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Editor Interview: Atlantis Award

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

A: quality poetry

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

A: There are two qualities we admire most in today's publishing world: writing that surprises us with fresh images, metaphor, and a distinct voice; and an editorial board that produces an aesthetically pleasing forum of writing. Some publications we enjoy reading include: Orion Magazine, Green Mountains Review, The Iowa Review, Rattle, 32 Poems, Crazyhorse, Rhino, Water~Stone Review, and Weber Studies.

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

A: Our favorite writers include A.R. Ammons, B.H. Fairchild, Tess Gallagher, Miroslav Holub, Richard Hugo, Robinson Jeffers, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Galway Kinnell, Ted Kooser, Dorianne Laux, W.S Merwin, Naomi Shihab Nye, Mary Ruefle, Frank Stanford, Walt Whitman, Terry Tempest Williams, and William Carlos Williams.

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

A: At The Poet's Billow, we focus mainly on one poet at a time, placing that poet's poetry in the spotlight and interviewing the poet to offer readers a deeper sense of that one poet's understanding of craft and his or her relationship to the world. We are also very much a community for writers that provides opportunity for feedback and avenues for revision. We are unique in the sense that we see ourselves more like a coffee shop, classroom, promotions office, and gallery rather than a journal per se, with an editorial staff of professional writers building a bridge for new poets / poetry lovers to come on board.

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

A: Read and digest as much poetry as humanly possible, seek diverse experiences, write and write, and then revise, revise, revise.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: Surprises us with its original use of language, engages our senses with its exquisite concrete detail, and bestows wisdom through its unique insight.

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

A: So far so good.

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

A: A small bio is welcome but not necessary. We know our submitters through their poems. Previous publications say little as the work speaks for itself, and we are enthusiastically open-armed to new poets.

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

A: With poetry we read through the entire poem and see if we are moved to read it again. As a forum for revision and a community of poets, we always read the work that is sent with the intention of sharing our knowledge about poetry if we feel it will help. The Poet's Billow contests, which is how we received work, provides opportunities for feedback so we often find ourselves engaging in most poems in ways beyond than just judging for a winner.

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

A: If a poem delights one of our editors, than it is passed on to other readers, as well, and a final decision is made collectively.

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

A: Curried eggs with kale; freshly juiced oranges, carrots, and lemons; a fresh pot of coffee; a cat at the feet; Michelle with a laptop on the couch and Rob at the dining room table. The two of us work independently, reading submissions, sifting through books for poems to post online, and checking out the day's poetry news. We move poems with strong qualities into a folder that we then share with each other, and place poems that could use revision into another folder. We keep track of the order poems are submitted since a certain number of early submissions will receive feedback. As we approach deadline, we find a few days when we can invest most of our time to the contest, print out the poems that made it through the first round, and read them so we both have read all the poems that made it through the first round of screening. Then we go through a series of scaling down the pile--100 to 50, 50 to 25, 25 to 10. Given the quality of the work we receive, our final decisions are not immediate. We will take a few days to simply live with the finalist poems and consider them before determining a winner or sending the finalists to a guest judge. After a decision is made we divide the poems between us, take a few weeks to respond with detailed feedback to the early poems, and will often both read each others' piles and offer suggestions.

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

A: The Poet's Billow exists because of modern technologies. We are an online forum for poets and our services depending on email, Skype, and blogs to put us in touch with and keep us in touch with our readers. Ironically, if you look at the list of what journals we enjoy, you will see that the ones listed are all in print. For us, reading poems online is a very different experience from holding the beautiful cover of a journal, turning pages, and writing notes in the margins of printed poems, and when it comes to reading collections or a whole series of poems as in a journal, we prefer traditional means of publishing, However, and here's the crux of this issue, the online era of publishing is simply beginning and there will be no way to reverse that process so for us, this new trend has meant discovering the best uses for the technology. Studies have shown that the human attention span shortens when the mind is engaged in online reading and that when someone reads from a screen, the eyes jump around more, the mind doesn't digest text like it does from page, slowly. Online, we read with purpose. The Poet's Billow is a forum that understand this and rather than creating many "pages" of poems, reduces the focus to one poet, displays the poems in its gallery, and provides readers with information about publishing and writing through posting articles, commentary, and interviews--sources for poetry read with purpose. What we do at TPB embraces new technology and we believe implements it in the best way we can--as an enhancer to the writing experience, as a forum where we can promote poetry and the fabulous work and ideas of our award-winning poets.