The Margins seeks work for a new notebook featuring queer artists from the South Asian subcontinent and the South Asian diaspora on the theme of Mehfil: An Evening of Entertainment and Enchantment, to be published online and in print in Summer 2023. Margins fellow Rajat Singh will guest edit this notebook as part of the I Want Sky series. Edited by Bazeed, the I Want Sky series seeks to make queer existence tangible and add to the queer archive. The first issue honored Sarah Hegazy’s one irreplaceable life and the lives of all LGBTQ+ Arabs and people of the SWANA region and its diaspora; it was published by AAWW’s The Margins and Mizna online and in print.
Although the traditional mehfil—in which elite male audiences in parts of South Asia enjoyed music, dance, and poetry, often performed by courtesans—has all but vanished, the themes expressed there still touch us: the beauty of a beloved, the unbearability of life, the anguish of separation, the joy of being reunited with the one we’ve lost. A space of possibility, imagination, and freedom, the mehfil is a symbol for another world as much as it recognizes its inextricability from the concerns of this one.
By drawing on and subverting this artistic archive, the notebook Mehfil seeks to ground queer South Asian experiences in time as well as celebrate the changing face of a community—across categories of caste and class, language and religion, gender, and genre.
We are not looking for academic pieces heavy on theory or research, work full of hard-to-define words like “capitalist,” “heteronormative,” or “patriarchical,” or writing that’s abstract and inaccessible.
For this new notebook, we are looking for poetry, short stories, audio, video, photography, translation, art criticism, artist interviews, essays, and the daring, genre-blurring work that falls outside those categories.
If today’s mehfil is a party, show us how bodies, eyes, and voices find one another there. If it’s a concert, give us languages for our ineffable longings. If it’s a bedroom, illuminate how desire isn’t just leaving home but also returning to it, how “ecstasy” can mean both “standing outside oneself” and “crossing borders.” If it’s a protest, teach us how tenuous our freedoms are, how fiction can resist the state. If it’s a dream, say why you chose to forget it. If it’s a work of art, let us eavesdrop on a conversation with our queer ancestors. Give us your poignant eulogies, your unsent letters, your impassioned manifestos. Writers from nontraditional paths, we welcome the work you’ve been too afraid to write.
We pay all writers and translators. Please refer to our rate sheet for details.
Submissions are open until December 31, 2022.
- Title: Format the title of your submission as follows: “LAST NAME – MEHFIL – TITLE OF PIECE.”
- Cover Letter: Your cover letter should include a biography of up to 60 words and a description up to 150 words on why you chose your particular engagement with Mehfil.
- Prose: Double-space all prose submissions and limit them to 2,000 words. We accept DOC, DOCX, and PDF files.
- Poetry: Send us up to three poems totaling no more than ten pages. We accept DOC, DOCX, and PDF files.
- Art/graphic work: Please submit with enough detail that we can read the text in JPG, GIF, PNG, or PDF files.
- Audio work: We accept submissions of up to 10 minutes. We accept mp3 and m4a files.
- Video work: We accept submissions of up to 10 minutes. We accept mp4 files.
We accept simultaneous submissions, but please let us know via Submittable or at email@example.com if your work has been accepted elsewhere.
Writers can expect a reply within two to four months after the submission period closes.
About AAWW and The Margins: AAWW is an organization that believes in the power of art to advocate for and center the voices and ideas on the margins. Our award-winning digital magazine, The Margins, publishes work by Asian, Asian American, and Asian diasporic writers (including but not limited to East Asian, Southeast Asian, South Asian, SWANA, Indo-Caribbean, Central Asian, and Pacific Islander writers) as well as multiracial, Black, Latinx, and Indigenous writers. We welcome work from LGBTQIA, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming writers. Our work exists within the intersections of these identities and offers a new countercultural space in which to imagine a more just future.