In Praise of Journals that Publish Poetry and Their Editors

In a country that highlights Capitalism wherever it can, poetry journals have become a peaceful protest against money first. The majority of literary journals in this country (and other countries even more so) are done on a lima bean budget. The editors I know devote  late night hours each week to reading, editing, corresponding, fact checking and producing attractive magazines --- with no ad money.

In other words: editors are good people. They believe in the radical notion that poetry matters. Sometimes, a college English department supports the journal's staff, but this is becoming rarer. Other times as with Crab Creek Review and Floating Bridge Review, which are unaffiliated, the journals hold annual contests to bring in funds and sometimes do an end of the year letter so they can continue to cover printing costs. In view of full disclosure, I have edited and been on the board of these last two journals. 

Other journals such as the Heron Tree or Cura Journal work as online journals and then publish in hard copy one issue per year. I appreciate this hybrid notion that paper copy and pdf's both matter.

I've now have joined the ranks permanently as Poetry Editor for The Human journal based in Istanbul, Turkey. This Sunday our inaugural issue will go live and I promise to post the link here. We will feature poems by Kelli Russell Agodon, Jennifer Markell, and Hilary Salick, among others. This is what has me thinking about the world of editors.

1. Poetry Editors are almost always poets themselves. They take time away from their own work to promote other writers and allow new work entry into the world.

2. No one gets rich or becomes famous as a poetry editor. They do work for free or little money.

3. Perhaps this is obvious: editors are people. They appreciate a kind word, a brief thank you note, some acknowledgement that you noticed. Be kind to your editor and they will return the favor.

4. If an editor accepts your work, you can send them new poems (you may want to wait a year or so). They've liked what you've done and may like it again. In any case, it is worth building a relationship with a journal. Think long term relationship rather than one night stand.

5. It's summer even in Seattle. Perhaps especially in Seattle, people want to get outside and play. If a journal takes longer than expected to respond to your work, don't shoot off a worried email, just be patient. (Also check the submission guidelines as many journals do not read in summer.)

Other journals that I've found respectful to writers and beautiful for readers include the Alaska Quarterly Review, Bellingham Review, New England Review, the Southern Review, Poetry International and Poet Lore. There are, of course, many more but these are journals that have been kind to me over time. Both Alaska Quarterly Review and Bellingham Review have published my work for more than twenty years. Not every time I sent, and not every year, but the relationship continues to thrive through various editors and iterations.

If you've worked with an editor who has been thoughtful, accommodating, and careful - why not say thank you? We're all in this together ---


  1. Susan, good info. Thank you. And when the Human Journal premieres I want to send the link to my writer friends in Istanbul.

  2. Thanks, Sheila! I believe Sunday is the taget date. It would be wonderful to have more Turkish poets represented!


Post a Comment

Popular Posts