Editors Talk Poetry Acceptances: Anthony Frame, Glass Poetry
As a platform for emerging poets, our mission is to provide practical help for serious writers. The community lifts itself up together or not at all. In that light, we’ve been asking some great editors from around the literary community for their frank thoughts on why poems may get accepted/rejected from their own slush pile of submissions, and what poets can do to better their chances. Today, we’re speaking with Anthony Frame, Editor in Chief of Glass Poetry.
From a craft standpoint, what causes you to accept a poem?
Anthony Frame: This is a really difficult question to answer because each poem is coming at us with its own rhetoric and, as a reader and as an editor, I try to honor that individual rhetoric. Now, at the same time, I have specific tastes and there is certainly an editorial aesthetic at Glass, even if it’s an aesthetic I fight against in order to approach each poem on its own merits. I’d say that the most important thing, for me, is a poem that understands itself and isn’t afraid to follow its own internal rhetoric.
If there were one craft technique that you wish poets would focus on, what would it be?
Anthony Frame: Again, this feels like a really individualized question, one that each poet would have their own techniques to consider based on their needs and interests. And I’m someone who thinks everyone can benefit from occasionally stretching their various poetic muscles. I see a lot of young poets who are really good at understanding the persona of their work but who might want to look more closely at the music of their lines and young poets who are in the opposite position and young poets who are everywhere in between.
Personally, I’m in in the sonics of a poem and in a strong sense of how the poetic line works. But that is probably because those are two aspects of my own poetry that I work on the most.
If I’m asked advice about what a poet should be thinking about with their work, I tend to tell them to look at other poets, especially maybe a poet whose work they don’t like but who other poets they admire seem to like. Read those poets and study those poets. This has helped me because I don’t get distracted by falling into the work (since it isn’t my personal cup of tea) but I can also feel confident that there’s valuable lessons in the work because it is the cup of tea of people who I admire.
How many rejections have you faced and how do you deal with them?
Anthony Frame: Oh, wow. Yeah. Thousands. I’ve been actively submitting for almost two decades so, yeah, I’ve racked up my fair share of rejection letters. And, look, every one of them stings a little. I think it’s important to acknowledge and honor that. We talk a lot about having a thick skin in this business, and I’ll talk about that too in a minute, but I think we also need to admit that every time we send out our work, we hope it will be accepted for publication and we think it is good enough to be accepted for publication so when it isn’t accepted, that stings.
Obviously, it’s important to always remember that just because a poem is not accepted, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t acceptable – there are a million reasons why a poem won’t get picked that have nothing to do with the poem itself. Remembering that is always important. Having that thickness of skin to not take a rejection letter personally is vital to sustaining yourself as an active submitter.
But, the best thing I can say about submission and rejection is to talk about what we do before we are submitting a poem. As writers, we need to think about why we are writing – is it to see our names in print? Is it to explore ideas and language? Is it to begin a conversation with other writers and readers? Etc? There’s no right or wrong answer here and the answer will be different for each poet.
Kurt Vonnegut said to write for one person. If you open a window, he used to tell his students, and try to make love to the world, your story will get pneumonia. I don’t write for the editors I’m submitting to. So, if my poem isn’t their cup of tea, well, that’s okay. I also don’t write *for* publication. That’s not my ultimate goal. My mentor, Rane Arroyo, used to say that publishing is easy – it’s easy to see what’s hot and copy it. It’s harder to hone your voice and style but that harder work is what creates a career, rather than just a moment of success. So, I keep these things in mind when I submit. Rejection still stings, but this seems to help.
Does your publication seek out specific styles or aesthetics of poetry that writers submitters should know about?
Anthony Frame: Not really. Like I said in the earlier questions, I really try to approach each submission on its own terms. That leads me to enjoying (and accepting) a wide variety of voices and styles. Basically, if I like a poem, I’ll publish it. It doesn’t matter to me if it is a lyric-based poem, a narrative-based poem, a confessional or a persona, a L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poem, etc. Just send your work that is *your* work. I’m interested in voices so, really, that’s what I’m looking for more than anything else.
What book of poetry / craft would you always recommend to new poets?
Anthony Frame: There’s a few. Stephen Dobyns has a pair of great books, Best Words, Best Order and Next Word, Better Order, which I think are fantastic. The essays are clear, detailed, and pretty approachable even for newer writers. And they’re full of fantastic sample poems. I also really like Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux’s The Poet’s Companion, which is, for good reason, pretty much the standard contemporary text for poets. David Citino has a great collection of essays by poets called The Eye of the Poet. It’s a little more advanced but the knowledge in these essays is outstanding. And The University of Michigan has a series of books called Poets on Poetry with selections from some of the contemporary giants of our art form that I cannot recommend enough. And though it’s not really a craft book, I think there are a lot of valuable ideas in Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet.
But the best book/advice I can give in this regard is just to read. Read voraciously. Read everything you can get your hands on. Read for enjoyment, yes, but also read as a student. Whatever you are reading, have those two parts of yourself working – enjoyment and study. And it doesn’t have to be poetry only. There’s plenty to learn about character, about tension and conflict, and description, that can be learned from fiction. We can learn about pacing (and, I think, about the function of the line) by studying graphic novels, for example. There’s plenty to learn from everything – billboards, scripts, how a building is laid out. If you’re willing to look and think about how this thing in front of you can help you understand how you want to harness your art, there’s nothing in this world that isn’t a craft book.
Anthony Frame is an exterminator from Toledo, Ohio, where he lives with his wife. He is the author of A Generation of Insomniacs (Main Street Rag Press) and four chapbooks, most recently, Where Wind Meets Wing (Sibling Rivalry Press). He is also the editor of Glass Poetry Press, which publishes The Glass Chapbook Series and Glass: A Journal of Poetry. His work has been featured in The Shallow Ends, Third Coast, Harpur Palate, and Verse Daily, among others. Learn more at www.glass-poetry.com/anthonyframe.html