We’ve all heard the assertion, only poets read poetry. There are, of course, many poets who become exceptions to the rule—the award-winners, the list-toppers, the Billy Collins book inexplicably on your therapist’s bookshelf—but, in general, small readership is the curse, and blessing, of poetry.
Most times, being a poet feels less like a profession or identity, and more like being involved in a secret society. Its membership fees include everything from self-isolation to over-priced MFAs, but center around one key demand: You have to read poetry. Support it, edit it, publish it. So it’s no wonder that when I was asked to write a list, the intersection of poet and editor came right to mind.
I’ve worked as a poetry editor in some form or another for the last nine years, most of which were B.V. (Before Validation). I loved the proximity to the thing that I loved—the idea that as an editor, I could point to something and say (with whatever certainty I could muster): this is important.
Today, as the co-poetry editor for Bodega Magazine, I’m surrounded by women whom I equally admire for their talent and taste. I’ve always believed that having a good eye is a talent of its own; advocating for someone’s work before someone else has published it/verified its quality is its own vulnerability—vulnerability that, more and more, comes with the territory of calling yourself a poet. In fact, when I stepped back and looked at the task of listing outstanding, emerging* poet-editors, I found it difficult to number them.
*I should note my interpretation of “emerging” is less about being known and more about coming into view. The future Carmen Gimenez Smiths and Rebecca Wolffs. Poets whose work we should all be watching, and whose journals we should all be submitting to.
So, here it is, my hyper-abridged list of women who aren’t just creating thoughtful and important work, but also sponsoring it. Roll call:
- Kelly Forsythe
Kelly Forsythe is the ultimate triple threat, the J. Lo of poetry. By day she’s the Director of Publicity for Copper Canyon; by night, editor of Phantom Books—a chapbook publisher and an online journal (which has published everyone from Heather Christle to Robin Coste Lewis to Laura Kasischke); by late-night she’s an incredible poet tackling girlhood, one violent stanza at a time. In “Espresso,” she writes, “what happens / in my throat stepping back / it doesn’t make you want any less / to know what my body could take.” It’s also worth noting that Phantom, which Forsyth founded, boasts a masthead chock-full of young poetry powerhouses like Hafizah Geter, Ekoko Omadeke, Cat Richardson, Abba Belgrave and Ryan Stevenson. I know, right?
Read Forsythe’s chapbook, Helix, here.
Submit to Phantom here.
- Morgan Parker
Morgan Parker is possibly the hardest working woman in the poetry business: She guest-edited for a long list of literary establishments—from The Atlas Review to Apogee— before landing as the poetry editor at The Offing. A lot has been said about Parker’s insane talent, but not enough has been said about her discernment. Parker doesn’t publish mediocre poems. When I read her selections, my first thought is usually “that’s my favorite thing so-and-so has written.” Picking one Parker poem is hard, so I’ll go back to the first I ever read: In “If My Housemate Fucks With Me I Would Get So Real (Audition Tape Take 1),” she writes, “I’m so real my hair is going gray, / legs bruised up like tree bark, / veins of my neck as swollen as / ripe fruit, the cheeks of what is growing.” Parker is equally aware of her self and her surroundings. She sees both with remarkable clarity.
Read Parker’s poems here.
Submit to The Offing here.
- Cathy Linh Che
Cathy Linh Che edits Paperbag Magazine, which not only publishes emerging poets, but puts them next to the likes of Anne Carson, Matthew Rohrer, Shane McCrae and Tomaz Salamun. In her debut, Split, Che doesn’t just detail her own experiences, she charts them in a family tree, a chain of micro and macro transgressions that fan out to reveal whole histories, conflicts and epidemics. In her poem “Dress-up,” Che writes, “While in the refugee camp in the Philippines / my parents were hired as extras / for the movie Apocalypse Now / That’s me driving, my father tells me / When I look hard, I can see him / in a white helmet, dressed as a Viet Cong.” It’s the closeness of her images, her ability to weave together events that span generations and the world, that reveals greater truths.
Read Che’s poems here.
Submit to Paperbag here.
- Allyson Paty
Allyson Paty co-founded Singing Saw Press, and its annual journal, Parallax. Like others on the list, she’s got an eye for aesthetics, turning a literary magazine into high art. She does this less by pairing two separate crafts (visual art and poetry), and more by creating conversation between the two—the same sensibility as can be found in Paty’s poems. Her lines, clipped or sprawling, seem to wrap around themselves. In her poem, “Millennial,” Paty writes, “People with tumors lay down on a table for my father. He cut the tumors out. / The people with tumors paid the hospital, the hospital paid my dad & he paid for me.” Paty’s world, which she simultaneously creates and obeys, feels both cosmic and intimate.
Read “Millennial” here.
Submit to Parallax here.
- Emily Brandt
Emily Brandt is a co-founding editor of No, Dear, a Brooklyn-based journal featuring poems centered on single-word themes like Violence, Popular and Hair. No, Dear’s chapbooks (made in partnership with Small Anchor Press) all double up as some of the world’s most beautiful objects. As a poet, Brandt is prolific, with three chapbooks and a throng of poems across the internet. In my personal favorite, “One or Several Silences in the Girls’ Room at St. John’s,” it’s her balance of invisibility and authority that is most striking—the poem almost moves backwards, despite its chronology, from “the sound of about-to-get-raped” to “the sound of unzip” to “The sound of a body washed.”
Read “One or Several Silences in the Girls’ Room at St. John’s” here.
Submit to No, Dear here.
- Anaïs Duplan
Anaïs Duplan is an associate poetry editor at H_NGM_N, a reviewer, essayist, poet, artist, collective-creator. She doesn’t just publish work; she, in her own words, seeks out idea people. In my favorite of her poems, the modern epic, “On a Scale of 1-10, How ‘Loving’ Do You Feel?,” Duplan examines love, but also fear, from the timeless to the present, the expansive to the microscopic. She muses, “Sometimes silence means / I love you sometimes / it means my phone is in the toilet. / How do I know which is which.” The pivots feel ancient, Hafez-like, freckled with the strange interferences of today.
Read “On a Scale of 1-10, How ‘Loving’ Do You Feel?” here.
Submit to H_NGM_N here.
- Wendy Xu
Wendy Xu is the editor of iO Poetry, a quarterly electronic journal that also publishes chapbooks. She’s written four of her own chapbooks, as well as the brilliant You are Not Dead, and Phrasis, forthcoming in 2017. Her poems transcend human-to-human interaction, like Xu is speaking with her back to a stadium. It’s a private conversation—with great implications—that you can’t help but crane your neck to hear. The “you” of her poems feels massive. Dwelling on this point is easy, but instead, I’ll leave you with the closing of one of my favorites from You are Not Dead. In “Tiny Palace,” Xu writes, “Things happen / but we get by. There’s a dog / with a missing leg licking the face / of another dog. All of this takes place / inside a mysterious, tiny palace. Love threatens / to tear it down. Build us a new one / in place of explaining why.”
Read Xu’s poems here.
Submit to iO Poetry here.