal for LGBTQ+ writers, POC writers, people from different communities who might not find their voices represented in mainstream media.” Historically, journals, magazines and zines have been associated with literary countermovements. Successful literary journals can, Joyce says, give writers the opportunity to “gain renown and get traction” on their work.

That is not to say that writers whose submissions are rejected are lesser than writers whose submissions are published. Joyce is very keen to note that rejected submissions do not reflect on the writing skill of the submitter, and states that selections to the magazine have much to do with personal preference. “Just by creating a piece of writing, you’re doing something meaningful and worthwhile,” he reminds writers. Joyce relies mainly on the emotional experience of reading a piece in order to decide whether or not it will be “a contender”. In planning Púca’s first issue, he was surprised at the number of fiction pieces that were selected, given that he typically gravitates towards poetry. Of the 14 contributing writers, two are based in the UK and one in Iceland.

“Trinity fosters a really solid writing community”

While Dublin’s creative community is a tight-knit one, Trinity’s is even tighter. The cover art for Púca’s inaugural issue is by Trinity graduate and photographer, Aime Hogan. For the cover of Púca’s second issue, Joyce will be turning to another friend and artist from Trinity, Sophie McGurk. Joyce also knows Sinéad Creedon, one of the co-founders of Sonder Magazine, from his time as an undergraduate at Trinity. “Trinity fosters a really solid writing community,” Joyce says of the college. He references publications Icarus and JoLT (The Trinity Journal of Literary Translation) as key components of the college’s literary sphere. “There’s something for everyone,” he concludes.

Founding a publication takes lots of time and energy, as Joyce knew from the outset. “It was a steep learning curve,” he says with a laugh. Joyce found the process of starting a social media account for Púca to be particularly intriguing. “How to write Púca’s tweets was a very novel experience,” Joyce remarks, bemused. “I was trying to be a publication”. How to represent the many voices that the magazine contained? Ironically, Púca’s selfhood relied on finding a voice, just as those within it had done.

Púca aims to publish two issues a year: Spring/Summer, and Autumn/Winter. Submissions for Púca Magazine’s second issue (Autumn/Winter) open on October 1st and close on November 1st. Their submission guidelines can be viewed at https://pucalit.com/submissions/. Púca’s Spring/Summer issue is available for purchase through their website. Twitter: @MagazinePuca.