On perspectives about poetry
If an “outside the literary community” perspective means novice poets or people who have not taken creative writing classes, then one misconception is that poetry has to be profoundly deep—either in personal emotion or in philosophical / epic scope. For Crazyhorse, because of the journal’s name (for better or worse), it seems some people interpret it as an invitation to submit poems about horses or poems that use a lot of horse imagery. And hey, I dig horses, but it’s going to have to be a really damn fine poem to make it into the journal.
In the literary community, it seems to me that poets are becoming more and more savvy about publishing and are more accepting of the varieties of poetry out there. If there are any misconceptions, then maybe it’s not really about poetry itself, but about reputation or publishing record. I’m always extremely happy to see established and emerging poets with a healthy list of past publications and awards in our submissions pile (and we’re lucky that the quality of submissions has increased tremendously over the past few years), but it still comes down to the poems.
For me as a reader, it still depends on the freighted first moment of lyric utterance—that very first line and the voice that emerges from the page. That’s what snags my heart or catches my ear so that I am drawn into the poem: part listener, part participant in the poem’s lyric consciousness. Never underestimate the power of a first line or the importance of placing the strongest poem in the submission first.
What is poetry? Goodness, so much could be said about what poetry is! For the sake of a pithy answer, my mantra for this—what I think about when I write my own poems, when I read submissions, when I teach—originates from an essay, “Some Notes on Silence” by Jorie Graham. To paraphrase: poetry is the hard-fought, hard-won words. A poem is the remains of some struggle (internal or external) swelling up; it is what is able to be articulated in the hopes of communicating that pain, astonishment, or beauty of the experience.
I’m not entirely sure what perception people have about Crazyhorse. My role as Poetry Editor for Crazyhorse began in 2012 (though I’ve been on the masthead since 2011), and my goal has been to widen the scope of the poetries and poets we publish. I think readers are noticing (I’m basing this on the stronger submissions we’re receiving, as I mentioned earlier). And, if recent reprints in Best American Poetry and the Puschcart Prize anthologies, alongside the many wonderful responses I hear from poets whose work I just accepted, evidence a positive perception, then it seems Crazyhorse is gaining some new traction as a journal with high quality—surprising, searing, formally innovative—poetry.
None. The process of accepting work is joyfully agonizing—I debate, re-read the submissions under consideration, consult with Gary (Jackson, Associate Poetry Editor) if I need more perspective, and read over the already-accepted poems to see if any patterns have emerged or to make sure there are no glaring redundancies in the types of poems or aesthetic styles. We publish about sixty-five pages of poetry in each Crazyhorse issue and that real estate gives me permission to take risks and to curate an issue that displays the spectrum of what’s possible in poetry.
Emily Rosko is the author of Prop Rockery (University of Akron Press 2012) and Raw Goods Inventory (University of Iowa Press 2006). She is the editor of A Broken Thing: Poets on the Line (University of Iowa Press 2011), and poetry editor for Crazyhorse. She teaches at the College of Charleston.
In Two Weeks: Katie Manning of Whale Road Review