Sybil’s Garage update

Moved through a batch of poetry slush tonight.  I read and responded to about 30 poets and perhaps 70 poems.  I am considering at least three of them for inclusion in the magazine.

Some observations: people love writing poems about death, graves & graveyards, bodily decay of one form or another, and cold, emotionless brutality.  Or, at least, that’s what we’ve been receiving.  We also get a lot of poems that reflect, reiterate, or refer to Greek/Roman mythology.  Some have been quite good, but not what I’m looking for.  Others…

I wish I could describe exactly what type of poetry I like, but it’s difficult.  Instead, it’s like an “ah-ha,” a feeling I get from reading your poem that moves me in some way.  The more I think about it, it’s as if I’m not reading a description of a hypothetical feeling or experience, but the reiteration of an actual event or experienced emotion.  It’s as if I can feel what the poet felt when s/he wrote the poem.  So, yeah, I guess what I’m looking for is conveyance, if that makes any sense at all.

3 Replies to “Sybil’s Garage update”

  1. I get ya. It’s like Lorca’s “duende” or Wordsworth’s “recollection in tranquility”–the idea that great poems not only evoke an emotion, but can somehow evoke the precise emotion that triggered them, or that an artist can summon the same level of intensity through repeated performances of a piece as was transmitted or felt at its initial conception or performance.

    For me, poems have to pass a “So what?” test. I’ve seen a ton of beautifully executed poems, well-crafted ones with musical language and everything, that for some reason don’t give me a reason to care about their universe. On the other hand, I love a lot of poems that might lack in some areas but win me over with one really tight image I can’t shake or a particularly musical line. Either way, a gut feeling–which, I think, is often most valid in an editor’s relationship to poetry. Can’t explain it, can’t apologize for it (though I still often find myself trying). An “ah-ha,” like you said. You know it when it socks you in the stomach.

  2. For that very reason I’m usually very vague in my poetry rejection letters. In fiction, I can usually point to a particular problem in the story that made me decide not to accept it. In poetry, it’s never that easy.

  3. Funny. I was going to comment on Aaron’s responses to submissions, which was, not surprisingly, basically what he said. Eh, I tried.

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