SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
Constance Brewer: We wanted to fill a niche between magazines that are associated with colleges and universities, and the experimental magazines out there. There’s a lot of poets that don’t comfortably fit in either realm, but still produce great work. We love poetry and want to share that love with our readers. It’s so exciting to dig into the slush pile and find those gems.
Kathleen Cassen Mickelson: Constance and I already knew that we worked together well from having been on the staff at Every Day Poets for several years. I agree that there’s plenty of room for non-academic poetry journals that seek to present contemporary verse to the general public for their reading pleasure. Poetry does not have to be so esoteric that it puts readers off or makes them feel like they need higher education to participate. But it does have to be crafted well enough that it stretches ideas about what poetry can be, that it engages readers, and may comment on current events in a thoughtful way. Gyroscope Review can offer that. I love staying connected to a variety of poets in this way.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
CB: Is it engaging - Does the poem invite me in and draw me through to the end? Is there attention to the use of language - love of words and the ability to use them to build the poem? Is there something in the poem that draws me back to read it again - does it tell me a story in some way, shape or form?
KCM: I look for the twist of ordinary life, the way poetry can elevate experience toward a deeper understanding or appreciation of whatever that experience represents. A love of words is essential, but overwriting to the point of obscurity will put me right off. Don’t be a show-off; be clear in your language. And risk telling a truth that gets you in trouble.
SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?
CB: The mundane. Mundane imagery, mundane word choice, mundane presentation. A poem that hasn’t been edited and honed down to essentials loses my interest. We receive some obvious rough drafts. Be patient, put the poem away a while, go back and edit it some more. Craft it like you would a diamond. This is what magazines mean when they say “Send us your best work”.
KCM: Yes, I agree. Sloppiness - and that includes submissions with typos - makes me crazy. Poetry isn’t something you can just dash off. It’s a thoughtful piece of literature, a gem that has many facets - to play on Constance’s comment about craft. Each facet must be considered. Other things that turn me off are childish rhyme, overt sentimentality, and exclamation points. If a poet has to use an exclamation point, there better be a damn good reason why the language isn’t doing the job on its own.
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?
CB: Only if a submission was very close. I enjoy discussing the mechanics of poetry - our goal is to make the poem the best it can be. We don’t mind engaging in a dialogue with a poet, but if all they want to do is argue or name call - that’s not cool. Don’t be that person.
KCM: Right. We’re not going to provide comments on the poems we reject because there’s simply too many. That would be an enormous amount of work and not everyone wants that anyway. But thoughtful dialogue with an eye to creating better work is always welcome.
SQF: What are a few magazines/e-zines that you read regularly?
CB: 32 Poems, Rattle, The Linnet’s Wings, American Poetry Review, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, The Kenyon Review, Tin House, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Strange Horizons to name a few. I try to read a variety of newspapers every day to keep up with what’s going on in the world. I look for copies of literary journals in bookstores to buy and expand my horizons.
KCM: I subscribe to Rattle, Poetry, Boston Review, Creative Nonfiction, The New York Review of Books, and The Sun. I have a bunch of random issues of various small and literary journals from this year’s AWP conference that I still have to peruse. And I read all kinds of other stuff. There is so much out there to read that it’s hard to narrow my selection of reading material down to any manageable size.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
Do you charge a submission fee?
CB: No, we don’t. We understand why other magazines do it, but we decided not to go that route. We’d like to eventually become a paying market for our poets, that’s our long term goal, along with a print edition for those that like a tangible.
What if a simultaneous submission gets accepted elsewhere?
KCM: Professional courtesy around simultaneous submissions is something I wish more writers would pay attention to. If a piece is accepted elsewhere, please tell us immediately so we don’t waste time considering it further. Everyone scrambles to find time to do the work that needs to be done in this business. Don’t be the writer that waits until we’ve accepted your work to say, oh, by the way….someone else already accepted this and I forgot to tell you. We’re going to remember you if you do that.
Thank you, Constance and Kathleen. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.