W. C. Roberts (wc_roberts) wrote,
W. C. Roberts

Interview Project: Other Poetry Magazine

For this week you can find not just one interview, or even two -- today we have for you three interviews posted as a holiday treat! Our third interview takes us across the pond the the UK to speak with Rod Burns of Other Poetry Magazine! 


For those readers who might not have previously discovered Other Poetry Magazine, can you tell us a little about it? What makes your publication unique? 

Other Poetry strives to present excellent poems, articles and collection reviews without reference to fashion. Quality and originality is all. 


How did you become a poetry editor? 

Spending time on the dole in 1999, I heard about the magazine and volunteered as an unpaid dogsbody. Things went from there. 


What's your background? How has that affected your decisions, with regard to individual poems or types? Are you more critical of some genres, subgenres, or tropes than others? If so, why?  

I have a PhD in English and MA in Creative Writing. Between us, the editors (currently five) of Other Poetry have published around 15 collections of poetry. The great thing about OP's philosophy is that it allows - indeed, demands - the production of an eclectic magazine which is not bound by fashion, discipline, style or subject matter. About the only admitted prejudice of the magazine is Japanese short-form poetry - the genre in which I write myself! 


There is a strong growth in the speculative fiction genre in poetry - when does the surreal imagery leave mainstream and enter this area? Do you feel it helps, or hinders a poem when it is genre? 

No - it neither helps nor hinders. We have published lengthy speculative poems, poems with an occult theme, religious verse and everything in between. 


Do you find humor done right a difficult thing in poetry? What are some of the issues you've noticed working with this genre, and what would you suggest to those poets who just miss regarding this in their work? 

Yes, but when done well it enriches the magazine and the soul. I'd say it is far harder to accomplish than po-faced, self-regarding 'serious' work, however, and consequently real specimens are much more rare than you'd imagine. 


What good is a fantasy?  

If it drives a lively poem which deploys fresh and original language and ideas, a great deal of good. If it supports limp, unoriginal conceptions and flat language, no use at all. 


What scares you?  

Being in a job I detest which wears me out so I cannot write. Fleas. 


Who are some of your favorite poets, and why? 

Philip Larkin, Issa, Doreen King, George Swede - acuity, original use of sparing language, aspiration and humour. 


What makes a poem poetic? 

Quality - density or lightness of language used with fresh application, thought and verve. 


How do you feel about rhyme?  

As with humorous poetry, metrical and rhymed verse can be exceptionally good, but is also difficult to do well. A friend of mine spent 15 years writing his first collection of sonnets, amassing more than 200 polished poems in the process. He included 48 in the book. 


What are some of your favorite poetic forms? What catches your eye when you read a submission?  

Tanka, sedoka, free verse, prose poetry. Quality and freshness of language and vision catches our collective eye, regardless of form. 


Which would you rather see in your slush: a narrative that's easy to follow, or imagery/lyricism that blows your mind? How compatible are these two elements?  

They are necessarily compatible. In fact, even in the slightest forms such as haiku, poems need to be both lyrical and mobile. 


Is there an evolution in poetry - is there a difference in the style poetry is written in today vs classic?  

No. Just excellence and dross across the ages. No two people will ever agree about what constitutes these categories. 


What do find that submitters most often get wrong with their submissions? Is there anything outside of the obvious of the submitter not following your guidelines that recurs in the slush?  

Flat language, obvious statement, not paying attention to the submission rubric. 


With accepting electronic submissions you doubtlessly receive submissions worldwide - have you noticed any tone/style/theme variations in these? Are there noticeable regional flavors in such, or do you feel that poetry is an universal language? 

Yes. Different countries clearly do produce different flavours of work, but there are probably greater commonalities in good work (though not bad) than there are significant differences. 


What advice would you give to those submitting to your mag? 

Please read what we say on the submissions page. Send 4-5 poems, pasted into the body of an e-mail. We try to reply within 6-8 weeks but please don't sit by your machine with a stopwatch. All the editors are volunteers with day jobs and families. We do our best! 


Is there anything you would like to see more of? Less of? 

Attachments! Please, please do not sent work in Microsoft Word or any other attached file. It will come back with a note asking for the poems to be pasted into a single e-mail, and the irritable lizard inside each editor - while of course fostering noble impulses towards objectivity - is likely to remember your address. 

-- Rod Burns, Other Poetry Magazine 


 For some great poetry please visit Other Poetry, and check out the guidelines while visiting!


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