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Editor Interview: Beltway Poetry Quarterly

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

A: Washington DC-area poets.

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

A: Bomb Magazine, Pank Magazine, Leste Magazine, Barrelhouse, Diagram, Nightboat Books, Baltimore Review, Poet Lore.

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

A: Katy Richey, Alain Ginsberg, Bhanu Kapil, Tanya Paperny, Elizabeth Acevedo, Safiya Sinclair, Diane Seuss, Dawn Lundy Martin, Anne Boyer, Maggie Nelson.

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

A: The journal was founded and built on and around a geographic focus. Founder, Kim Roberts, intended to document and celebrate regional poetry (Washington, DC and the surrounding states of MD, VA, WV, and DE). We also maintain an extensive resource bank on our site, which is the region's most complete listing of classes, reading series, publishers, granters, and more.

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

A: We most often curate our issues. However, we do accept submissions once a year for special themed issues. Poems submitted should fit the theme and we only accept poems from poets from DC, VA, MD, WV, and DE. Our most recent themed issue, to be published this fall, is a Sterling A. Brown Tribute Issue.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: The ideal submission is from a poet with strong roots to the DC/Mid-Atlantic region, who we have never published before. We are always looking for new talent and like to develop relationships with writers.

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

A: Our open submissions period is quite slim -- once a year, and the period changes year by year. It is best to check our website before submitting and subscribe to our email list.

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

A: We ask for a one-paragraph bio along with all submissions. We don't need cover letters, but we do want that bio. We prefer bios that are factual, not flowery, and bios that are succinct. If the author has previous publication credits, we do want to know! But we are open to authors who are previously unpublished as well. Bios should emphasize the writer's ties to the greater DC region.

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

A: We read every single poem sent to us completely through at least once. If a poem is of interest, we read it more than once.

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

A: We look for poems that are well written and fit our announced theme. We also look at how poems interact with other poems we've accepted for publication.

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

A: For a themed issue, there are often two editors. We read all poems separately, then come together to discuss and advocate for our favorite poems. I usually create three piles: yes, maybe, and no. When working with a guest co-editor, I then compare where we agree or disagree on a poem, and that brings us back to re-reading poems. I enjoy the process immensely! Inevitably, there are poems that a co-editor feels strongly about that I skipped over too quickly. Working with another editor makes me a better reader. After we make our selections, we need to create an order for the poems, decide if we want to divide the poems into sections, and write an introduction to the issue.

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

A: Beltway Poetry Quarterly has always been online only. I love the feel of a book in my hands as much as anyone, but electronic publications have some distinct advantages: we reach a larger audience, we can be available for free, we have a format that works extremely well for people with disabilities, and we don't have to worry about distribution. All our submissions are electronic, and our subscriber list is as well. Poetry is particularly well suited for reading online. We also have a Facebook page.