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at Length Explores Form and the Limit of Our Attention Spans

“Behind a Little House” series by Manuel Cosentino

It’s revolutionary, really, in this day and age, when even our government communicates to its citizens in 140-character tweets, to devote an entire literary publication to “ambitious, in-depth writing.” After all, a human is now said to have less attention span than a goldfish.

And yet.

At Length, based mostly in the Triangle, has garnered attention in The New Yorker, The Times Literary Supplement, NPR, Poets & Writers, and The Wall Street Journal.

Its aim? To create “ways for readers, listeners, and viewers to interact with noteworthy long work, and other publications have noticed.”

Much of the writing published by at Length is not only, well, long, but also shares a careful attention to structure, often playing with form and narrative in unusual ways.

For example, the most recent essay by Colette LaBouff focuses on “surprise, shooting, yoga, and writing” through forty-nine brief flashes of speculation, observation, and memories.

“The Big Father,” an essay by Jeff Oakes, has such a complicated structure, its probably easiest if you just read about it for yourself.

But at Length’s writers do much more than simply play academic games with form: many of its authors may present their work in new ways, but what the pieces all share is heart. There are stories about women with newfound independence, ruminations by new parents, and recollections about the freedom of boyhood.

The poetry too pays close attention to form but mostly eshews traditional rhyming and structure.

“There are a few things I look for as an editor,” says Jonathan Farmer, Editor-in-Chief and Poetry Editor of at Length. “I want to draw from a variety of experiences and perspectives, ways of being in the world, ways of seeing it and trying to respond to it through language. At root, though, the one truly essential achievement is creating enough vitality and interest to compel and reward the experience of (the time and sometimes effort of) reading a long poem.”

The current incarnation of at Length was launched in 2009 as an “online-only, print-friendly publication with added offerings in music, art, and photography.”

Past contributors include poets Elaine Bleakney, Tyree Daye, and Alan Shapiro; fiction writers Tayler Heuston, Matthew Neill Null, and Meaghan Mulholland; and nonfiction by Ben Miller, Angela Palm, and Trace Ramsey.

at Length also features photography, writing on music, and art.

All work published by at Length can be read for free, here.

at Length opens for submissions briefly about once each year. Although they are not currently open to submissions, those hoping to publish with at Length can sign up for their e-mails, follow them on Twitter, or become a fan on Facebook.