Zines: Literary Authenticity

Before our class excursion to Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, I knew very little about zines. This small and eccentric branch of the literary world was hidden from me, not even on my radar. In a world where big publishing dominates the shelves, and where publishers dictate and censor what will and will not appeal to consumers my lack of knowledge about zines is typical, an oversight I share with thousands, if not millions, of other readers nationwide. But, just because zines are obscure does not mean they are unimportant or worthy of neglect. In my opinion, the zine is the exact opposite, an expression that beckons readers to pay attention.

While looking through the collection of zines, I was amazed at the variety of topics that zines covered – from arts and crafts to shark attacks, from personal memories to anarchy, the zines covered such a wide scope of human emotion and experience. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a zine out there for everyone. But, one question that kept coming to mind was, “Why?” What compelled these creators to produce these objects, objects that I felt were like a person mind made tangible or incarnate.

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Dig Deep” , a zine created by Heather in 2010. Carnegie Library, Pittsburgh, PA

All of the zines at the library were produced without the help of any editor, publisher, or distributor, which meant that the creators either could not get their ideas approved by the powers-that-be or knew better than to bother. These creators live outside the box of publishing, in an underground community where ideas and opinions and expressions are not priced and packaged, but freely shared and traded. “Publication” in the zine world is simply creation.

Perhaps this freedom is what zines and indie poetry have in common. Although the two are different in execution, the ideas behind them are related. Both zines and indie poetry seem to be about creating art for the sake of art. There is no ulterior motive, not much of a financial gain, if any, and no fame or glory involved – in some cases, especially in the zine world, the author is basically anonymous. The purpose of zines and indie poetry is to express and create, even if the creation is not in high demand, or any demand at all. Both worlds have built communities for artists, creators, and writers who did not or could not fit inside boxes big publishing companies had created for them. Both reveal an authenticity, a genuineness that is hard to find on the shelves of mainstream bookstores and this authenticity speaks to the deepest parts of us.

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A page from Heather’s zine, “Dig Deep”

Visit Carnegie Library: https://www.carnegielibrary.org/

2 thoughts on “Zines: Literary Authenticity”

  1. I too didn’t know much about zines before we went on the excursion. I was amazed at how they were all so different and unique. It truly showed that everyone’s voice was heard and story told. I like how you described the creators living outside the the box, I think that is a great way to describe them. Great post!


  2. I like that you mention indie poets and other independent publications. There is something liberating about being able to take risks and publish something independently without any filtration or changes imposed by others. Zines are perfect in the sense that they do not need that extra wall of approval, especially if you just want to get a message or information out there without a concern that the message is being portrayed “perfectly.”


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