Thursday, March 25, 2010

Acceptance: Barnwood Poetry Magazine

Every year I have a very special ritual. I take my three best unpublished poems and send them to Barnwood Poetry Magazine, hoping that they are at least worthy of brief attention.

What I really crave, though, is for at least one poem to be my highest achievement, the result of a perfect storm of passion, creativity, skill, and luck. A poem whose genesis alone is worth the nine years I have been toiling away at my craft, producing a draft almost every day. This is what Barnwood deserves, and even then it would be a small jewel in this magazine's treasure trove of excellence.

The legendary status of this journal is due to Editor Tom Koontz. He is a living embodiment of the archetypal literary sage. He has been immersed in word spells at least since 1978, probably longer. His journal (and the press of the same name) has morphed and branched for so long that it is like the journey of a seed into a tree, now large and indomitable, but also the progenitor of rhizomic offshoots stout in themselves.

Accordingly, there are various websites associated with Barnwood. This is partially due to a computer crash in 2007, and yet also the fitful metamorphosis of technology, which at some point crossed the rubicon of paper into the ethereal realm of the internet.

Perhaps the best place to start is the fruit of recent years:

But don’t stop here. Koontz’s philosophy and wisdom have spread over multiple sites (accessible from the above).

For example, if you go back to the 1982 entry, you get a letter from Angela Peckinpaugh describing her study of charms and spells in the forms of poems; and also some early work by that great novelist and poet Marge Piercy.

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Admittedly, some if the information is hard to find; but the search itself is wonderful, as if winding through labyrinthian shelves in a timeless bookstore. A place of shadowy mystique, yet hale with the luster of brilliant writing.

If you go to Barnwood Press, you find out that:

“The ‘Barnwood’ Press is sponsored by The Barnwood Press Cooperative, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation, founded in 1978 for the purpose of supporting the contemporary art of poetry through publishing and educational activities.”

And that the founding editors are : Sheila Coghill, Tom Koontz, Thom Tammaro, and Michael Tate.

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If you go to the 2002-2007 site, you find out that Koontz is Professor Emeritus of Ball State University in Washington, where he taught Creative Writing.

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What you really don’t want to miss out on are Koontz’s invigorating thoughts. Below are some links. These essay-like excursions deserve front-page honor in the very first official encyclopedia of online poetry (which has yet to be created--but when it is, Koontz should be up front):

There are other caches of knowledge stashed around various Barnwood sites; and it is well worth the time to ferret them out. With a history in the arts going back to at least 1978, the lore of Koontz is almost preternatural. Not because he has been around the block, but because he has amassed one of the greatest collections of modern poetry, period.

The poems he includes in Barnwood are eclectic and testify to the versatility of his poetic third eye, his ability to sense power in timbres of all kinds. He publishes mostly free verse that displays furious language-skill and verbal dexterity; but also word-art of the visual kind; and experiments in-between that dare traipse beyond a standard deviation--or two or three--from readability.

I’m going to end this entry with an excerpt from the cover letter I sent him. This cover, spontaneously babbled, heaps further praise and relevance my tired brain can’t surpass right now.

Thank you for reading. Now go to Barnwood and THANK Tom Koontz for decades and decades of caring, toil, and quest.


Dear Editor Koontz,
>Please find a bio and also a trio of hopefuls below. They really don't like
>me anymore, because I've badgered them for months to get them in shape. I
>told them they'd be lucky to be worthy your of consideration, but they're as
>willful as teenage divas. I apologize if they get snobby. You know how to
>put them in their place.
>You've done startling and impressive things this year. The poems of
>Pagnotto ...Yowza and Wow!! The best "figure" wordplay I've ever seen. And
>yet right next door lives the lyrical simplicity of Holly Day's
>"Unencumbered." Schiffman immerses us in a tempestuous flow of phrases that
>somehow reminded me of a Beethoven's piano sonata. And then there's
>Popielaski's "End Times," a swift dash of spice.
>So, I admire you for being daring and personal; and for the broad
>circumference of your prerogative, and its many levels of discernment.
>Honestly, you're one of the great editors of our time. There's no way you
>will ever be thanked enough. I've decided that we all live in purgatory.
>Miracles everywhere, waiting to be enjoyed, as well as a handful of great
>editors to fully appreciate--and yet most of us bog down in the banal and
>Thank you for your time. I truly mean that. And thank you for all you have
>done for the poetry world.
>Most Sincerely and Humbly,



  1. congratulations on getting into Barnwood!

  2. Dear Poet,

    I feel the same way about this editor! He has published two of my poems so far, "Imagine" and "Night visitor", last fall. This was after 2 years of sending him poetry, and on occasion, with his kind encouragement and editorial advice to someone like me who obviously knew little of poetry as an art. Congrats on yours getting in as well! Sandra Noel