Friday, June 19, 2020

Six Questions for Michael Meyerhofer, Poetry Editor, Atticus Review

Atticus Review considers previously unpublished poetry, flash fiction to 800 words, fiction and creative nonfiction to 4,000 words, book reviews, interviews, and mixed media. “We tend to like work that makes us think. We like work that toys with genre boundaries. We like subversive. We like heartfelt. We like lyrical. We like enchanting. We like weird. We like dark humor.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?

Michael Meyerhofer: I love a strong opening line. I also love writers who know how to use line breaks to build tension and/or create subtle double-meanings. Craft is something of a lost art these days, but a layered, crafted piece can still move mountains. Lastly, I love a poem that's well-paced--that is, it doesn't waste the reader's time, or give the impression that the writer is perhaps a bit too in love with themselves (an impulse all of us must avoid). There's nothing wrong with quiet moments in poetry (in fact, some of my favorite moments in poetry have a kind of quiet, Zen-like profundity). But as a general rule, don't say something in four lines if you can say it in one. Quick, punchy descriptions work best because they trust the reader to connect the dots. Hmm, I just realized that's probably a lot more than three things...

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

MM: I'm probably most turned off by submissions that, when I read them, give me the feeling that they were written by writers who like to write but hate to read. You have to know your own craft. Reading is great for entertainment and enlightenment, sure, but it's also a vital component to internalizing the lessons of craft and helping you shape and refine your own aesthetic. And for the record, when I started out as a writer, I sent off plenty of bad submissions like that, so learning to take my time and really love/respect what I'm doing is a lesson I had to learn the hard way.

SQF: What do you look for in the opening paragraph(s)/stanza(s) of a submission?

MM: Personally, I like an opening stanza that's punchy and clear, that gives me a distinct image and/or action instead of obfuscating. Life is complicated and reality is a confusing, contradictory mess. Poetry can clarify that (without being too literal and controlling) one slice at a time--especially when the writer internalizes the lessons of craft and kind of writes on autopilot, without gripping the steering wheel too tightly.

SQF: Many editors list erotica, or sex for sex sake, as hard sells. What are hard sells for your publication?

MM: Formal verse is a hard sell for me, simply because so much of it has already been written that in an attempt to do something new with the form, the story and/or the content tend to suffer.  

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it? 

MM: Ha, the etiquette of cover letters! I'm sure this is a minor issue, more of a pet peeve than anything, but the golden rule of cover letters is Do No Harm. I don't want/need a flowery cover letter. Let the poems speak for themselves. But do include a bio if the editor asks for one (we do), and do tell us of it's a simultaneous submission. Beyond that, short and sweet is fine. A three-page cover letter which includes a massive bio listing a dozen publications is pretentious (your bio shouldn't list more than five journal pubs, and only the title of your most recent book, if you have one). But a blank cover letter, or a cover letter that is just your bio, comes across as brusque and a bit disrespectful, in my view.

Thank you, Michael. We all appreciate your taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

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