For the first time since its inception in 2011, Jai-Alai Magazine is accepting online submissions in short essays, poetry, fiction, translation, and art. New Times spoke with the magazine's editor José A. Villar-Portela to discuss writing, and why Miami “is a place that’s no place.”
New Times: How did you become involved with Jai-Alai Magazine?
José A. Villar-Portela: I came into the project with issue #9 in 2011, when I was brought on as the translation editor. [Jai-Alai Magazine] has multilingual translations, including Spanish, which is so important in Miami.
How did you transition from translation editor to managing editor?
It was an intense transition. As translation editor, I was mainly soliciting specific writers who were writing in either English or Spanish or translating works. As
How did your thinking change when you became the editor?
It changed entirely and I began to think more broadly about the work in the magazine—my philosophy as an editor is to try and be as inclusive as possible. Someone [Mark Doty] once said, “American poetry is like a huge house with many, many rooms;” as an editor I try to showcase every room.
Why are there only ten issues?
Our work is symbolic and very tongue in cheek, much like a lot of what we do at O, Miami. We want to remind people that literature and culture can be both fun and funny. I wasn’t convinced at first because I was born into a Latin American poetic tradition where poetry is so serious it’s almost religious. But I’ve grown to see and appreciate the use of humor as a critique and to remind people to lighten up. That we only have 10 issues is also a statement about freedom and choice—most magazines fizzle out, but we wanted to choose when that would happen and make it more intentional. To do an issue that goes backward is unexpected, but it also creates expectations, and that’s the point: to keep people engaged.
Why do you only publish work about or exploring Miami?
We wanted to find out what we like and also what Miami likes. Miami is an incredibly fascinating place; it’s not just one city, but 17 cities and each has its own layer. Part of the idea of Jai-Alai Magazine was to create contact between those layers.
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And what does Miami like to read about?
Miami is interested in Miami. Not in a narcissistic way, but because there is so much variety. What we see from our unsolicited and local writers is work that’s about what it means to live and love and die in South Florida. It’s a place that’s no place, it’s Cuba, it’s Miami, it’s a lot of different things.
What do the Jai-Alai editors like to read about?
We are also interested in that multi-dimensional dynamism. We love the nonsensical weird realities of Miami and a lot of that is reflected in the magazines and that makes us happy.
When is the deadline to submit to Jai-Alai Magazine, Issue #3?
The deadline to submit using the digital submissions is August 31. All submissions, whether chosen or not, are archived at the University of Miami Special Collections—as long as they adhere to our guidelines. We don’t turn anyone away.