Monday, September 20, 2021

notes from the submission wilds

Sometimes, there are parts of the poetry world (the biz, the establishment, the whatever) that frustrate me in particular. Some I've cast off and left for dead in terms of my own work.  And actually that is an inaccurate statement, since there are multiple poetry worlds, some of which touch an overlap, some of which never do. But whatever corner of this world, whatever the circle and its orbit, I'll occasionally happen along an interesting  new journal or a new press, and yet, rather than finding new voices I see the same ones. Like the same 20 or so people.  People I already see everywhere else.  Or in the last editing project of whoever is in charge.  This, obviously has partially to do with the poets who submit their work a lot and get carried in many places.  These are familiar names usually, either because of frequency of popping up here and there or knowing that they work really hard getting out there because they talk about the process and successes/failures of doing so. But while I see these folks a lot, there are certain pockets of the poetry world that seem to only publish the same few names--usually friends or mentors or former students of the person or people making the selections. While I also know it's hard to get something rolling and very often those first issues are all solicitation, it becomes strange if the list of contributors never really changes long after the submissions start rolling in.  The work is usually good, but it's also something I've seen so much of. (I say this knowing full well that I myself occasionally oversaturate publications when I'm submitting alot and people get sick of

Obviously, if you go through the effort of doing the mostly unpaid labor of curating a literary project, you can publish whoever you damn want.  This may be why we do it.   Our own collection of poets like rare birds. Like stones in the hand.  And obviously I too have published people I know, mostly becuase in knowing them--the reason I know them usually--is BECUASE I am interested in their work. However, do this too much and it seems a little circle-jerkish, no?    I'm not saying the task of the editor is to be impartial, or front that the quality of the work, or THEIR judgement of it, is objective.  I obviously publish things I like.  Things that excite me for some reason (and those reasons vary from project to project.) I make no claims otherwise, no gestures of superiority as a gatekeeper. Publishing is not The Hunger Games (though some people act like it is.)  

But I also think we have, as gatekeepers, and obligation to promote new voices.  More diverse voices--to seek them out. Voices that aren't getting published everywhere at once. I've been thinking of this tonight as I dig further into the summer dgp submissions for next year.  What I am looking for.  What I am particularly excited by.  And while I spotted a half dozen past authors amongst the offerings (who I will always make room for if I like their project--because I like supporting the authors who support me), I was most excited by the people I had never seen work from before. Some of them writing for decades.  Some of them still in undergrad and just beginning to send out work.I want to see these manuscripts, even if they are not for dgp, becuase I want to know who to look out for next. If something doesn't appeal to me but is promising, I will ask them to submit again next period. I would never want to be the press that just keeps publlshing the same coterie of poets over and over again.   You will  of course, find some familiar faces next year, but I try to publish a much larger ratio of poets I know nothing about. Who have somehow found this little press and think their work might have a home and harbor here. Judging by what I have read and earmarked for second reading, next year will be amazing and contain quite a few surprises and new authors.  I can't wait to share them..

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