SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
R. L. Black: Like so many journal editors, I am a writer myself. I started out writing flash fiction, and I looked into experimental forms to enhance my writing. Somewhere along the way, I was introduced to the prose poem, and also to the haibun, and it was love at first sight. I revisited some of my flash fiction pieces and turned them into prose poems and I was delighted with the result, but when I began to submit these pieces I found there were not a lot of markets out there for the prose poem or for the haibun. There’s a few, but not many. So, I saw a need that I wanted to help fill, and that is why I started unbroken.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
RLB: I look for the unlineated form that we like at Unbroken, because this is what we publish. That’s not to say that we won’t look at poetry with line breaks. I look at everything that comes in, but I only publish the unlineated form. Sometimes I get a piece in that I really like, but it’s lined, and I’ll give the author the option of revising it to fit the block form that we publish.
I look for compelling imagery and language, because a prose poem is still a poem, and the best of them utilize poetic elements and techniques.
I look for work that in some way surprises me or makes me look at something in a different way, something that I will remember for a long time after I read it. I guess this is a personal thing, but as a reader, that’s what I like for a piece to do for me.
SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?
RLB: Foul language that is not organic to the piece. If it fits with the tone and the mood of the piece, that’s awesome, but if it’s clearly only there for the shock value, I will most likely pass on it.
Also, when I see a piece with lots of typos and grammar problems, it makes me feel like the author didn’t care enough to polish their work before sending it in. Doesn’t mean I won’t consider it, but it does kind of start things off on the wrong foot.
SQF: The pieces in your first issue are all short. Is there a maximum word count you prefer?
RLB: I don’t have a maximum word count. I think prose poems and haibun tend to be shorter, but I have seen some that are several pages long.
SQF: If Unbroken had a theme song, what would it be and why?
RLB: “Simply the Best” by Tina Turner, because for me, prose poetry is the best and, like the song says, "... I hang on every word ... "
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
RLB: Two, actually:
What the heck is a prose poem? That’s been the subject of many a heated debate. Some even say there is no such thing as a prose poem. My answer is that a prose poem is a poem in prose form. It’s a poem disguised as prose. Peter Johnson defined it best when he said that, “…the prose poem plants one foot in prose, the other in poetry, both heels resting precariously on banana peels.”
What the heck is a haibun? It’s a prose poem, with a haiku at the end.
Thank you, R. L. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 4/17—Six Questions for R. M. Cooper, Founder & Managing Editor, Sequestrum