INQUE is a beautiful annual literary magazine dedicated to extraordinary new writing. Contributors include Margaret Atwood, Max Porter, Joyce Carol Oates, Ocean Vuong, Tom Waits, Ben Lerner, Alexander Chee, Kae Tempest, and more. We speak to its co-founder and editor Dan Crowe about publishing on one’s own terms.
“INQUE will last a decade, publishing at a sensible velocity of one issue per year – hitting a handful of global outlets in the winter months – and then cease at number 10. The magazine will never run advertising or have an online iteration. There will be an electronic version available at a more accessible price point, but we hope that this will mostly be a read object, a thumbed- and flicked- through sort of deal, just as in the olden days of ink on paper.”
This is a manifesto, of sorts, outlined at the start of the first edition of INQUE. Was this a starting point of understanding between yourself and designer Matt Willey, at the outset of its creation, or one you evolved towards as you developed the project?
Yes, we were excited to make something which deviated creatively from the magazine we had launched in the past together, Port. We wanted to create something which was free of the commercial restraints of advertising, that had no ongoing internal conversation between the content and commercial requirements.
Of course, there are commercial issues we have to deal with (it’s an incredibly expensive magazine to produce), but that is outside of the concerns of the content, hidden elsewhere in our minds.
Is it fair to say INQUE boasts heavyweight names from board members to contributors. Is this the accumulation of a lifetime of experiences and connections? Or did you have to pitch the project and idea of submitting original content to many?
It’s both! But for most, I had to pitch and explain the idea of the project from scratch every time, via their representatives.
It’s quite an ambitious and strange thing to be making, so it was fun to try and find different ways to explain it.
You edit Port Magazine which celebrated its ten year anniversary last autumn and Matt, who previously was art director of the New York Times Magazine, joined Pentagram as a partner during the pandemic. Is INQUE an outlet for creative itches you felt you had to scratch?
Well, we’re both lucky in that we have jobs that we love, that engage us. But yes, INQUE allows us to push our creative desires as far as they can go. In this format anyway!
1,719 backers pledged £178,248 over 30 days on Kickstarter to bring INQUE to life – how important is carrying this sense of community with you over the decade? Did the pandemic impact on your plans, positively or adversely, in any way?
It was a lovely way to launch it, having that base of investors really made us feel like we were making something which had an audience, for people who were willing to be pushed a bit editorially, surprised perhaps, and that was fun.
The pandemic pushed the price of paper up, as did Brexit, and that delayed printing a little, but apart from that we were not inconvenienced much.
What were you prohibited from doing on grounds of cost?
We did everything we wanted at the time.
Of course, we want bigger, better, weirder, for issue 2, and that’s the trip we’re on now.
That has been delayed, it may come out at end of the year, but may not. It’s just an extra thing, not part of the subscription of INQUE, so a bit of extra fun, so we are relaxed about that; the main thing is to make the next issue better than the first, and have some fun whilst doing it.
Issue No. 1 is available now, £55 + p&p