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Andrew Feld & Pimone Triplett: Journal, Day Three

By Andrew Feld

In today’s post I’d planned to discuss my editorial models and ambitions for Seattle Review, but this will have wait until Friday (although I will address some editorial concerns and ideas today) owning to a certain derailment in our lives. We all flew into Houston last Wednesday, to spend a few days here reading at the University of Houston and conferencing with graduate students. We were supposed to fly out on Sunday, but Saturday afternoon our two-year old, Lukas, started saying “ear hurt: feel better soon?” and after hearing that a couple times we took him to the Clear Lake ER, where it seemed to be power-tool accident night (lots of guys with hands wrapped in bloody towels). The doctor diagnosed Lukas as having an ear infection, and said he couldn’t fly until Tuesday afternoon at the absolute earliest, because the cabin pressure could rupture his ear drum. So we had to reschedule our flight, and make all sorts of emergency revisions.

Lukas got the all-clear (or the clear-enough-to-fly) today, and as a reward for being miserable, achy, and examined and injected by strangers, we took him to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, where they have the world’s greatest butterfly room. They also have a fossil of a Giant Sloth, or Mylodon, which features prominently in Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia, a book I’m teaching in my Travel Writing class this quarter. For some reason I thought the Mylodon was the size of a large bear, but it actually was the size of a standing-up elephant, with hips big as a sideways refrigerator. An impressive beast, especially when you picture it covered with reddish hair—no wonder Chatwin obsessed.

It also seems funny to be posting on poetryfoundation.org the week that Dana Goodyear’s New Yorker skewering of the Foundation came out. I won’t add my voice to the irate chorus quoted in her article, but there is an easy solution to all this antagonism: Poetry Foundation Grants to journals and small presses. Think what Flood Editions, or Ugly Duckling Presse, or The Threepenny Review, or No or Seattle Review could do with $25,000 or $50,000. As it is now, almost all the grants available to literary organizations are project specific: the funds needed for daily and yearly operational expenses (office supplies, printing costs, author payments and tours, staff support, advertisements, and on and on) are raised by sales, contests, begging, borrowing, and, if you’re lucky, by institutional (University) assistance. In truth, most presses and journals run on manic energy and long hours put in by a small, intensely dedicated un-or underpaid core staff. There’s a lot to be said for this model, but it tends to have a high burn-out rate. If the Poetry Foundation became the benefactor of America’s small presses and literary journals, there would be an groundswell of support and gratitude towards the Foundation which could only help it in its other endeavors.

In a comment to my first post Jose Reyes asked about the role translation—particularly from underrepresented languages—plays in my editorial vision, a question which provides a good jumping-off point for a few quick Seattle Review editorial policies.

Anyone who is in the privileged position of having a literary review to run is immediately, or should be immediately, daunted by the number of first-rate and exciting literary journals out there now—and the number of new ones constantly starting up. This is a very healthy time for the American literary journal, and this plenitude forces each editor to determine how their journal will distinguish itself from the others, what it will represent. This dilemma is avoided if the editor comes from, and wants the journal to represent, a particular literary community, but since that isn’t the case with the Seattle Review, here are some of my core Seattle Review decisions:

I want the Seattle Review to be interesting to the “general literary review reader,” without using that term in a way that condescends to or underestimates the intelligence of the reader. For example, I think that most readers of literary journals are open to, and familiar with, contemporary theory and philosophy.

Instead of publishing one or two poems by 30 or 40 poets, the Seattle Review will publish five or six poems (or pages of poems: we love long poems) by 20 or so poets, to give readers a chance to spend time with the poets represented.

We will publish features on poets, which combine work by that poet with interviews and essays written by other poets—essays which can be as theoretical or as plain-spoken (or as plain-spokenly theoretical) as their authors want. This means that is the case of translations, we will publish features on international artists with translations by a variety of poets, and essays by poets on the featured poet. My model would be something like the recent Ugly Duckling Mandlestam chapbook (if you don’t know it and love Mandelstam, you owe it to yourself to own it right away), with essays by the translators.

I want the Seattle Review to be local, national, and international.

More on my editorial ambitions, and the ideas behind them, on Friday.


Posted in Uncategorized on Wednesday, February 14th, 2007 by Andrew Feld.