Editors Talk: Joanna Valente, Editor of Yes, 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 Joanna Valente, Editor of Yes, Poetry.
When and how did “Yes, Poetry” begin?
Joanna Valente: I created it in 2010 as a way to connect to the literary community outside of New York—and largely to a community of artists and writers who don’t fit neatly into the status quo. I bought a URL for the site and it went from there.
Can you talk about the work and writers you publish—any consistent themes, forms, aesthetic qualities, you look for? Feel free to shout out some writers you’ve published here.
I really love work that questions and interrogates gender, sexuality, trauma, relationships, time, existentiality—and just love anything remotely surreal, absurd, ghostly, and subversive. That being said, I also love conversational work. So a lot of the work we publish falls into these categories and tones. Some writers who we have published who do this well are Mark Lamoureux, Teo Mungaray, Ava C. Cipri, Leza Cantoral, Lisa Marie Basile, Jason Koo, Kyndal Thomas, Alejandra Cabezas, and Nardine Taleb.
What advice do you have for new poets who are submitting work?
Read the magazine and get an idea of the aesthetic, but also just be true to yourself. Write your observations and your truths. Just show up as you are.
From a craft standpoint, what typically causes you to accept a poem? What causes you to turn the page and move on to the next poem in Submittable?
I love when poets take risks, even if it seems bizarre or unconventional. I love that. I love when there’s strange punctuation and line breaks. Give me the unexpected. So really, I kind of tend to reject work that I feel like isn’t challenging me or saying something that surprises me – or teaches me.
What have you learned as an editor and writer from working at “Yes, Poetry” for the past few years?
Be empathetic and compassionate and open.
Joanna C. Valente is an alien from Saturn’s rings. They have written, illustrated, and edited a few books. Sometimes they take photos and bake ugly desserts.
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.