A literary labour of love

by Steve Watson in December 2023
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Independent magazines are great at bringing groups of people together to work towards a common goal or set of interests. But most indies tend to be driven by one or two exceptionally motivated individuals, and often, when those key people have run out of energy, enthusiasm, or money (or all three) the magazine will quietly close and cease publishing new issues. It’s one of the things that differentiate independents from the mainstream, where magazines are businesses that need to exist beyond the influence of just one or two people, and it speaks to the passion and individuality that’s so evident across the independent world.

But sometimes a small, independent magazine comes along and manages to pull off the trick of existing beyond the energy of its founders, and that’s exactly what American Chordata has done. Launched in 2015 by Ben Yarling, American Chordata has actually pulled the trick off a couple of times, as Ben passed the magazine on to Alison Lewis in 2017, who was joined by Justin Cahill in 2018, and the pair handed control over to current editors Hannah Hirsh and Natasha Rao in 2020.

I’ve been a big fan of the magazine since the start, and we delivered their 13th issue to Stack subscribers in October this year. I was excited to catch up with Hannah and Natasha for our Stack Magazine Club conversation recently, and interested to hear how Natasha started as a poetry reader on the magazine in 2018, bringing Hannah on to join her when the opportunity arose for them to take the reins a couple of years later. And then of course they had to figure out how to actually publish a magazine…

I hope you’ll enjoy this video of our conversation, and of course if you haven’t already seen this latest issue of American Chordata, you should subscribe to Stack! Sign up and we’ll deliver a different surprise magazine to you every month, then ask you to join us for a Zoom conversation to hear more from the people who made it happen – it’s the best way of getting closer to these lovely, independent magazines.



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