Dear Poetry Editor

Lisa Grove

On poetry

As a person who has spent years reading and studying all different kinds of poetry, from Beowulf to Claudia Rankine, knowing the huge breadth of diversity it encompasses, I can honestly say I don’t have a preference of one style over another.

I was really impressed by Rankine’s Citizen, and immediately I saw what a necessary book it is—and part of its necessity is that it’s so different than a lot of other poetry books out there, even among prose poetry! She very effectively narrows in on numerous, tiny moments of everyday racism that white folks—my tribe—might not give another thought, but can add up to real harm for people of color. She tells the story of Serena Williams’ career thus far as a grand illustration of this—although I’m not sure I’d call Williams’ experience with racism “everyday” since it extends well beyond plain ignorance.

What lights me up is when a writer, like Rankine, surprises me with her use of language, gives me a metaphor I’d never thought of and provides a new perspective, like opening a window into their unique brain. That sounds almost invasive, the way I put it, but I think it gets to the true purpose of literature and art, which is to broaden the scope of the world beyond the reader’s own limited experience so she can connect with her fellow human beings in a more meaningful and constructive way.

On publishing

The California Journal of Poetics is still pretty young and we’re building our reputation, and we’re really proud of the work we’ve put out so far, and we’re grateful to all our contributors for trusting us with their poems, reviews, and illustrations.

Our editorial board has a broad range of tastes, so we don’t veer in any one direction too much, and our readers have praised the array of writers we’ve featured, from the up-and-coming to the iconic. We just hope readers appreciate what we ourselves like!

As for me personally, I love a lot of white, male, cisgendered writers, but frankly, I’m less interested in highlighting their work these days, particularly when there are so many under-recognized yet wonderful books in the world by women and people of color and people in the LGBTQ community. I’m not the only person who determines content, so I’m not saying we won’t be publishing work from the white, male, cisgendered demographic, but I want our work to reflect the diversity of the poetry community, and I’m confident my co-editors support that desire.

On regret

As a poet and an editor, I regret nothing. I only wish I could apply that brazen attitude to the rest of my life.

As far as the magazine is concerned, we believe in the work we put forth. If anything, there are poetry niches we’ve published that we’d like to get more of for the future. We would love more poetry-comic hybrids. Bianca Stone’s work, for example, was a gorgeous feature for our Issue 1. And reviews are always welcome, too. We’d love to get more of those!

Lisa Grove is a senior editor for the California Journal of Poetics. Her poems and translations have appeared in Poetry, Beloit Poetry Journal, A cappella Zoo, and elsewhere. She lives in Los Angeles.

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