Friday, September 11, 2020

Six Questions for Sarah Law, Editor-in-Chief, Amethyst Review

Amethyst Review publishes poems of any length, and fiction and nonfiction to 2,000 words. "We ask that your work engages in some way with spirituality or the sacred. This is not so much a place for proselytizing, but for thoughtful and respectful inquiry." Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Sarah Law: I have long been interested in the connections between spirituality, the sacred, and writing. I'm primarily a poet, but not exclusively so, and I wanted to set up a journal that catered for a range of genres and approaches. There are already some wonderful magazines and journals that engage in these areas, such as Image, Saint Katherine Review, Ruminate and Relief, and some lovely online sites such as Soul-Lit and Psaltery & Lyre, but I wasn't aware of any online journal run from the UK that specialised in new writing engaging with the sacred. 

I also liked the idea of a free-to-access site that publishes such work on a rolling basis, even daily. So I set up Amethyst Review along these lines. I like purple, and amethyst is a crystal with spiritual connotations, hence the title. 

I definitely wanted to publish good quality writing, work that shows awareness of contemporary literary and cultural contexts. Also, I was approaching a milestone birthday, and I suppose I thought I'd better get on with it! I'm really glad I did. I'm delighted to be contributing a platform for so many thoughtful contemporary writers, and have made some really rewarding connections too.

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

SL: Freshness of image, language and voice – though not necessarily free verse.

A nuanced engagement with spirituality and the sacred from any tradition(s) or none. 

Sincerity of approach, although I do think this can range from bleakness to hilarity. 

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

SL: Poor literary quality – clichés, relentless and obvious rhymes, sentimentality, and grammar/spelling errors. 

Work that might be very well-written but doesn't engage with spirituality and the sacred.

I'm not keen on work that unthinkingly uses male pronouns as generic, or stories that exclusively feature active male characters and no, or only subsidiary and passive, female characters. 

I would never accept work I deem offensive to any community. This doesn't mean I only take safe subjects and pretty styles. There's a difference between risk-taking honesty and crass offensiveness. 

There's no need to explain a poem's meaning at length in a cover letter, or to provide a long list of accomplishments and publications in the biographical note. A brief friendly hello and a succinct third person bio would be much better.

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

SL: A direct, fresh, focused start is generally what I look for. I like specificity of settings, sensory images and other details. Having said that, it's not always easy to say exactly what catches the eye in a strong poem. Avoiding generalities and clichés, unless very cleverly subverted, is always a good idea. 

SQF: What kinds of submissions would you like to see more of?

SL: I'd like to see more innovative and experimental poetry and prose that engages with the sacred. I read and write a really broad range of poetry, including formal, lyric, and innovative verse, and would like to present a wide range of poetics in Amethyst Review. I'm interested in how poetic language can be stretched and interrogated as part of the quest for spiritual expression. 

I'd also like to see more short essays on what writing and the sacred means to individual contributors. 

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

SL: What are your future plans for Amethyst Review?

I'd like to produce some anthologies – online and in print.

I'm also considering publishing some pamphlets and longer manuscripts.

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

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