Editor Interview: First Literary Review - East

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

A: Short poems/eclectic mix.

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

A: I love everything that Ami Kaye and the team at Glass Lyre Press publish (including my chapbook!), I'm partial to John Amen and The Pedestal Magazine (I'm on their book review staff), I enjoy the prose poems in Unbroken Journal, I read Right Hand Pointing regularly, and occasionally I get published in The New Verse News, so I like them too. (Is that too many shameless plugs?) I'm also a fan of Muddy River Review (edited by Zvi A. Sesling), Columbia Review, and a whole slew of journals I'm sure I've left out, some of which have rejected my work (which perhaps proves that they have good taste!).

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

A: At heart, I'm a surrealist, so I love reading anything by Breton and his merry band of misfits. And since I am drawn to the dark side of the spectrum, I consider Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton among my influences. Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson top my list, but there are so many others, both old masters and contemporary poets (i.e., Lyn Lifshin and Kim Addonizio), whom I count among my favorites.

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

A: Our strict adherence to a 16-line limit. The editors have short attention spans. Plus, we appreciate the myriad things that can be said in a small amount of space. We try to cultivate a personal relationship with our poets and are always amazed by, and grateful for, the wonderful submissions we consistently receive.

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

A: Read the guidelines carefully. Include a brief but cordial cover letter and let us know who you are. With regard to the poems, give us profundity, stunning imagery, oddness, realism, or humor, and say it all in fewer than 16 lines. And as many other editors say, don't be discouraged by rejection—just have faith in your work and try us again.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: The ideal submission for us, of course, is BREVITY. A short cover letter, a short bio, and three short poems that grab us from the get-go and hold our interest from the first line to the last. Whether the poems are howling funny or profoundly sad, have elements of Dada or stark reality, are political or personal, make them exciting and memorable.

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

A: The line length. Sending attachments, which we prefer not to open. We love seasonal poems, but since we're usually backlogged about six months, we need, for instance, Christmas poems, several months in advance. But, I have to say, most submitters do follow the guidelines, and that can sway us, at least subconsciously, in the direction of a "Yes."

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

A: Although the absence of a cover letter is not a deal-breaker for us, we prefer a brief (there's that word again!) one. We like knowing how a poet found us (Duotrope, maybe?). A highfalutin list of previous credits doesn't make us more apt to accept a submission (in fact, we are proud to give newbie poets their very first publication), but it's always interesting to know where people have been published (because, hey, we may want to submit there too!). However, if the list of previous publications is more than 16 lines, we'll stop reading (ha!).

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

A: Ah, now you know why we cherish short poems. Yes, we always read the whole poem, several times, and we take into consideration the submission as a whole. I like the fact that when I'm on the fence about a particular poem, my associate editor, Karen Neuberg, can offer insights and input that will lead me to see a poem in a different, and possibly more favorable, light. Two heads are indeed better than one in the poetry biz, especially since we usually agree. If the poem makes us laugh, cry, or dance on the table, we give it a big thumbs-up.

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

A: Since FLRev publishes all the poems together, one after the other, we try to keep sequencing in mind. Sometimes, just by chance, we get a few poets who have tackled the same topic, or who have used similar words, and we like to publish them together so that one poem flows into another and the issue dovetails nicely. We very rarely take all three poems that a poet sends; we usually try to take one or two from the three-poem batch. But we occasionally have a poet who hits our "trifecta."

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

A: When a submission first comes in, I print it out, put it in a folder, and save it for a (sometimes literal) rainy day to read and ponder. We always look forward to it—because we love poetry so much, we consider every submission a gift. Of course, we're always hoping to find gems in the mix. At a certain point, after receiving a lot of submissions, we get a bit overwhelmed, and that's when we know it's time for an editorial meeting. Karen and I do this either in person or via email, which always leads to a frenetic volley back and forth. Then I add the accepted poems to the roster (hopefully for the proper month, though we've been known to screw up occasionally). The final step is my favorite part—informing the poet that they will be published in our journal!

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

A: When it comes to poetry, I believe there is a place for both the old and the new. I admit that before the era of Facebook, I was a bit of a snob when it came to publication—I wanted my work to appear in print journals only because it seemed more "legit" to me. I liked being able to hold a tangible object (the journal containing my poem) in my hand and showing it off to my mom and all the neighbors. Now I lean more toward online publications because of the easy accessibility and, of course, the instant gratification one gets from sharing it with the whole (internet) world in real time. However, I do lament the fact that print journals are not getting as much "airplay" as they did when they were the only forums for publication; there should be a healthy balance here.

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

A: I am a proofreader/copy editor by trade so I have a vested interest in seeing to it that all the poems we publish are in good shape, or at least do not contain any glaring boo-boos. I'm a stickler for good spelling, grammar, and punctuation (yes, even in poetry, although I also give weight to "literary license" and try to reconcile these competing factors). We try not to change the poem in any substantive way, though if we feel a line would work better without a word we might suggest this type of edit. We always bring a concrete (spelling or typo) error to the poet's attention and ask if we can change it, and usually the poet is thankful that we caught it (and sometimes this leads to me being hired to proofread the person's next book!). The moral of the story here is PROOFREAD YOUR WORK BEFORE SUBMITTING IT TO US; it does make a difference to us.

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

A: We do not. Perhaps it's a bit of laziness on my part, but we publish so many poets and we feel that all are deserving of recognition, so I guess being published in our journal has to be its own reward for now.