Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Shangri-la of Poetry Mags: The Centrifugal Eye

When I started this blog, I was uncertain who-what-where-when it would be about. But as I’ve continued, a central purpose (among others) has evolved: praising good editors. We writers really ought to thank these wonderful people more. Let’s face it, editors are far more important to the poetry community than individual poets. They collect the best offerings from our souls and array them into amazing statements of verbal beauty, much as a sculptor molds clay, except in the case of the editors, the raw material is the words of their chosen contributors.

This analogy is even more apt when the editor takes an active role in shaping the poems. However, in my experience this is very rare. An acceptance note is often as terse and formal as its commonplace cousin, the rejection slip. Even poets who ‘get in’ are often left with a sense of loneliness and distance. The requested poem appears in print silently, the new issue rises quiet as dawn, and then sinks into the archives. Those who expect a big moment of direct communication with another person are bound for disappointment.

In my eight years of submitting work, I’ve had a number of these moments, the pall of silence that occults the thrill of acceptance and prompts a sighed, “Is that it?”

Editors, of course, should ignore such whining. They work extremely hard behind the scenes. Dialoguing with poets more than slightly is beyond the pale of human stamina. It is “supererogatory,” if you want to use the jargon of professional ethicists.

However, not long ago I chanced upon such an editor, one who achieved the state of personal interaction we poets dream of. Not only did I receive the lucky acceptance letter from her, I was told I would receive proofs to ponder. Well, no big deal. Diligent editors sometimes supply proofs. It takes extra effort and signals professionalism, but isn’t extraordinarily rare.

The proofs came and I opened the file with a tingle of excitement (it’s always a special treat for me to see my words in the format of the journal, and to re-read them with a sense of pride. I worked hard for this, after all). I noticed right away that the editor, Eve Hanninen of The Centrifugal Eye, had inflicted color-coded notes on my precious poems.

Uh oh! Previous experience with pen-happy editors left me with a sting of dread. Never before had an editor suggested several changes without clashing with my sense of ownership. I’ve actually turned down acceptances where the editor attempted an “invasion of the body snatchers” maneuver, using my poem as host.

But then I took another glance, and another, at the suggestions offered by Editor Hanninen. Wow. They were subtle--yet powerful. Minor tweaks that enhanced the pieces. Could it be that after long years I had found that Shangri-la of magical acceptance? Not just an appreciative eye but a stare of deep and insightful understanding?

The answer is yes. Hanninen, and her Centrifugal Eye, became for me synonymous with a probing grasp of the personality, style and soul of her contributors’ poems. At first I was in shock, and my big ego swelled and soared; but eventually I realized how lucky I was to have found this moment in my literary journey. In my back-and-forth with Hanninen concerning the edits, I learned that she had a background as a professional in the art and literary worlds, and that she had turned to The Centrifugal Eye with full dedication as a cosmic vehicle (hence TCE’s logo of the swirling galaxy around an Eye) to showcase her passion for both visual and written mastery.

Honestly, I have never felt so validated on a person-to-person level by an editor. Not only is Hanninen exceptional, she seems to enjoy, even thrive off, the brutal pace needed to assemble her fine zine. When I offered her this perception, she replied as follows:

“You're very perceptive, [Owl Who Laughs]-- TCE is a thrilling journey for me. It's been nearly 5 years of non-stop creative endeavors and cultivation. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. ;) Richly-rewarding, during all the integrated processes, yet you're right: there are dramas and divas, heartbreaks, losses, and infinite stress. Despite all the latter pains, TCE has been not only an inanimate sculpture of my making, it's grown from the very start like a living garden of relationships. It's a community, without having to be a forum. On some fronts, it's a private dominion of my own, yet it's populated with artists and colleagues, many whom have become my friends. Yes, the end results always cheer me enormously, yet it's the processes that stimulate me most.”

As you can see from the above, TCE involves a whole team of versaholics, with Hanninen’s genius at the congenial helm. She seems to have found an optimal harmony of group gestalt, deadline fever, and the thrill of creating an impeccable magazine.

DO submit to this site. And DO it quickly, before a flood of submissions and contributor-interactions makes it impossible for Hanninen and her crack team to open the gates of Shangri-la to those who find her.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks Chris,

    Love is larger than ego. Your generous heart shows as you share the riches with us. Thank you friend.