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Editor Interview: Rattle

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

A: Real Memorable Poetry

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

A: POETRY comes beautifully packaged and, though the poetry itself can be dry at times, I devour the commentary each month. AGNI and NEW ENGLAND REVIEW are equally gorgeous productions. NINTH LETTER is a book to behold. VQR is great for prose. When it comes to poetic tastes, though, MID-AMERICAN REVIEW is probably at the top of the list, followed in some order by 32 POEMS, MARGIE, NEW YORK QUARTERLY, PANK, WILLOW SPRINGS, and TIN HOUSE. I'm sure there are others I would love that I've never read; with so many submissions to read, it's hard to keep up with what other magazines are doing.

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

A: Li-Young Lee, Kim Addonizio, Bob Hicok, Alan Shapiro, Chase Twichell, Jane Hirshfield, Matthea Harvey, Patricia Smith, Ted Kooser, Gary Snyder, Stephen Dunn, Ilya Kaminsky, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Anis Mojgani...

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

A: We only care about the poems and not the poets who wrote them. We don't request or read biographical information or publishing credits, and we don't solicit work from poets we hope to publish. We just read about 75,000 poems each year, and pick our 150 favorite to publish.

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

A: Send poems that mean something. Poetic language can't disguise the fact that a poem has nothing important to say. Don't worry about anything else—we're not picky about guidelines, we don't reject poems just because they have typos, etc. And as we mention in our guidelines, we're always trying to be eclectic, so the best way to get our attention is to say that you've notice we're not publishing a certain kind of poem. We want to publish all kinds of poems.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: Any poem that I can still remember the next day.

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

A: Just send your email to the right address and you'll be fine. General submissions go to our submissions address. Contest entries go to our contest address. Don't confuse the two. Nothing else really matters.

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

A: We honestly only read the poems and then skim anything that's sent with them, in case the writer asked a question. I couldn't care less who wrote the poems. I like friendly people more than unfriendly people, of course, but my opinion of the poet doesn't affect my opinion of the poems.

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

A: To quote George Bernard Shaw, "You don't need to eat the whole egg to tell if it's rotten." We tend to read until we find ourselves daydreaming about something else, then we skip to the end to see if it goes anywhere surprising, and if it doesn't we move on to the next poem.

Q: What additional evaluations, if any, does a piece go through before it is accepted?

A: Megan Green and I read everything, pulling out any poems that we like. Then we show them to Alan Fox, our founding editor, for a third opinion. Alan only reads the poems that we've already chosen, so he serves are our fresh slate and untainted reader. If we all like it, then we publish it. Sometimes suggesting or demanding an edit or two.

Q: What is a day in the life of an editor like for you?

A: Sitting in a hammock or recliner with a laptop, reading poem after poem, submission after submission. Saving some to reread later, printing some out to show the other editors, marking most for return. You have to be in the right mood to read and consider the poems fairly, so you read as much as you can any time the mood strikes, and quit as soon as you've lost it. Reading submissions takes up about half of our time, so there's always other work to do. Luckily we have an office with a view.

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

A: Anything you can use to promote poetry and encourage people to read it is worth learning. Why not? We try to embrace anything that might serve poetry, from Facebook and Twitter, to ebooks, to YouTube and audio recordings on our site. Poetry is not an action movie, however—each poem is a little quiet world, which doesn't always fit with the neon glow of new technology. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't use the technology to bring people there.