Friday, July 28, 2017

Six Questions for R. L. Black, Editor-in-Chief, Unbroken

Unbroken is a quarterly online journal that seeks to showcase poetic prose, the prose poem, and the haibun. Read the complete guidelines here.

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 were a few at that time, 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?


Compelling imagery and language: a prose poem is still a poem, and the best of them utilize poetic elements and techniques.

Voice: I like quirky stuff, and 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 want the work to resonate with me.

Beyond that, I look for work that fits in with our journal, work that reads like it belongs there. Which is why it's important to read the journals you're submitting to.

SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

RLB: 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.

Also, when it's obvious that the author didn't at least take the time to read the guidelines, or even familiarize themselves with what we publish. We do not publish flash fiction, for example, but we get a lot of it in our submissions.

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 by default. That being said, I do love shorter, punchier pieces. I will, and have, published longer work, but if it goes over 500 words or so, it needs to be something I can't live without.

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.” If I could go back, I would have named the journal Banana Peels. Prose poetry is not flash fiction. Flash fiction tells a complete story, prose poetry does not.

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.

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