For those readers who might not have previously discovered Neon, can you tell us a little about it? What makes your publication unique?
Neon publishes weird contemporary fiction and poetry, experimental stuff, speculative stuff. What makes it unique, I suppose, would be its particular aesthetic, which I always struggle to describe in words.
How did you become a poetry editor?
I have been since the magazine started. Initially I wanted Neon to be more focused on prose, but over time the stunning quality of the poetry submitted won me over, and I now publish far more poetry than fiction.
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?
The poetry I read for my own enjoyment has always been immensely varied, including both literary and genre poems. Until recently I never really made a distinction between different classes or genres, and even now I find it somewhat ridiculous to hear someone say that they never read science fiction, or only read fantasy. As such I'm willing to look at absolutely anything for the magazine, and I'd like to think that I consider everything fairly.
What good is a fantasy?
I don't know. It's not something I've thought very much about. Superficially I could say that fantasy serves as a kind of escape from reality.
What scares you?
Spiders. And terrorists. More the former than the latter.
Where is the "science" in science fiction? How could SF help us to prepare for the future?
Right at the centre of it. I think that, as far as preparing for the future goes, SF serves a unique purpose, by exploring the more human side of the new technology and changing culture.
Who are some of your favorite poets, and why?
There are many, many poets whose work I admire and yet oddly enough I cannot think of a single one.
What makes a poem poetic?
I think it is the intensity and complexity of the language that sets poetry apart from prose. Ideally if you remove the line breaks from a poem and set it out in paragraphs it should still "feel" like a poem.
How do you feel about rhyme?
I'm not a great fan. Rhyme often seems terribly forced and flippant, and I feel that when it is not done with great skill it can sap a poem of much of its power.
What are some of your favorite poetic forms? What catches your eye when you read a submission?
Above everything else, I'm won over by a sense that the writer is confident in their work and comfortable in their style. I want to feel that this is their voice, not one that they are adopting because they believe that it is fashionable.
Which would you rather see in your slush: a SpecFic narrative that's easy to follow, or imagery/lyricism that blows your mind? How compatible are these two elements?
For me, the imagery and lyricism would be more important. Although I enjoy reading poems with strong, clear narratives, the language and tone of the work is far more important for me as far as the magazine is concerned. If a piece has both (and many do) then so much the better.
Is there an evolution in genre poetry - is there a difference in the style genre is written in today vs classic?
I think the prevalent styles of different genres naturally vary over time. Exactly how they have varied though I couldn't say.
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?
The most common mistake people make is to send their work as an attachment. It's stated in the submission guidelines that submissions should be in the body of the email, so when I receive an attachment it makes me think that it's unlikely the writer has read the guidelines. By extension, if they haven't read the guidelines it is hard to believe that they will have read the magazine, and thus they put themselves at a great disadvantage.
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 a universal language?
There are definitely variations in the kind of submissions received from different countries. Painful as this is to say, American submissions are generally better than British ones: more adventurous, more honest, less trivial and domestic.
What advice would you give to those submitting to your mag?
I think the best advice I can offer is to read the magazine before submitting. It's free, after all.
Is there anything you would like to see more of? Less of?
I'd love to see more experimental forms, more innovation both formally and in terms of subject matter. At the same time, fewer generic submissions and less spam email would be wonderful.
-- Krishan Coupland, Neon