My favorite task as a publisher-poet is editing our books. Editing is really a kind of Ur-reading for me, a process where I am both reader and writer, and I love it for what it teaches me about both. In the past when I hadn’t been writing new poems, I thought I’d be embarrassingly rusty when I wrote again, but I’ve been surprised to learn that I’m most often not. I finally realized why. It’s because good editing, for me, is writing: to get far enough into another poet’s sensibility and technique to effectively suggest edits is to operate from the same creative impulse as I do when writing new work.

The wide range of poetic styles we publish, from Liz Waldner to Frank Gaspar to Anne Marie Macari to Donald Revell to Lesle Lewis to Brian Turner, et al, has meant that in some sense I have had to teach myself to write like all of these authors. My goal is always to try to edit poets the way they would edit themselves if they could see their work more objectively, and this means finding a way to fall in love with each author’s work, if I’m not in love already. Sometimes it means overcoming my own resistance, sometimes my affinities.

On a technical level, I am less able to allow myself to excuse or ignore weaknesses in my own work, because I’ve so often criticized the same weaknesses in others. I have also learned that despite being an editor, I continue to benefit from having editors. Perhaps it’s possible to get outside one’s own head, but I can’t claim to have done it.

On a more spiritual level, I’ve learned to appreciate not just poetry, but poets I might not have befriended otherwise. Learning to appreciate a sensibility seemingly alien to my own has taught me an old lesson: that no one is as alien as I might think at first. It’s also made me both more sure of who I am as a poet and more willing to experiment. It gives me regular glimpses of who I might be, or am…as Lynda Hull wrote in “The Window”: “If each of us / contains, within, humankind’s totality, each possibility / then I have been so fractured, so multiple & dazzling / stepping towards myself . . .” a regular reminder for me to “dwell in possibility” (Dickinson).

Originally Published: May 24th, 2006

April Ossmann is the author of the poetry collections Anxious Music (Four Way Books, 2007) and Event Boundaries (Four Way Books, 2017). She has published her poetry widely in journals and anthologies, including Colorado Review, Harvard Review, New England Review, and From the Fishouse (Persea Books, 2009). Her poetry awards...