Pass it on.

Read More......


Well, here's another example of us screwing up...

[- "Do you think we should be so forthcoming with our many missteps?"
- "Forget it, he's on a roll."]

Click here for the bio information on Mark Terrill's website. Seems we left it out of the contributors notes in RMR2. Sorry, Mark. Great poems, though. Here's one of them, for those of you who haven't had a chance to get your hands on the issue yet...


The thin line of casualties
that runs accross your face.
The masks in the streets
and the panic they allow.
I only came
to pine in your woods
and now I'm lost here,
a hardened artery in
your radial grid.
Your countenance rusts
in televised anquish.
The medicine and the poison
look so much alike in this light.

Want to read the other two? Buy RMR2! And buy Mark's latest book while you're at it!

Read More......



Wouldn't you like to be a-culpa too? As promised, here's a self-flagellatory post regarding RMR's til-now somewhat spotty turnaround times. With a tiny caveat and, as always, a call-to-arms...

We were going to print, verbatim, some of the letters we've received on this subject...but we lost them! (Sadly, that's the god's honest truth. Proof positive that we can't keep track of any correspondence, even when we want to use it. Not really, but the method in our madness is -- as it is with a lot of publishing venues -- only apparent to a very select few, and even that select few has trouble deciphering it sometimes. Alas, that seems to be endemic to the beast known as "Editor.")

Actually, maybe it's better this way, because all the correspondence hits a similar note. Allow us to paraphrase the letters in question: A few writers have railed against us for not returning their manuscripts even though they had provided return postage. One of them even threatened to badmouth us at all the writers conferences he attends and teaches -- "Don't send them your work!" Another writer gave us props for running a free chapbook contest but was disappointed that he had to discover on the blog that his manuscript didn't win the contest -- this after he sent us a SASE that we requested for notification purposes. There have been letters and e-mails -- even phone calls -- checking on submission status, some cordial and empathetic, some short and not-so-sweet.

And we have to plead guilty as charged. Our turnaround time has not been what we'd like it to be. There's no way to sugar-coat it.

All-in-all, we're very proud of what we've achieved in our first two years of existence: Our publications are beautiful, thanks to Russell and Travis at
www.absnth.com. We've published first-time authors alongside writers who've been nominated for Pulitzers, Pushcarts, and National Book Awards. We've worked with friends and strangers and strangers-turned-friends. We've produced two great -- and very different -- chapbooks. We now publish a stand-alone version of the chapbook, and we've been able to double the contest honorarium and add a public reading to the award package. All while keeping the contest free to enter.

That doesn't mean that we haven't hit a few bumps along the way, and as far as we're concerned, the biggest bump has to be our inconsistent turnaround times. Our goal is to be writer-friendly, and this is the one area where we've made a few -- but vocal -- enemies.

Knowing what we know about publishing literary magazines, it's not a question of avoiding bumps. It's all about what you do once you hit them. So here's what we're doing:

  • We take e-submissions now. That, coupled with our "Yes-yes-a-thousand-times-yes!" policy regarding simultaneous submissions, helps give writers more freedom when it comes to where, when, and how they submit their work.
  • We're redoubling our efforts to make decisions in a more timely fashion. Prose (fiction and nonfiction) is read and decided upon in a central location, so those turnaround times should be faster -- we're aiming for within sixty days. There are more steps to our poetry process because our poetry editors are spread out. Rest assured all poems will be decided upon by the end of each academic year (May). And as a general rule, the longer we have it, the more likely we are to publish it (or at least to ask to see more work).
  • The blog will be a vital source of submissions-related information. To wit, the recent post announcing that fiction submissions for RMR3 are effectively closed now. Perhaps as useful, we're providing more regular content on the blog, which will give writers a sense of our overall aesthetic, our predilections, our current and/or abiding obsessions.
  • Chapbook contest results will be posted here and at the website by August 1 each year. No need to send a SASE.

Okay, so we promised a caveat and here it is: Writers need to step up to the plate with some personal accountability as well. Some uninvited advice and/or requests:
  1. Know the basic trends in literary publishing. Here's a biggie: Print manuscripts are recycled nowadays. Get a jump drive and save the extra postage. A 39-cent SASE will suffice for response to general submissions, and it saves you money in the long run.
  2. If you notoriously and indiscriminately sling your poems to the far reaches (yes, we do know who you are; you'd be surprised how easy it is to make a "name" for yourself in this regard) please take a moment and ask yourself why you do it. There may be a legitimate reason. We can't think of one right off the top of our heads, but we're willing to change our minds if somebody will present a compelling reason.
  3. Please think of literary magazines -- and their editors -- as your partners, not your enemies. In a world where it's too easy to feel disconnected and ignored, we understand it can be difficult to stomach an interminable reading period followed by an anonymous rejection. We get our fair share of those too in our other lives as writers-just-like-you.
  4. Understand, however, that anonymous, assembly-line submissions (and by that we mean sending work to any address you can find in the 2002 Literary Marketplace) are likely to yield anonymous, assembly-line rejections. Sadly, the system feeds itself. Too few editors and readers, too many writers and manuscripts. We're not complaining. Editing a lit mag is fun or else we wouldn't do it. We're just suggesting that we're in this together and that if we acknowledge we're all a part of the problem, we can all be a part of the solution.
  5. To dip back into the mailbag, from the day we hung out our shingle in 2004, we've received cover letters praising our "distinguished" publication -- even before we'd printed a single issue. In football, there's a saying: see what you hit. It's the safest way to tackle, for both the ball carrier and for the tackler. Well, see where you're sending your work -- it's better for everybody. Most notably, you.
  6. Submit less, write, read, and think more.
  7. Instead of sending work out in waves to all directions, send it out piece-by-piece to a magazine you've actually held in your hands. Just because you get rejected once, doesn't necessarily mean you should give up on that publication. Send something else -- something better. Don't have something better? Write it. If you are a good writer and your work fits the publication, you'll probably get in sooner or later. You're at least more likely to get some valuable and substantial editorial feedback. In our experience, that sort of feedback is at least as valuable as a single publication in a lit mag you've never even seen prior to receiving your obligatory two contributors copies.
  8. Try to resist the idea that literary magazines are anonymous gatekeeping meritocracies. Good work gets rejected more often than it gets accepted. And, yes, lots of mediocre work gets published each year. Individual editorial aesthetics play a big part in what gets selected, as does the phenomenon of solicited submissions. Artistic merit, while important, simply can't be the only consideration because there's more meritorious work than could ever possibly be published.
  9. Do submit work simultaneously; it's only fair. But sim-subs allow you to be more -- not less -- discriminate with where you send your work. Instead of sending a single story to thirty-nine magazines all at once, send it to two or three places at a time, places with which you've established some kind of connection. And the greatest connection you can make with any publication is to read it! You don't even have to buy it -- go find it in the library, or read its on-line counterpart regularly. You're more likely to get published in a publication you read religiously.
  10. Last-not-least, get involved in literary publishing. Start a zine or volunteer to work at a lit mag near you -- we guarantee there is one, even if you don't know it. Find it. Give it some of your time, effort, and energy. It will change your entire approach to publishing your own work, both practically and philosophically. It's like waiting tables -- everybody should have to do it at least once, if only for a little while.

Read More......



Pass it on.

Read More......



One of the cool things about being a lit mag is you get to swap subscriptions with other lit mags. To wit, we just got our copy of the most recent Southeast Review. We were impressed. Here are five reasons why you should be too...

1. How awesome is that cover image? Two dudes in tights, doing the symbiotic acrobatics, with the oddly disconcerting grin-and-gaze-deeply-into-each-other's-eyes thing going on. Mesmerizing.

2. Lots of cool stuff in between the covers. Admittedly, our own particular brand of narcissism had us perk up at the fact that there were so many folks RMR has either published and/or hosted at past readings:

  • Charles Jensen, winner of our inaugural chapbook contest, interviews...
  • Beth Ann Fennelly, who's read for us and whose Tender Hooks we reviewed in this very space.
  • John Pursley III, who has work in RMR2 and who took part in the very first Birmingham JARS (Journal Alliance Reading Series) event this past fall, hosted by the five giants of literary publishing in the Magic City: RMR, PMS, Birmingham Poetry Review, Birmingham Arts Journal, and Aura.
  • And Josh Russell -- whose essay on New Orleans' Hubig's Pies appears in RMR1 -- has a story currently up on the on-line version of this issue.

3. Speaking of websites, Southeast Review's is so, so good. They bill it as the companion to the magazine, and it truly is. Lots of great content. A true presence on the web, not just a space filling dead-letter-office sort of thing. (We're not exactly sure what a dead-letter office is, but we must admit it certainly sounds pretty cool. And, hey, who doesn't love R.E.M.?)

4. A triumph in the book arts. Clean. Stylish. Navigable. Nice paper. Thumbs up!

5. An "Apocalyptic Penis Poem"...what more can you ask for?

Okay, so they have some pay-to-play contests, and we've gone on record as saying we're agin' 'em. We're still agin' 'em -- pay-to-plays, that is. But as such things go, The Southeast Review's is one of the more responsible ones: pretty strict ethics policy and everybody who enters gets a copy of the magazine. At least it's not money for nothing.

So, all in all, a net plus, big-time. Howz about you go out and buy you one? Easy enough to do: Just click here!

Read More......



...are just about closed. That was quick, we know. Still, we've got a bit of a back-log, and we want to start giving folks the heads-up about our reading process in real time.

Does that mean you shouldn't submit fiction? Not necessarily. It just means that everything we get from this date forward is going to be considered for RMR4, which will be released in far-off ought-eight.

Now, we are always open to sim-subs, so if you really want to send us a story while it makes the rounds, please do. Just know that it'll take a while for its status to be resolved -- likely this time next year. You can also, of course, wait until our next reading period, which will start October 1, 2007. Thanks, as always, for your patience -- and for entrusting us with your work.

Read More......



Whether or not Katie Ford is a "God-fearing soul," we can’t say for sure. We suspect, however, that God has fixed at least one wary eye on her. Somebody’d better -- she’s got the chops to take over the world (at least that small corner of it known as Po-Biz): Harvard M.Div. Iowa M.F.A. Latin honors from Whitman College. Good thing for us slack-ass mortals, she seems pretty benevolent.

Ford is the author of
Deposition, published by Graywolf, and her individual poems have appeared anywhere and everywhere that matters. She has received an Academy of American Poets Prize, a Prairie Lights Prize, and she has contributed to the anthology Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century. Currently the Poetry Editor of New Orleans Review, she has taught most recently at Loyola University, the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, and Reed College.

Lucky for RMR, she’s agreed to judge the 2007 Red Mountain Chapbook Contest (!) and -- ├╝ber–Good Sport that she is -- she’s submitted herself to the inaugural 500 Words (More) or Less [read the interview after the jump!]. This new feature will bring you the insights and musings of various writers, readers, and thinkers of note, all in 500 words (more) or less...

First, a morsel from Deposition:

Last Breath with No Proof

What is unremembered may be lodged she said a child may not
recall but will act it out in play doll on ground face against tile see how he takes it

by the hair by the foot by the tangled legs sweet mind made of tangled legs
and a patterned dress oh to have evidence to have the scent explained

birds trapped in chimney rustle of wings and fire or numbers etched into an arm
show me where you were hurt I am asked but I am simple unmarked remembering how

can one act out what happened in the mind how make the mind alone in a house
how show long silence what clock what song is there for hollowness who hurt you

once the ticking the voices start she did he did my mind did
and the trespass it begins again?



RMR: TRUE or FALSE: Contemporary American poetry is kissin’ cousins with Christian Gnosticism of old, stingy with its secret handshakes, its extinction hard-wired into its own genetic code. Discuss.

KF: The heart of your question is whether or not American poetry will go “extinct” because it is written by a group of insiders — mean, wise, and tight. We should be more concerned that we are writing poems that will last than we are with the movement called “Contemporary American Poetry.” The poems that will last in time, and that move us now, are written because a poet is trying to write something that someone else can utter as if it came from them. When I recite a lyric by Rilke, if I attend to its music and thinking and emotions, it feels as if it is my utterance. That is a form of lyric ecstasy. A fusion, an intimacy. There can be no stinginess in the poetic task. There can be no selfishness. Individual poets might be this way, but they are human beings, so forgive them. Where would we be without T.S. Eliot’s “Preludes”? Yet he was a part of perhaps the tightest, most elite poetic circle of history. But, for the “Preludes,” I would forgive him anything. To be able to have on my lips, “I am moved by fancies that are curled / Around these images, and cling: / The notion of some infinitely gentle / Infinitely suffering thing.” There are extinctions in poetry all of the time—good extinctions. Poems published that are not memorable die off sometimes because of compositional haste, because they are not strenuous in their language, because they are anecdotal, etc. That is an extinction. But poems that will last press against and through this — it doesn’t matter who writes them.

When you are alone, you are with a poem, not with “Contemporary American Poetry.” If the poem slays you, you will be a little more alive, a little less extinguished. When I feel this way, I am full of gratitude toward the poet who struggled and thrashed about to write that poem.

As for the “Christian Gnostics,” their texts were lost to us because they were deemed a heretical threat to the political and religious powers of what was being named “orthodox Christianity.” We have them now because they were discovered centuries later in a sand-buried library in Egypt. They are gorgeous, complicated texts. In the same way, Contemporary Poetry, if it is foolish and threatened by new genius, if it allows power — political and literary — to publish only poems of the inner circle, we could bury the poems that would have otherwise brought us new utterance, ecstasy, and lasting literature.

RMR: A couple of years ago, in the Q&A after a
reading at Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City [scroll down to July 20], you explained your decision to pursue the study of Divinity by quoting Tony Hoagland’s poem, “When Dean Young Talks About Wine”:

When a beast is hurt it roars in incomprehension.
When a bird is hurt it huddles in its nest.

But when a man is hurt,
he makes himself an expert.

Interestingly enough -- nearly as interesting as the fact that you know those lines by heart -- you left off the poem’s three-line dismount, which goes like this:

Then he stands there with a glass in his hand
staring at nothing
as if he was forming an opinion
All of this makes me think of Auden, addressing Yeats:

...Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.

The same might be said of religion: not a thing but a way; not a noun but a verb. A means of addressing hurt, responding to it. A method of survival.

On the other hand, there’s something calcified in expertise, or perhaps cauterized. Product over process. Safe, confined, contained -- and trapped.

Your work, specifically Deposition, seems more unleashed than that. There’s a helluva lot of roaring involved. Incomprehension, too: the powerful, growling -- yes -- ferocious kind. There’s also huddling, nesting. Indeed, there’s “nothing,” as well -- “...how show long silence what clock what song / is there for hollowness who hurt you” -- but it’s the kind of nothing that won’t suffer to be blinked at dumbly. It demands an opinion, a stance, if only as a mechanism of self-defense.

Messy, yes. Painful and incomprehensible, too. I suspect (who can say for sure?) those things are part and parcel of transcendence: “Why hast thou forsaken me?” pleads the bloody Nazarene (and here’s the kicker) the moment before his spirit ascends. Last breath with no proof.

Here’s something I notice: There’s some measure of resignation in Hoagland’s sentiment, and defeat. Secular and still. But I daresay there’s a roar of religiosity in the Auden, as in Matthew 27:46. And I already said I hear that roar -- lots of them, actually -- in Deposition.

So here, finally, is the question -- loaded and unanswerable though it might be:

Where would you locate your study of Divinity and -- if I may be so bold as to ask them to join hands -- your poetry on the continuum of secular to religious, of sacred to profane?

KF: Divinity School and Deposition were part of the same time period in my life, but there is a distinction between them, and that is why I quoted Hoagland’s beautiful lines, “But when a man is hurt/he makes himself an expert,” when asked why I went to Divinity School. Expertise is a pursuit of the intellect, and, in some cases, the body. So, yes, it holds itself at a distance, a distance religious seekers don’t usually want. They want intimacy, submersion. Studying theology (trying to gain some intellectual expertise) was a way for me to contend with the powerful and destructive elements of religion, elements I had experienced in my earlier, younger religiosity. Deposition stems from those emotions, which were, I believe, flamed a bit by things I was learning in my intellectual studies. For example, I began to find clear correlations between the ways theologians and religious leaders wrote and spoke and the ways humans perpetrate violence. Both forcefully define the reality of another person, both control another, both thrive by moments of threat and moments of mercy. I have a long essay on this and can’t go into it all now. I used up too many words above! But, having this theory made Deposition even stormier. My work engages the metaphors of my tradition — God, world, human, salvation, etc. — and in that way, my work is not fully secular. If being called a “religious” poet means the questions I most often contend with in my poems concern those metaphors, then I lean towards what you call the sacred. That said, the human is included in my list of metaphors.

I am not a Christian poet. I am just a poet, and it means very little to me to say or not say I am religious. I don’t believe in God, I do believe in God. I have no interest in reading poetry that claims to be Christian or religious, in the same way I have no interest in surrounding myself with people who are eager to claim those things.

RMR: Ten Either/Or’s. (Explain or not.)

Barack or Hillary? Barack.
Clooney or Johansson? This is not an interesting either/or.
John or Paul? Small parts of both.
Psalm 23 or Sonnet 18? The psalm, I dare say.
East or West? Northwest near the East.
Elvis or Frank? Elvis.
Emily or Walt? Emily.
Martin Luther or Martin Luther King? MLK.
Audrey or Katharine? Katharine in “Bringing Up Baby.”
Loaves or Fishes? Fishes, currently Japanese varieties.

RMR: You are poet-king for a day. Make a to-do list.

KF: 1. Depose some people.

RMR: Katie Ford poems as prophecies, as tongues, as baptisms, as ablutions, as all or none of these. Discuss.

KF: One becomes ugly when one claims these things. I will say this: there are rhetorical and musical techniques in the voices, liturgies, and manners of speech you list in your question. Sometimes I use them.

Read More......



Recently, we received an e-mail from a frantic MFA student who had a big-time bee in his bonnet to get his hands on a copy of RMR. Seems he'd been assigned one of those mind-numbing reports for his poetry workshop. His mission: Drone about chapbook contests -- particularly those which feature the winner embedded in a literary magazine. At least that's what he told us. Could be he was a spy for the government.

At any rate, since we're no strangers to all things half-assed and last-minute, we obliged the poor guy. No charge, even -- but there was a catch. He had to disseminate the following screed to any and all who would listen. Did he do it? You'll have to ask the folks in State College, PA. But just in case you don't get to Happy Valley any time soon, here it is, in its glorious entirety (albeit slightly edited for readability)...


One thing of note on chapbook contests: Ours is free to enter. It's one of the only such contests (free entry, that is) I know about.

I mention that because I think it's worthwhile for us writers and editors to consider the repercussions of the "pay-to-play" publication model, which has a stranglehold on contemporary poetry in particular. Book contests, first-book contests, chapbook contests -- now lit mags are increasingly sponsoring contests for individual poems, stories, or essays. One could easily spend hundreds of dollars a year in pursuit of a "win" in one of the Big Fish contests -- even more than that if a little fish will do. To what end, though? To be read? Or -- more likely, I fear -- for a noteworthy line on a vita?

I certainly don't have a magic solution to the problem, but I think it's insidious and important. What does it say about us writers of contemporary literature? How much will we shell out in an effort to be published before we realize that we're just so many Wile E. Coyotes running madly in thin air?

I also wonder what it says about us as (non)readers of contemporary literature. If small presses and magazines can't support themselves through subscriptions and sales -- if we have far more submissions than we do subscriptions, and we do -- what exactly are we up to here? Almost by definition, that means more people are writing than reading. Why? And what, then, is the role for the contemporary literary magazine in such a landscape?

The Faux-Capitalist approach -- market-driven business plans aimed at increasing readership, for instance -- is just that: faux. Why? Because the real market isn't readers, it's writers.

Readers don't value us nearly as much as writers do. That's a fact. (Feel free to banty about the chicken-or-egg question of what's a reader, what's a writer, and where they intersect. To me, writing is best served if it aspires past onanism [i.e., writing for other writers], but that might just be me. PS...Raise your hand if the first place you look in a lit mag is the contributors section.)

Case in point: When I edited Black Warrior Review -- one of the older, more reputable lit mags around -- guess how many subscribers we had. About 350, give or take. Just under $5,000 gross income per year. We got that many submissions (350) in a month -- often more. With a yearly budget of around $20,000, my successors at the moderately cash-strapped BWR have recently instituted a wildly successful pay-to-play fiction contest, whereby the winner gets $1000 and his/her winning story published in the magazine. It grossed $9,000 last year. Can you blame them? Clearly, from a strictly quantitative perspective, that's a market to mine. In our system, publication is worth more to the writer than it is to the reader.

But do we realize there's some troubling morality at play in that equation? At best, it's built on circular logic: there aren't enough readers who want to buy all this writing so we're going to sell it back to the writers, who can then show university hiring committees that, indeed, they are significant enough writers to serve on a faculty that is charged with...creating more writers. Or at least they can teach the service courses the creative writing and literature faculty doesn't want to teach. (Don't look now, but isn't that us dropping towards the canyon floor faster than an ACME anvil?)

I say we, as lit mags, need to redefine our purpose. We should aim to serve, not solicit, writers. Why serve writers -- why embrace them as a constituency?

Because, damn it, they -- we -- need it and nobody else is going to do it but us. Because lit mags and small presses aren't mini-corporations; they're activist organizations. Because writers still have an important role in the body politic: to keep our culture evolving, to encourage good, provocative thought, and to inspire action -- directly or indirectly--based upon that enlightened thought.

Therefore, a lit mag's goal should be to publish and distribute work that would not otherwise see the light of day. To provoke thought. To provide an energetic, active, tangible space for said endeavors. And to do it in the most writer-friendly way possible. Free contests, openness to simultaneous submissions, and quick turnaround times are a few tangible ways to be writer friendly. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Please stay tuned to this space for another mailbag where folks rail against us for our own shortcomings in this regard. It's like the Dalai Lama says--we never said all this moralizing and compassion was easy. Necessary, yes. Easy, no.]

We need to rethink distribution and funding as well. Is
Ingram's anonymous, hands-off distribution model the right one to aspire to? And practically speaking, does it even matter if it is -- few lit mags can count themselves "lucky" enough to be taken into the Ingram fold.

I think our lit mags and small presses need to "think global, act local." Or hell, think local, act local. Every community has writers in it. Writers make a community richer, smarter, more thoughtful, more empathetic, more introspective. A lit mag can -- and should -- be a local nexus for the literary arts. One that both provides a supportive common environment for literary artists but that also stakes its ground within the larger community. Poets in the schools. Public readings. Community workshops. Reading groups...

How do you pay for it? Ask for money from people who actually have it. Write grant proposals. Get shrewd about in-kind services. Publish fewer issues, smaller issues, use the web to complement content as well as to augment sales & distribution.

Clearly I'm getting carried away in a Utopian fervor. And I'm not really sure what this has to do with chapbook contests -- other than maybe this bit of advice for you and your peers: Beware the literary-industrial complex! I'll go back to my padded room now...

Read More......



Katie Ford! No, not the one responsible for the Miss Congeniality franchise. The one who wrote Deposition, about which the NY Times Book Review wrote: “Moving and mysterious, the poems in Ford’s first collection possess the veiled brilliance of stained glass windows seen at night.”

And we're willing to bet John Shelby Spong never referred to you as "young, vibrant, evocative and brilliant." He certainly never called us that, so we're pretty darned stoked that Katie has agreed to judge our contest.

Check back for an interview with her later this month. Between now and then, order up your copy of Deposition for a glimpse at a remarkable young poet on the ascent.

Also check out the RMR
website for our chapbook contest guidelines, complete with a fabulous array of new perks: a larger honorarium ($500!), a stand-alone limited edition version of the winning manuscript, and an all-expenses-paid visit to Birmingham to read at the release of RMR3!

And -- oh yeah -- to quote David Byrne, the entry fee's the
same as it ever was: Nothing! Zero! Zilch! Nada! If you ask us, there ain't a better chapbook deal around.

Read More......