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Interview With Black Ocean Poetry Editor Carrie Olivia Adams
H&W: How do your poets fit into the mission of Black Ocean? Writers in general?
COA: Black Ocean was born with the hope of bringing publishing and promotion together—believing that the best marketing tool for a book is often the poet themselves—and the poets who have published with us have embraced this, eagerly setting up readings and often touring together. Black Ocean is run by poets and the poets we publish are essential to what we do. We also have a great love of fiction, artists’ books, and other genres, and we do hope to broaden our publishing plan in the future.
H&W: What are you looking for when perusing for poetry to publish?
COA: I want to read something new—something that asks me to reconsider how I’ve looked at the world or myself or language—but it must ask me sincerely and not just as a ploy for my attention. I want to read something that challenges me. It must be well-crafted. It must embody a particular attention to detail—in form or syntax or word choice. A lot of young writers are inspired by the books we have published already—which is fantastic. But we are looking for books that fit into the tone and style of our list, without mimicking it.
H&W: Are most of the published collections of poetry solicited or unsolicited?
COA: It’s about half and half right now. We try to publish at least one manuscript from our open reading each year—something unsolicited and perhaps from someone we’ve never encountered before. There’s a certain pleasure in the hidden gem. But we also solicit work from writers we admire, and we are dedicated to the poets we have already published. If they have a new manuscript, we always like to consider it and keep them as a part of the Black Ocean family if we can.
H&W: What are the most important things for a writer to remember when submitting their work?
COA: The standard advice is still the truest advice—don’t expect to have your books published by a publisher whose books you haven’t read. Always be familiar with a publisher’s list; it’s the only way to know whether your poems might fit into their publishing aesthetic. Also, do send your work out for publication in journals. Previous publication credits don’t determine whether or not we’ll publish a manuscript, but it may help you to gauge whether your manuscript is ready for publication. I feel like so many people have great potential but they are just not ready—don’t send out your manuscript just to say you’re participating in the process—spend some time living with the manuscript, living with the poems, and making sure they are exactly how you want them before you release them into the world. Finally, do not resend a manuscript that was declined in the past unless its nearly unrecognizable—it’s a waste of everyone’s time, especially at Black Ocean, which does not have changing judges.
Keep up the good work, Oceanographers.