- Paperback: 146 pages
- Publisher: Bench Press; Rev Exp edition (March 29, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0930769155
- ISBN-13: 978-0930769154
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 5.9 x 0.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,213,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Spreading the Word: Editors on Poetry Paperback – March 29, 2001
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About the Author
Stephen Corey is Senior Editor at The Georgia Review. Warren Slesinger is an editor and publisher. Both are practicing poets.
Top customer reviews
And they had to submit it by deadline.
The editors not only rise to the occasion, but as the book's compilers point out in their introduction, they deliver "an unusual hybrid of the practical and the theoretical."
From there, the book unfolds, beginning with the most stayed and true literary magazines in America, starting with the Sewanee Review, which has been publishing poetry continuously for 109 years. Its editor, George Core, recommends poets "get on with the job, no matter how small or grand, and not waste your time and an editor's by sending out inquiries."
In addition to providing a forum for some of the most significant poets of our day and age, literary magazines can be a proving ground. Neal Bower's poem, "Notes from the Morticians' Convention," for example, was picked up by Harper's after first appearing in the Sewanee Review.
And there is plenty of advice here on how to prove yourself. Dave Smith of the Southern Review estimates they receive more than 20,000 poems a year. When considering poetry for publication he says he looks for a "sense of weight, significance, power, scope, and, more than anything else, repeatability...." But if the cover letter that accompanies the work "tells me how much I will enjoy the material, gives me a plot summary, offers me serial rights, or mentions multiple submission, I reach for the author's stamped return envelope and I read no further."
In addition, he says he is "unmoved by poems without a story, a language of intensity and character, an interesting speaker, some matter of crisis in human endeavor," and he avoids poems "that experiment with the keyboard as if no one had heard of e. e. cummings, that grasp my lapels with their righteousness."
His comments - and others like them - echo throughout the book.
Christopher J. Windolph of Carolina Quarterly says, "Assuming what I read may be unfinished, I try to answer this question first: Has the poet completed what he or she wants to say? Many poems draw my attention, but finding a poem in which every single word is perfect beyond question is a rare, exceedingly delightful event."
The late Hale Chatfield has been there. In founding Hiram Poetry Review, he says he and co-editor Carol Donley decided that "We would take only those poems which were delightful to read."
He tells this story of how he arrived at standards for the magazine: "A couple of summers ago I was asked to prepare for a writers' conference panel, a statement on the subject 'What makes a good poem?' At first I was indignant, even angry. It seemed obvious to me [that] if I knew what 'makes a good poem,' I'd sit down then and there and make lots of them to advance my own fortune and reputation. But I wanted to do a good job for the writers' conference people, so I decided to take the question at least half seriously. I'm glad I did. I searched my mind and came up with the checklist I've unconsciously used to select poems all these years: (1) I want a poem to be unique; (2) I want it to be competent; (3) I want it to be concise (I want to have the feeling that every word is necessary, that no word or phrase is there just for padding); perhaps above all (4) I want the poem to be filled with adventure."
The example he includes as a poem that meets all these requirements is Rawdon Tomlinson's "Fat People at the Amusement Park," which is flawless, and based on his contribution to the book, Chatfield's passing was truly a sad day in literary history.
Our hats should be off to the lot who are in this book, for as David Baker of the Kenyon Review points out, "literary magazines are typically staffed by a very few people (often unpaid, or poorly so) who do an ungodly amount of work, only part of which work involves reading, selecting, and editing manuscripts."
It's sad, but true: The majority of those who are working on the front lines of literature are doing so mainly out of a labor of love.
But the work is not without its rewards. As Marion K. Stocking of Beloit Poetry Journal points out, "The possibility of discovering...poets and...poems makes opening those dozen or so envelopes every day an adventure, even after half a century."