Friday, April 16, 2021

Six Questions for Youngseo Lee, Editor-in-Chief, Pollux Journal

Pollux publishes literary submissions to 15 pages, and non-literary works (visual art, film, music, etc.). “As a literary journal dedicated to multilinguality, Pollux seeks to be home both to work that are multilingual themselves (written in two or more languages, including English) or centered around multilinguality (work in English that is about being or learning to become multilingual).” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Youngseo Lee: Long story short, I wanted to curate a space for the type of work that I wanted to see. When I tried to research multilingual literature while trying to write my own, I found that it’s really hard to find any out there. Most bilingual/multilingual work that I found were either side-by-sides of the same piece in different languages, and the websites I came across were only dedicated to bilingual literature concerning only one non-English language, when I wanted to learn more about the mechanics, limitations, and beauty of moving across languages, especially those that aren’t written in the Latin alphabet. It seemed to me that the logical thing to do from here was to create the space that I wished existed! There’s this convoluted metaphor that I’ve told my editors: pretend that you’re at an art museum and you walk into a special exhibition, and it’s about horses, but there’s so many different types of art about horses, from little clay horses from prehistoric times to video art about horses. And the horses are all so distinct from each other but are all in the same room because they’re tied together by the common theme of horses. That’s kind of what I imagine for Pollux — rather than having a set vibe or tone, I want to be continuously surprised by what more can be done with language and multilinguality.

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

YL: As a lit mag dedicated to multilinguality, it’s perhaps a little obvious that multilinguality must be at the core of any submissions. We want multilinguality to exist within the pieces in thoughtful ways, interacting with the subject matter at hand with intention. Specifically with pieces that are multilingual themselves (as opposed to only about multilinguality), we often find ourselves asking “Why is this specific part in a different language? What does the multilinguality add to this piece?” and if we can’t think of a good enough answer, we usually pass up on the piece. This isn’t to say that every segment of multilinguality must have a super profound reason behind it; after all, “I think in a jumble of languages” is a perfect reason to write a story that is a jumble of languages! However, at the end of the day, we want to see work that feels like it simply had to exist in its multilingual form.

On a similar note, we value intention in the language and form as well. No matter how interesting a piece is from a multilingual perspective, it just doesn’t work if the writing is not fleshed out to its maximum. Especially with poems, we want to feel that the piece is fully utilizing the poetic form and language.

Last but definitely not least, we want fresh takes! I’m careful to say this, knowing that a lot of our submissions concern language’s relationship with heritage and diaspora, and I would hate to discourage literature about these topics. I am of course aware that dismissing nonwhite narratives is a function of white supremacy within the publishing world. That being said, though, Pollux wants to make space for the nuances and variety in people’s experiences with multilinguality, and we prioritize works that explore beyond the conventional, dominant narratives of language.

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

YL: We don’t consider any submissions that are not (1) multilingual or (2) in English and about multilinguality. However, I don’t think there’s anything that particularly turns us off to submissions that do fit our guidelines!

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

YL: We want to have a solid grasp of the emotion that is to be discussed. Of course, we’re not looking for a thesis statement or anything formal like that, but we want a good preview of the vibes that will be put forth in the rest of the piece. Works that spend too much time building up the momentum to get to its core just aren’t as much fun. 

SQF: If Pollux had a theme song, what would it be and why?

YL: Hollywood” by The Black Skirts. There’s no real reason, I just really like the song.

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

YL: I’d love to talk about the types of submissions we want to see more of in the future! Here’s a thread of some of our staff’s suggestions. To add onto it, we’d love to see more multimedia and prose in general, because our first issue was heavily concentrated in poetry. Personally, I’d be super interested in video essays or creative nonfiction from translators’ or language teachers’ perspectives. And any pieces that deal with the geopolitics and/or history of a language or dialect (including dialects of English!) are always more than welcome. We want to be surprised: we want to expand our understanding of language and move beyond the conventional narratives of our relationships with it. Even if you don’t think that your work is really Pollux’s vibe, send it over! Perhaps our vibe will learn to encompass yours.

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

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