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Editor Interview: Dancing Poetry Contest

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

A: Uplifting poetry

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

A: We admire and are closely affiliated with many small, poet-oriented publishers such as Artists Embassy International, United Poets Laureate International, Ina Coolbrith Circle, Poets of the Vineyard, Alameda Island Poets. Artists Embassy publishes annual contest grand prize winners on their website and on YouTube. UPLI publishes monthly poetry on their website. POV publishes a monthly poetry newsletter by postal mail and email, Alameda Island Poets publishes various sites on the internet and social media. Artists Embassy International publishes some Dancing Poetry member's books on Amazon. They choose Amazon because it is readily available to most of our members and participants around the world.

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

A: Dancing Poetry and Artists Embassy International publishes poetry and has provided venues for many artists of various genres that promote understanding and good will through the universal language of the arts. Some of our favorite poets working with us include Richard and Natica Angilly, Richmond, CA; Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA; Virgilio (Gil) Yuzon, Manila, Philippines; Bridget Yoke Lin Eu, Ipo, Parak, Malaysia. Historically, the dances choreographed for Dancing Poetry Contest winners are frequently influenced by the styles of Isadora Duncan and her concepts of innovation.

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

A: We ask for poems from around the world that give a fresh or unique view of how we can further inter-cultural understanding and peace through the universal language of the arts. We take the three grand prize winners each year and put them to dance for the Dancing Poetry Festival. These performances, along with many additional poetic dance numbers by various troupes, are presented along with interviews of current poets, and the reading of prize winners from the current year. We also give monetary prizes, and certificates suitable for framing. Occasionally, prize winners have accompanied us to other countries as the Poetic Dance Theater Company performs their poems in different countries. Starting during covid isolation, we began videotaping our Dancing Poetry Festivals and presenting them on YouTube so poets can enjoy a world-wide exposure for their poetry. We plan to continue this practice.

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

A: We are looking for positive, innovative thoughts to help guide people into better understanding each other. Our grand prize winners, over the years, have included such topics as how to include a disabled child in family activities, why a teenage girl refuses to wear her grandma's muumuu, Peace is..., regrets over the casualness of modern dress, bathing in the spiritualness of a forest. Our topics are widely varied and speak to people of all ages around the world. We look for emotion from humor to poignancy combined with the lyricism of well crafted words. The quickest way to the reject pile is to submit overt sex or violence. Our goal is to promote world-wide understanding of each other.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: The ideal submission is a crafted (whether structured poetry form or free verse) poem of 38 lines or less. Traditional forms have an edge, but must be well crafted to have an advantage. Most of our grand prize winners are free verse. We want a positive, new look at our world. This look might be all encompassing of the universe, or a newly identified minute detail freshly observed. We want to learn something from this poem. It might be a new view of a relationship. It might be a different twist on a philosophical point. It could be a mundane theme of beauty put into unexpected words or from an unexpected point of view. What can be considered "beauty" could be anything depending on how you describe it. However, the "beauty" of hatred or violence will go quickly only the reject pile. The ideal submission will offer readers something that will change their lives for the better.

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

A: The most obvious is submitting something that is hateful, hurtful, harmful, discriminatory. Sarcasm usually has some one or a group as the butt of a joke. This is harmful. Overt attempts to convert to a religion or politics tends to be discriminatory and is not what we choose as winners. Instead, choose a topic to lead us on the path you wish us to follow. If you want to send us something hateful because it describes an horrific evil in this world, change it from what you hate to what you want to see in its place and how do we get there, thus eliminating the hateful situation. We know the world is flawed. We want to know some steps to help alleviate these flaws. The second mistake is to send us something that is everyday, mundane, without anything new. Unfortunately, what one person thinks is trite, another might think is new and innovative with a new path to pursue. When considering submitting something that is usual, like the beauty of the sunset, be sure it contains some new vocabulary or an unusual juxtaposition--anything to give us a new thought from this common sight or situation.

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

A: We judge only the poem. The judges receive no additional information. If a poem has received previous honors or publication, we want to know about that so we can give credit when we publish.. Previous publication/awards info may be included in the ID section of the ID copy.

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

A: Each poem submitted to the Dancing Poetry Festival is read thoroughly at least 2 times by at least 2 judges. Our first round, everything is read, The judges then exchange poems and re-read everything. Those put on the "not this time" pile twice are put aside. At the very end, we review everything an additional time to avoid discarding any "sleepers." Poems chosen for grand prizes are read and re-read more than a dozen times silently, aloud in different voices, with different emphasis, discussing how they might be danced. The final choice includes the dancers of the Poetic Dance Theater Company which will perform the piece. Non-grand prize winners are read and re-read until at least 3 judges are satisfied with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd listing.

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

A: Our judging process is extensive and multi-layered, involving at least 6 judges--some poets, some dancers, many are both. We also frequently include artists, musicians or any other willing creative person. When finalizing who receives a grand prize, we consider what combination of three poems will present the best program for the Dancing Poetry Festival. Of the 10-12 Grand Prize finalists, are there 2 or more on the same topic? Do the mood and colors of the 3 choices provide variety? These are the type of additional evaluations that can not be anticipated by the poet other than to attempt to present to us something with a new thought or concept.

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

A: I receive the poems in the mail. I open them, record the poets name, contact information and poem titles on a database to be used to contact the winners and later to let poets know of the next Dancing Poetry Contest. I then put the ID copy in one pile and the judges copy in another. When I have time, I enjoy reading the poems. As contest chair, I do not participate in the judging process since I have access to the poet's identity. After the contest deadline, I give all judges copies (no ID), to Natica Angilly, head of the Dancing Poetry Festival. She makes copies and distributes to the judges. There are usually two or three "judging parties" after poems have been read. Judges discuss their likes, dislikes, review all and go back to further review those still on the list to be considered. This process is repeated until consensus is reached. We rarely have 100% agreement because of the variety of judges. As contest chair, I do not participate in these gatherings, but enjoy hearing about them. When all is decided, I connect the poems with the poets, the secretary informs the winners and I put the winners list on our Dancing Poetry website.

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

A: Modern technologies are important. However, for a variety of reasons, we do not use them. Email and our website is about all we use. We now also use YouTube. We have discussed using PayPal when we have entry fees (none in 2023), but we do not use this because of too many difficulties encountered when attempted in the past.

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

A: We do not edit. If we find a typo, we would correct that with the poet's permission.

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

A: We offer our Artists Embassy International Literary Arts Awards and occasional other AEI awards. However, we do not nominate to other organizations or institutions.