SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
Melancholy Hyperbole: We started it out of our own sense of longing: we don't get to immerse ourselves in the business of writing and creativity in our 9-5 jobs, but are very much in denial about that. We knew, being poets ourselves, how many markets are out there already; we weren't going to let that deter us. Some publications will survive, and some won't. The determined ones will last.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
MH: Simplicity, originality, and the gut punch. Bukowski said, "An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way." You know it was a hard thing when you walk away winded, or jealous that you didn't write it yourself. We admire the writer who can say exactly what they need to say without dancing around it. Frankly, we believe this is why our stats reflect a general reader who sticks around to read five or six pieces at a clip; they aren't toiling away to understand the current writing trends, or parsing formatting to decipher meaning, or believing that what's on the page is out of their grasp, and many of the writers we publish have some essential truth to express. We aren't saying there's no merit in "difficult" poetry, or abstract poetry. There most certainly is. It just isn't our preference for our endeavor, or as readers.
SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?
MH: We will enthusiastically join the horde of editors who say that, in terms of etiquette, rudeness is a big one. Not following our guidelines falls under this umbrella. We are very meticulous about sending our own submissions out to publications, so we have zero sympathy for anyone who glosses over our requirements. Don't waste your time and ours by doing this (but especially ours). It says right on the guidelines page that we will reject submissions that don't follow our guidelines (but then, you wouldn't know that if you didn't read them). The poem has to be pretty good to get past that hurdle...but this is not a good way to test how strong your work is. As for the work itself: lack of good proofreading (though we know typos happen, and that's okay); long, meandering sentences that lead nowhere; muddied ideas; unoriginality of language/clichés; and antiquated words. Without intending to hurt anyone's feelings, we have to say that we've seen a fair number of submissions that include words like "maidenhead," "e'en," and "thou." No one talks like that in 2015, or if they do it's at a Ren faire (where it's both appropriate and fun). Also, we don't really want to hear the poet talk about unrequited love...we want them to make us feel what they felt.
SQF: The site has a page of prompts to provide inspiration for poems. I haven’t seen this before. Where did the idea come from?
MH: We're part of writing communities, and we know that poets often thrive on prompts (hence exercises like NaPoWriMo). This is also why we implement themes. We never intended on being a themed publication, but we've found it to be beneficial in two ways: it keeps us visible in the Duotrope weekly newsletter, and it inspires people to submit. We are always open to unthemed submissions as well, however, since we don't want to limit what comes our way.
SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?
MH: We've been reminded exactly how important it is, both as readers and as writers, to pay attention to the integrity of each poem as a whole; a strong line here and there means nothing if what each is surrounded by is less than stellar. As editors, we've learned to fight the urge to accept a poem just because of those one or two lines that make us say YES. And this is unrelated to the writing, but we've certainly realized how difficult it can be to be the editor who reads a really nice cover letter and then decides to reject the submission. That is not our favorite thing, so rest assured that a rejection of your work (usually; see above mentions of rudeness) has nothing to do with how much we like you. That's an important separation to make.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
MH: We suppose it would have to be, "What would you like to see more of?" Our answer would be diversity, both in terms of subject matter and the submitters themselves. We'd like to see more writers of color, as well as more who identify as LGBTQ+, whether or not their poems specifically touch on those aspects of their humanity. We also like to see an even number of male and female poets. Basically, please don't hold back; whoever you are, send us everything. We want to reflect the writing community as a whole, never any one specific segment of it.
Thank you. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.