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Editor Interview: RHINO Poetry

Q: Describe what you publish in 25 characters or less.

A: Eclectic beauty

Q: What other current publications (or publishers) do you admire most?

A: So many! Poetry, Cream City, Sugar House, december, Copper Nickel, Dancing Girl Press, Sibling Rivalry, Willow Books, BlazeVOX. We also have a terrific poetry community here in Chicagoland: MAKE, After Hours, TriQuarterly, Arsenic Lobster, Featherproof Books, and more than one amazing reading series. RHINO gets so much energy from being engaged in our amazing local literary conversation.

Q: If you publish writing, who are your favorite writers? If you publish art, who are your favorite artists?

A: It may sound silly to say that all of the poets we publish are our favorites, but it's true -- RHINO tries to support the writers we publish beyond the page, getting to know their names, sharing their good news, meeting them at events, and seeking their new work for review. We feel honored that we've published both "first timers" and well-known writers, and that so many of our published poets submit to RHINO again.

Q: What sets your publication apart from others that publish similar material?

A: Our selection process is what really sets us apart -- Multiple editors read almost every submission, commenting on specific works, pulling fellow editors into the conversation. We meet a LOT during our submission periods to table read and discuss our favorites. We maintain a strong, diverse bench of very involved editors who feel passionate about what we read! This method is time-intensive, but it's part of RHINO's identity. Those table reads fuel us as poets as well as editors.

Q: What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to your publication?

A: It's the same advice we'd give for any writer submitting to ANY journal: Read us! Buy a current or back issue, read what we've posted online, follow us on social media... you don't need to be published to become part of the RHINO community. Not only will you get to read some beautiful poetry, you'll gain an idea of what we're really looking for. We get thousands of submissions a year, and tailoring your submission can give you an edge in attracting the attention of our editors.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: No more than 5 pages of astounding poetry that moves us, surprises us, makes us laugh or cry or swoon. We look for poems that exhibit a love of language, that speak to a wide human experience, and that blossom on the page into more than we ever expected. In short -- send us your best!

Q: What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process?

A: It can be frustrating when a submitter clearly didn't read the submission guidelines. Ours are pretty typical, and we try to keep the process easy. Sending multiple submissions during the reading period, or sending more than the number of pages we ask for, isn't going to help you get noticed in the way that you hope.

Q: How much do you want to know about the person submitting to you?

A: We like cover letters, because we are genuinely interested in our poets! That said, they're not required. A long list of previous publication credits and awards isn't going to help you and, to be honest, I often skip those. Include just a few of the publications or achievements that you feel best represent who you are as a writer. Let us know if you're a previous contributor, and don't be afraid to tell us if you've never been published before.

Q: If you publish writing, how much of a piece do you read before making the decision to reject it?

A: To be honest, as experienced poets and editors, it's true that sometimes we can tell right away that a poet isn't quite ready to be submitting their work. However, our reading process ensures that it's rare that a submission is not read in its entirety by more than one editor. We've published poems that two or three editors pass on before another editor will choose it to champion at the table. We love the flexibility of this process, and we love the feeling that this extra attention means that we find excellent work that may have been going unnoticed, even by other publications.

Q: How important do you feel it is for publishers to embrace modern technologies?

A: For RHINO, it has been very important. We noticed immediately that using an online submissions manager not only increased the number of our submissions, but the overall quality of our submissions and the range of poets who can find us. The online system also facilitates communication with our contributors, which is great for RHINO because our process can take a long time and we like to be able to respond as soon as possible. Social media helps us stay in touch with our contributors and support them by sharing their good news; it's also been a valuable way to share news of RHINO workshops, readings, and other events. And while we are committed to publishing our gorgeous annual print journal, we're tremendously proud of our new RHINO Reviews online magazine -- keeping it online has made it possible to regularly publish outstanding reviews of the most exciting new poetry books in a beautiful and accessible format. That's great for the poets featured, for the reviewers we publish, and for anyone in the poetry community who loves to learn about the current landscape of published work.

Q: How much do you edit an accepted piece prior to publication?

A: We absolutely provide careful proofreading before publication; honoring the writer's intent is important to us. We also occasionally offer edits, suggestions, or requests for changes -- but not without a thoughtful discussion among the editors at the table read. We are always willing to work with our contributors to make sure that what we publish is true to their artistic vision and beautifully presented.

Q: Do you nominate work you've published for any national or international awards?

A: Yes! We keep a schedule of anthologies and awards for which our published poems qualify, and we submit as many nominations as we can. RHINO poems have appeared in the Pushcart Anthology and have garnered Illinois Arts Council awards that can come with a $1000 grant. In addition, we automatically consider every submission for our Editors' Prize, which includes a $500 first prize; plus, our Founders' Prize contest also offers a $500 first prize, with every submission considered for publication.