Editors Talk Poetry Acceptances: Cass Garison, Poetry Editor of Five South
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 the Cass Garison, Poetry Editor of Five South.
From a craft standpoint, what causes you to accept a poem?
Cass Garison: I’m particularly attracted to poems with vivid and unique language, strong line breaks, and some sort of momentum or energy that I can feel through the page. A title/strong first line is a huge thing for me too, if you have me in from the get-go that’s always a good way to start. Although am also a fan of a slowly unfurling poem. I guess its poem by poem basis, but above all am looking for the energy behind the craft of a poem.
What advice do you have for new poets who are submitting work?
I would say to submit work that excites you, that you’re compelled to see in the world, that you keep coming back to and want to read again and again yourself. Poems that you love the way you love your favorite poem by another poet.
If there were one craft technique that you wish poets would focus on, what would it be?
As I said before, I’m a sucker for strong/striking line breaks, so definitely line breaks that rethink and allow the reader to rethink the meaning of a line, add a dual-meaning. Am also into an extended metaphor that is returned to and continually built up as well as vivid, luscious, often extravagant imagery. Above all, I look for a sort of lyricism, or, on the other hand, an intentional and compelling revolt against lyricism.
How many rejections have you faced and how do you deal with them?
As a writer and person, a ton of rejections, so many I can’t keep count. So many I never bothered to start counting. How I grapple: I like too have a lot of lines out at the same time, knowing I have other things that I’m waiting on or that might come back fruitful always helps me move on from the rejections at hand. But also letting myself feel those rejections, sit in that disappointment for a moment and processing that small grief.
Does your publication seek out specific styles or aesthetics of poetry that writers submitters should know about?
We like work that pushes and presses on boundaries, that questions certain ways of thinking that may be considered canonical or normative. I personally lean toward work about illness, about queerness, about experiencing the exceptional or supernatural (not necessarily in a ghosty sense but maybe in a ghosty sense) in the natural. Work that forces me to see something or feel something differently or grapples with a harsh reality in the broad sense of the word reality. In Lucie Brock-Broido’s book, “Trouble in Mind,” she uses Wallace Steven’s phrase “the Ever” to describe where poetry comes from. I like poetry that comes from the Ever; whatever that means to you.
What book of poetry/craft would you always recommend to new poets?
Oooo okay so many poetry book recommendations. The authors I keep coming back to these days are Lucie Brock-Broido, Cameron Awkward-Rich, Ai and H.D.. By the first, “Stay, Illusion” or “Trouble in Mind.” By the second, of course the new book, Dispatch, but also definitely his first book, Sympathetic Little Monster. I’ve been coming back to Ai a lot as well, and in terms of her I would definitely recommend Vice or Fate. H.D., am on the collected works right now and would recommend that.
(your own question if you think there’s an especially helpful one we missed!)
I guess a question that could be helpful would be what I’m looking forward to about our next issue, but this could be just because I’m in the thick of editing/preparing issue two and looking forward to it a lot. Its coming out on March 23. On the poetry side, we have work from Ally Ang, Ashia Ajani, Lip Manegio, Despy Boutris, Louisa Fenichell, Angela Wei, and Chloé Allyn. All of their work is so striking. Eco-poetry and trans sex in the bathroom poetry and ghosts and Orphean songs and poems about heartache and embodiment. Our prose section is going to be pretty rad too, particularly looking forward to the stories we’re putting out by Lucy Zhang and Tommy Dean. God I’m looking forward to this issue launching.
Cass Garison is a queer poet and MFA student at the University of Washington who has work published in RiverStyx, Washington Square Review, Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art Online, Nimrod International, Salamander, Foglifter, & others. They are also the recipient of the 2019 Frontier-Antioch Fellowship, a member of the poetry collective Eat Yr Manhood, and the poetry editor for FiveSouth.
Jose Hernandez Diaz
Jose Hernandez Diaz is a 2017 NEA Poetry Fellow. He is from Southern California. He is the author of The Fire Eater (Texas Review Press, 2020). His work appears in The American Poetry Review, Boulevard, The Cincinnati Review, Georgia Review, Iowa Review, The Nation, Poetry and in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2011. Currently, he is an Associate Editor at Frontier and Guest Editor at Palette Poetry.