Friday, November 17, 2023

Six Questions for Willem Doherty, Editor, Concord Ridge

Concord Ridge publishes poetry to 40 lines, visual art, and photography. Each issue contains six poems, one photograph and one piece of visual art. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Willem Doherty: It really all comes back to the form. In the summer of 2023, I started an internship at Chillsubs, the online submissions aggregator, which was and is—I still work for them—a wonderful experience for me. That internship got me familiar with a wide breadth of literary magazines, who were all doing different things with their format. I started to think about what I could bring to the table. I have a background in copy editing and Adobe InDesign, specifically working in newspaper formats. I had heard of broadsheet format magazines, and I began to think about what my take on that would look like. And, once I started mocking it up and really looking into the printing process, that’s when it jumped from pipe dream idea to a real, actionable thing.

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


  1. Timelessness. This is a weird one, and very hard to describe with words, but I know it when I see it. When I say timeless, I don’t mean a story without modern elements—a work I consider timeless can still have a cell phone in it. A timeless poem is something that appeals to the basic senses, that transcends the zeitgeist and has deep roots in the human experience.

  2. Eloquence: To me, poetry is about fitting the most meaning into the least words. So, as an author, you should always be looking to distill more, make higher-proof poetry. One thing that’s a huge poison to that is common turns of phrase, idioms, and general clunkiness.

  3. Format-Fit: As an editor, I’m always looking for work that fits our form. We are especially unique in our limited space, and as a result, we have to take into consideration technical things, like line length and kerning. As I’m reading something, I’m always thinking about how we’re going to fit it on the page. Are we going to have to ask the writer to cut a couple of lines? Is this poem literally too long for our magazine? Could we put this into two columns? We only publish twelve poems a year—if you’re in that special club, we want your poem to look perfect on the page, and that process starts from our very first reading.

SQF: What most turns you off to a Submission?

WD: I never want to read something that’s paint by numbers. As a person, sometimes it's hard to understand that the vast majority of our experiences are not particularly unique. A writer’s job is to pick out those moments of bespoke experience and capture them for everyone to view. What is special about your voice and view that you have to share with the world? Everyone has an answer, they just need to find it.

A special caution to young writers—when I was a kid, I had a habit of assuming that, when I discovered a new feeling or a way of being, I was the first one to discover it. Obviously, that was not the case, and a lot of my writing from that time comes off as derivative or immature. Writing stuff like that is part of your journey as a writer, and you shouldn’t feel bad about that! But it’s something to be aware of.

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

WD: Running a lit mag is a numbers game. We try to give every submission its due, but we’re naturally drawn to stuff that catches the eye. That means innovative use of language/syntax, a strong voice, and striking images, as well as everything we talked about before. If you give us something we love, we’ll run with it.

SQF: Are there any genres/topics you’d like to see more of (or less) in the submissions you receive?

WD: I’m always looking for more formal poetry! I’m not a stickler for rules, but I really do believe that, in writing, constraints breed creativity. Honestly, if you want to instantly up your chances of getting published in Concord Ridge, send us a villanelle or a sestina! Formal poems have a soft spot in my heart, plain and simple.

As a corollary to that—poetry, like I said, is about distillation. A lot of free-verse poetry respects that rule, but there is also a tendency to run long, to use five words when you really only need one. I have nothing against prose-poetry, but if you’re going to go that route, make every word count.

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

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