I was heartened to see an honest extended piece written by Martin Malone, the chief Editor at Interpreter’s House Magazine, explaining how their issues are put together. It was frank and honest, demystifying the process (although nothing in it surprised me).
There are actually two Editors. For each issue they get around 1,500 poems and have to choose 50-ish.
First they split the submissions between them. They each have three folders – “Yes”, “No” and “Maybe”. The “No” poems get a quick rejection. All the “Yes” poems go in the magazine. They then have to sift the “Maybe” poems to bring the issue up to full strength…so first they swap their respective “Maybe” piles and each winnow down the other’s choices to come down to a shorter list. Then they argue, basically, about what is going in, which can be affected by the style of the other stuff that is already in there etc.
He freely admits that if you gave the same 1,500 poems to someone else, they might pick an entirely different set of poems. A lot comes down to personal preference and taste rather than the “top-down” application of a policy (rather it is the other way around, that Editorial Policy is an attempt to describe the things the editors like and will pick).
All pretty obvious stuff really, and confirmation that Poetry Editors are over-worked, unrewarded and ultimately, human beings. Also that over-reaction to rejections is unwarranted, and some of the rubbish you see posted by poets complaining about “them” is laughable. Editors are poets too, invariably.
At Algebra of Owls things are pretty similar. I have now hit critical mass where I have two week’s worth of poems lined up to post. So each day I post one, and pick another from the inbox to accept for future posting. Just as Martin does, I reject some straight away, leaving a group of “potential” poems in the in-tray. Sometimes the poem I accept on a given day might be one that has only just arrived, sometimes it’s been around for a bit. If a poem has been around a while and I always seem to be choosing to accept other things ahead of it, a time comes where you realise you will always pick something else over it, at which point it is time to turn that “Maybe” into a “No”. Given my format of daily poems, it is the obvious common sense way to approach things, that people could figure out for themselves if they thought about it…. It is not Rocket Science.
Today, I had another poem accepted over at In Between Hangovers which was nice of them. Also, issue 16 of Peeking Cat Poetry went on sale and I was delighted to find myself published alongside three other contributors to AoO, past and present, namely Natalie Crick, Marianne Szlyk and Monika Swiatek.