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Editor Interview: Tokyo Poetry Journal

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

A: poetry/reviews/articles

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

A: Asymptote, Words Without Borders, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Spittoon

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

A: Misumi Mizuki, Sawako Nakayasu, Shiraishi Kazuko, Yoshimasu Gozo, Nagae Yuki, Fuzuki Yumi, Miki Yuuri, Oshima Takeo, Suga Keijiro

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

A: Focus on Tokyo poetry world, as well as Japanese poetry, broadly defined as any poetry with a toe-hold in Japan -- written in Japanese, or between Japanese and other languages, written in Japan, inspired by Japan/Japanese.
We publish almost entirely in English, so Japanese poetry is published in translations.
We also love to feature art, interviews, photography, book reviews, and scholarly essays fitting the above description.

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

A: Be careful with haiku.
We read a lot of stuff with geisha and cherry blossoms and Fuji and trains and suicides and salarymen.
Maybe something else? Unless it's truly extraordinary...
LOVE translations, especially of contemporary poets.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: Stunning, eloquent, eyebrow-raising, profound, outrageous, related to Japan.

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

A: Submit BOTH in PDF and in docx.
Submit bio of 100-150 words (both author and translator, as applicable).
If it's not obvious from your bio or submission, please let us know how you/your work are related to Tokyo/Japan.
Please be patient – we're all volunteer.

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

A: We care almost not at all about this.
If the bio shows what the connection to Japan/Tokyo is -- did/do you live here? do you or your work have some connection to Japan? -- then we don't need much of a cover letter.
Honestly, we don't care much about your credentials. If it's awesome, it's awesome, and we're happy to publish your work.
On rare occasions, we do publish poetry with no connection to Japan, but really only rarely...

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

A: We read until we are absolutely certain that we cannot accept it. That varies.
There have been times when we absolutely abhorred the first line, then we realized that the poem was playing with us, quoting its own horrid first line and making a mockery of it. And we accepted the brilliant little poem.
But no, we don't always read all the way to the end. We've received poems that were offensive and stereotypical – please, don't tell us about your little fling with some minxy, mysterious woman/man who reminds you of butterflies or some shit; please don't express your awe of skyscrapers in Tokyo and express sympathy for all the poor working stiffs. If we smell that, we will usually run screaming from the manuscript. Again, those topics can maybe be done with some surprisingly awesome and ameliorative techniques, but they would tend to trigger us to reject.
Also, please, if you write haiku, they should be uncommonly good.

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

A: The main editors (usually 3-5 of us) read every submission and vote. If a poem is on the line, or it's a split decision, we read it again after hearing the feedback – both the positive and the critical. Sometimes, we'll even read it out loud together to try to see its power.

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

A: See response to previous question.

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

A: Our submissions have been generally 100% via email. That's about as modern as we get. If you know our editors and want to submit to them through social media or whatever, please just make sure they know to forward it to [email protected] .

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

A: Usually, no edits to poetry, or VERY few. Sometimes, a few suggestions for translations (so please submit the originals too!).
For essays, reviews, interviews, etc., yes, we edit. No, we will not though the core of your work. Yes, authors get to approve final edits.
Ultimately, our editors and you have to feel comfortable publishing; agreement is key, and we've generally been able to reach that with little static.

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

A: We haven't. But we are looking into creating a Tokyo Poetry Journal Award... stay tuned!