Friday, January 27, 2017

Six Questions for John Sibley Williams, Co-Editor, The Inflectionist Review

The Inflectionist Review has a strong preference for non-linear work that carefully constructs ambiguity so that the reader can play an active role in the poem. In general, we commend the experimental, the worldly and universal, and eschew the inane, trendy, and overly personal. Work that reveals multiple layers with further readings. Though the editors have a special interest in shorter poems, we are open to longer works that adhere to our general philosophy. Multi-sectioned or thematically-linked poems are also accepted.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

John Sibley Williams: The Inflectionist Review was born from conversations between a few fellow poets, each believing that both extremes (overly narrative and overly experimental) carry the risk of being “poetry written more for the poet than the reader.” Of course, there are countless beautiful poems written in these styles, but there is a tendency for writers to write purely about themselves or to push boundaries in a way that exclude the reader. The middle ground is a place where each word means something to both writer and reader, where images can resonate across cultures, where interpretation is key. So TIR rather organically came together from these substantive talks.



SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?



JSW: Linguistic beauty, conceptual ambition, and emotional resonance. The best pieces amalgamate all three, with words that leap off or singe the edges of the page, ideas that speak to larger human concerns in unexpected ways, and images that carry me somewhere, that break me—into tears, into anger, into catharsis, into outright celebration.




SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?



JSW: Apart from obvious issues like sexism, racism, and other forms of prejudice, which one doesn’t see often in poetry but which sometimes rears its ugly head in subtle ways, the quickest way for work to be rejected is if it doesn’t conform to our rather straightforward guidelines. Strange fonts, incorrect number of poems, and submissions emailed rather than sent via our submission manager are all common issues. Also, as we read blindly, the poet’s name being included in the document is another telltale sign that he or she didn’t bother to read the guidelines. I hope this doesn’t sound like nitpicking, but publishing is based on mutual respect and appreciation. We hope submitters enjoy the journal, and we obviously love the work we publish. So when a submitter makes it obvious he or she did not read the guidelines, that presumed respect is broken.



SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?



JSW: If a submission comes close to publication, we often commend the poet and reference the piece that came closest. But, due to the number of submissions we receive, we usually don’t have the time to provide comments on rejected work.




SQF: Who are some of your favorite poets?



JSW: Oh boy, that’s always a question I fear. How does one list less than, say, fifty or a hundred? But if I narrow it down to poets whose collections came out in 2016, I’d say my favorites were Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds, Keith Leonard’s Ramshackle Ode, Safiya Sinclair’s Cannibal, Sjohnna McCray’s Rapture, Miriam Bird Greenberg’s In the Volcano's Mouth, Jamaal May’s The Big Book of Exit Strategies, and Francine J. Harris’ Play Dead.




SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

JSW: Do you have any tips for poets interested in submitting to The Inflectionist Review? Glad you asked.

Although this may seem like clichéd advice, poets should definitely read sample issues before submitting to us. Many journals have broad tastes or rotating editors or panels of students whose personal preferences vary greatly and overlap in unexpected places. However, TIR has a tight focus and only two like-minded editors. Our mission statement is clear. Every issue we receive many hundreds of “shotgun” submissions from poets who obviously are not familiar with the work we publish. As a writer myself, I get that approach. One cannot read every journal out there. And it often works with the kinds of journals I referenced earlier. But not with The Inflectionist Review. Familiarity with the journal is usually evident within the first few lines or stanzas. So, apart from formatting to the guidelines, the most important tip I can give is to enjoy a past issue or two and see if your work’s themes, structures, and styles communicate with our vision.

Thank you, John. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Six Questions for A. Molotkov, Co-Editor, The Inflectionist Review

Inflectionist Review has a strong preference for non-linear work that carefully constructs ambiguity so that the reader can play an active role in the poem. In general, we commend the experimental, the worldly and universal, and eschew the inane, trendy, and overly personal. Work that reveals multiple layers with further readings. Though the editors have a special interest in shorter poems, we are open to longer works that adhere to our general philosophy. Multi-sectioned or thematically-linked poems are also accepted.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

A Molotkov: My co-editor John Sibley Williams and I felt that one’s role in the literary world need not be limited to writing. Much is to be said for supporting others and building connections. Many writers serve as editors, which helps foster an understanding between the two roles.

As a reader, I see much editorial consistency in some journals and almost none in others. John and I were motivated to support a particular aesthetic that we find vital and important, rather than trying to support the broader crowd of poets writing in English. In some way, it’s a magazine for poets who follow recipes that we believe in (as well as for poems that simply blow us over, no matter the recipe). www.inflectionist.com provides more detail about our aesthetic – and the five issues we’ve published so far.


SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?

AM: A spark – something unpredictable that breaks me, puzzles me, enlightens me. Emotion. Relevance to others.


SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

AM: Typos or grammar errors, macho maleness, religious fervor, self-involvement, or a complete lack of understanding of contemporary poetry. John and I are generally not into names – place names, name names, mythological or historical names. (I’m curious, by the way, if his answers will be completely different from mine.) Our preference is for poems that stand on their own, unsupported by external references. Tasteful exceptions can be, of course, quite wonderful. Poems about writing poetry need an extra-special twist to sound fresh.


SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?



AM: We will do so occasionally if the poem almost makes it, or if the submitter is someone we know well. I don't think it’s productive to comment on all rejections, as so much of it comes down to taste. No one needs a lecture from a poet who writes in a style different from one’s own. 



SQF: Who are some of your favorite poets?



AM: Among the classics, Mikhail Lermontov, Evgeni Esenin and several other poets I admired in my youth back in Russia – also Paul Éluard, Paul Celan, W.S. Merwin, Mark Strand, William Stafford, Rumi. Among the contemporaries: Annie Lighthart, Beth Bachmann, Laura Kasischke, Ocean Vuong, Carl Adamshick, Sara Eliza Johnson, Nick Flynn and many, many more. I’m ashamed that I’m leaving out many I admire just as much. And of course, my co-editor, John Sibley Williams.




SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

AM: First of all, Jim, thank you so much for this refreshing opportunity to think about editing a journal from these new angles. And thank you, reader, for sticking with us.

Perhaps the last question should be: how to deal with rejections? What does a rejection mean? Some friends confess that they give up after five or ten, while to me it’s normal procedure to keep sending the same story or poem to 150 journals. A checklist one might consider when rejections pile up:

1. Have you read 100 (poetry) books in the last 5 years, most of them contemporary?
2. Have you written consistently for at least 3-5 years?
3. Do you have a critique group?

If the answer to all of the above is Yes, then keep reading and writing and sending your work and revising and ignoring rejections. Many editors are picky, including these two. Still, we mean everyone well and appreciate the effort of all poets, even those who don't make it into Inflectionist Review. Creative connections are randomly made. Literary value is more subjective than many folks seem to expect. One fosters and projects one’s literary voice in a busy world bursting with language.

Thank you, AM. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Six Questions for Eric Cline, Founder/Editor-in-Chief, Calamus Journal

Calamus Journal publishes flash fiction to 600 words and poetry. The journal has "a particular interest in showcasing work from members of marginalized groups, as well as showcasing work that might be considered experimental, surreal, or even eccentric.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Eric Cline: Back when I was in high school, I served on my school's literary magazine staff. I had a great time reading through all of our submissions, as well as helping to design the magazine. In the years since graduating high school, I often noted how much I missed editing, but for one reason or another I always decided I was too busy. This year, after having put a lot of effort and time into my own writing career, I decided that I wanted a change of pace, and to go back to editing. I love experiencing other people's work and publishing it. As someone who reads literary magazines on a regular basis, I wanted to create a quality journal that others could read and enjoy. From this mission came Calamus Journal. In defining what the journal sought to publish, I aimed to provide a space where innovation in form and experimentation in style would be welcomed. I also wanted the journal to provide space for poems pertaining to important social issues and personal experiences.


SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?

EC: Trevor (the assistant editor) and I look for work that feels personal and authentic. We really enjoy work that deals with emotion in an artful way, work that finds just the right image or phrase to convey a feeling. I think it's fair to say we prefer emotionally-invested works over poems and stories that just kind of describe scenes without achieving much payoff.

We also love non-standard formatting. We're not inherently opposed to poems written in traditional forms, but we really like work that plays with white space or feels uniquely interactive in the way it is constructed.

Third, I would say th at we look for really specific images. That's not to say that every aspect of a poem needs to be defined in extreme detail, but we don't care for poems that deal only in abstract concepts (i.e. "love" or "pain") but do nothing to show how those concepts manifest.


SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

EC: Submissions that do not follow our guidelines. We take time out of our days to read through people's work, and we believe the least a submitter can do is read through a short series of guidelines before sending their work. It's a matter of respect and professional courtesy.

Beyond that, we don't generally care for poems that are overly vague. We also don't care for work that is misogynistic, racist, etc. We love writing that confronts these issues and describes people's experiences, but we don't want to read pieces that just reinforce negative stereotypes about groups of people, or that reeks of a hatred for women on the author's part.


SQF: Who are some of your favorite authors of short fiction and poetry?

EC: Some poets we love are Andrea Gibson, Sappho, Walt Whitman, and Langston Hughes. Our tastes in fiction are pretty broad, from more literary authors to horror and sci-fi, but we tend to like work that is in some way or other "weird." What weird means can vary, of course, but perhaps its worth pointing out that we particularly like magical realism and stories in which the implausible becomes plausible.


SQF: You recently published your second issue. What has you most excited about this adventure?

EC: We're excited to share the great work we receive with our readers, and to provide our authors with a platform. I love the feeling I get when we receive a submission that we immediately know we want to publish, and I love sharing such great pieces with our audience. I want Calamus to continue to be a place where lovers of poetry and short fiction can find quality work, and I'm excited for Calamus to continue to publish more issues and showcase more writers, more voices, more styles.


SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

EC: Where does the name "Calamus Journal" come from?

Calamus, besides being a type of plant, is the title of a series of male-male love poems from Whitman's Leaves of Grass. I've always loved those poems' use of imagery to convey deep emotion, and I would like to think we publish emotionally impactful work as well. It also establishes a connection between the journal's name and the history of same-sex romantic subject matter in poetry. I felt that this was fitting due to our particular interest in showcasing work by LGBT people, along with members of other traditionally marginalized groups.

Thank you, Eric. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Six Questions for Molly Hill, Editor, Blue Marble Review

Blue Marble Review is a quarterly online journal for young writers ages 13-20. The magazine publishes fiction and non-fiction to 2,500 words, poetry and art. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Molly Hill: I started Blue Marble Review with the belief that writing is for everyone and to encourage young writers both novice and experienced to submit good work. My intent for Blue Marble was to showcase the creative talent of these young artists and writers and to let them know that submissions are welcome even if they don’t have a long list of publication credits. We’re proudly small time and big hearted.


SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?

MH: There are a lot of factors that make for a quality submission but some that stand out are originality—a fresh take on a familiar topic, authentic voice, and what I’d call inventive use of language, or good sentence building. This sentence building encompasses things like word choice and clarity, but we’re also impressed by skillful story telling. We read a lot of submissions and writing that’s original, authentic and creatively constructed rises to the top of the pile.


SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

MH: Gratuitous violence that seems unnecessary to the story.


SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?

MH: Usually not, unless the writer asks us too. Sometimes if we really love the writing but it’s too long or maybe a bit confusing, we’ll let the author know how much we like it and invite them to take another look at revising the work. Other times we’ll mention what parts might have been highlights for us as readers. We don’t correct or critique unless specifically asked, and even then, our goal is to encourage future submissions.


SQF: You’ve published four issues to date. What has surprised/excited/elated you the most?

MH: We’ve been impressed by the quality work from our submitters, and elated about the reach of our online journal—we get submissions from all over the world. It’s an absolute highlight to read submissions and correspond with these young writers and artists via email. Another happy surprise is the support we’ve received via grants and gifts from generous donors that enables us to keep paying our contributors.


SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

MH: I wish you’d asked us about our plans for the year ahead:

We’re still exploring additional sources of funding but likely will increase payments to individual writers from $20 per published piece to $25 in 2017 if funding sources come through. We also hope to expand into the community both locally and beyond, ‘spotlighting’ groups of young writers from specific schools, clubs, community and arts organizations. We want to hear from a diverse group of contributors and continue encouraging and showcasing their creative work.

Thank you, Molly. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.