Editor Interview: Gyroscope Review

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

A: Fine contemporary poetry

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

A: 32 Poems, Rattle, Copper Canyon Press, Poetry, The New York Review of Books, Slice, The Sun. This list expands all the time; these are just a few publications we like. There are a lot of goods ones out there.

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

A: That’s like asking which child we love most - depends on the day and how ornery the child. Some days we love reading Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Yeats, Rilke. Other days we go for Louise Gluck, Nick Lantz, Tracy K. Smith, Mary Oliver, Naomi Shihab Nye, Billy Collins, or Ted Kooser. Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Diane Lockward. And those are just the poets. We like a lot of other stuff, too.

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

A: We read each poem thoroughly, several times, over a course of days. We want to give each poem a fair chance to impress us. The subtle poems may take that extra reading to get their point across.

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

A: Read the guidelines. Read back issues to get a feel for what we’ve been publishing. Edit, edit, edit. Get rid of extraneous material. Eradicate typos. One typo is often an accident, two we start to wonder, three and we doubt your sincerity. Be meticulous. This is your audition, your resume, your face to the world. Don’t blow it over things under your control.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: The ideal submission is tightly edited, grammar- and spell-checked, takes us someplace we didn’t know we wanted to go, and impresses us with deft language and a punch at the end.

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

A: They submit more poems than we call for. They submit drafts and want to withdraw and edit them, and submit them again. The most irritating is when someone's submitted poem gets accepted elsewhere and the author doesn't bother to tell us. It’s no big deal to tell us - Withdraw the poem, tell us why, and we’ll be the first to congratulate you on your success.

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

A: We like to be reminded there’s a real person on the other end of the computer screen - just as we’d like submitters to know we’re real people, not faceless, ruthless dragons, er, editors. A short and pithy cover letter makes our day. If you don’t have anything in the way of publication credits, tell us you like pie. We like pie, too. Form a connection, let us know you read past issues. But overall, cover letters are not a must have. We’re always interested in seeing where people have been published, but it doesn’t influence our decision. A good poem trumps all. And we often read the cover letter AFTER we read the poem.

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

A: We read each piece several times, all the way to the end. If we have doubts, we discuss the poem and weigh the pros and cons. Does it fit with our vision for this issue? Each poem is given several chances. We want submitters to know their submission is valued, even if it ultimately ends up being rejected. Don’t take a rejection personally; sometimes the poem doesn’t fit our vision for the issue or we’ve had too many similar poems of late. Keep trying.

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

A: Poems that aren’t immediate yeses are discussed thoroughly. What are its strengths and weaknesses?  Would a small revision make this piece sing? Are there words or phrases that detract from the meaning of the poem? Would our readers enjoy this poem?

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

A: Since there are two of us, we'll each answer what our own typical day is.
Constance Brewer - When we are open to submissions, I try to read the slush pile every few days and get a feel for what is coming in. Some poems impress me right away, and I give them a tentative thumbs up. Other poems have something going for them, but there are stumbling blocks in phraseology, formatting or overall comprehension. These get a maybe. Others aren’t doing it for me, and get a tentative thumbs down. Then I go back in a few days later and read them all again, to see if my initial reaction still holds. Finally, Kathleen and I go over each poem and decide if it’s right for Gyroscope Review. We discuss maybes and if they need too much work to be brought up to speed or not. Any disagreements are talked through based on the strength of the poem and a decision made. Sending out rejections is not our favorite part of the process, but it has to be done. Sending out acceptances and getting a cyber “Hooray!” is the best part of the process.
Kathleen Cassen Mickelson - My process is very similar to Constance's - I dip into slush every few days to see what's coming in and read what's there. I cannot read everything all at once and make good decisions that way; I have to stay on top of the slush and read a few at a time, take a break, come back later. Sometimes I'll wonder about something referenced in a poem and will Google whatever it is. When I did that for one of the poems we accepted for our summer issue, I found an error in the spelling of the place the poem referenced and was able to correct it for the author. It was nice when he thanked me after seeing it in the galleys we sent before publication. I learn a lot by researching things I am not certain of when I read the poems. I check on author's websites, too. We Google lines from submissions if we're really keen on them to make sure they haven't been published elsewhere.

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

A: Since we were an online-only journal before we added a print edition, we are a bit biased toward embracing technology. Technology, electronic submissions and Submittable have made it possible for us to work from different locations (Wyoming and Minnesota) and still put together a quarterly poetry journal. Email makes it possible to correct problems on the fly. As writers ourselves, we understand the strong appeal of a traditional format, something tangible you can hold in your hand. That’s a powerful draw. There’s a place in the world for both formats and we are proud to be able to do both at this time.