Join the Conversation at Poetry East

This guest-post is from graduate assistant and MAWP student Andrew McNamara. As associate editor for Poetry East, Andrew has learned a lot about poetry this quarter. Read on to learn more about the journal.

Admittedly, I’m no poet. I know Ezra Pound from James Dickey, and like most, I’ve read Maya Angelou. But I’m not intimately familiar with the world of modern poetry, its poets, or the myriad of journals dedicated to the craft.

But somehow I find myself working every day, up to my elbows in poetry, and loving it.

My renewed (if it ever existed in the first place) passion for poetry can be attributed to, in large part, Richard Jones and Poetry East. A well published poet, Jones’s enthusiasm for accessible, universal poetry is infectious, and that fervor is apparent when flipping through the pages of any number of issues of Poetry East, the bi-annual journal Jones founded thirty years ago and still edits to this day.

I arrived at Poetry East with a background working in book publishing, and I’d never heard of the journal before accepting the graduate assistantship as its associate editor. Several months later, after reading countless submissions, digesting past issues of Poetry East, and listening to Jones passionately discuss poems and poetry, I find myself privy to a conversation between poetry and the world that’s been going on for thirty years. A conversation I was unaware of until now. One concerning, among other things, politics, paintings, snapshots, and love poems.

Before arriving at Poetry East, I was both anxious and eager to begin work with a form of writing I knew little about. I’ve never written poetry, aside from a few attempts in an introductory undergraduate creative writing course, and I don’t regularly read poems. But I’m always keen on adding diversity to my background in publishing, strengthening it in the process. I see working at Poetry East as a challenging and rewarding way to achieve just that.

I’m fortunate that my previous experience in the technical side of publishing (laying out books—designing and styling interiors, laying out covers, etc.) made for a relatively painless transition. However, a large portion of my time, in addition to researching and planning new issues, is reserved for reading submissions to the journal. Poetry East receives hundreds, if not thousands, of submitted poems each year—many from acclaimed poets. A daily average of five to fifteen poems finds their way to our mailbox. And, as odd as it still sometimes feels, I’m responsible for providing my opinion of them.

But thanks to Jones’s encouragement, I’ve developed my own voice in the dialogue.

It’s also exciting to be involved with such an established, well received publication. Initially conceived as a ten-issue journal, Poetry East is celebrating its 30th anniversary in the spring of 2011 with its seventieth issue. In the past, the journal’s received much acclaim, and it was described by Choice as “one of the best current journals of poetry,” and ranked by London’s Poetry Review as one of the top twenty literary journals in the United States.

For those who’ve read and enjoyed Poetry East in the past, I’m delighted to join your ranks, and I look forward to having a hand in future issues. And for those who’ve never browsed the pages of the journal, I invite you to pick up a copy and join us in the conversation.



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