With our 7th issue, we began the practice of asking a contributor from a past issue of TLR to join us as a guest assistant poetry editor. Michael Schmeltzer started things off in issue 7 (we can’t wait to show you what we’ve selected together when the issue releases this summer), and with issue 8, we’re excited to welcome Brandon Amico to the table. This week, we’ve asked Brandon to introduce himself to you, our wonderful readers. -KD
Kelly Davio, who was kind enough to ask me to join the Tahoma Literary Review as the guest poetry editor for their eighth issue, asked me to write an introduction for the blog so that readers (and future submitters) can get a sense of who I am and what I’m looking for, as an editor, in the poems that make their way onto my desk(top). As someone who likes to write long-windedly, in reaching, comma-ed sentences (that make use of parenthetical asides) broken by the—occasional!—dash, I’ll be as organized as I can here:
Here’s the part where I tell you that I’ve been on either side of the publishing equation—both as a writer and an editor—for the better part of the last decade. Following undergraduate school I co-founded and edited the small (by design) literary journal Swarm, and helped run it until early 2015; my poetry appears in a number of literary journals both online and in print, including Booth, The Carolina Quarterly, The Cincinnati Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Hunger Mountain, New Ohio Review, Sixth Finch, Slice, and Verse Daily; and I also occasionally publish reviews of poetry collections in places like Los Angeles Review, Mid-American Review, and Southern Humanities Review.
Here’s the part where I share the history of how I came find myself working with TLR, which is a fairly short part: I was a fan of TLR from soon after its inception, and submitted some work myself to join the conversation. One of those poems appeared in issue four, and as Kelly and I worked together it became clear that our aesthetic sensibilities were, while certainly not identical (is there anyone who shares this absolutely with another? I say no), definitely compatible. And so, when TLR began the practice of bringing on guest poetry editors, the two of us were eager to work together again in a meaningful way.
Here’s the part where I tell you I don’t have an MFA, though not from any animosity toward the many fine programs out there or the writers within them, but simply because a graduate program hasn’t fit into my life so far, and if it hasn’t fit into yours either, that’s cool—I still want to read your work. There are brilliant writers who don’t have MFAs, and plenty who do, and I don’t fall on either side of the larger MFA debate—fact is, degrees and credentials won’t factor into how your submission is read here. I’m not in academia, but work in public relations for tech companies, so both for this career and my passion of poetry I am inundated with language—it’s where I live.
Here’s the part where I declare my love for the Oxford comma.
Here’s the part where I tell you that I’m more beholden to the sound and movement and music of a poem than the high school-English rules of “proper” sentence structure. Give me a run-on or a fragment if it serves the poem. Splice a comma like a gasp for air. Our language is a malleable raw material and I delight in seeing writers find new uses for or ways of manipulating it.
Here’s the part where I tell you what I really want in a poem above all else: energy.
Here’s the part where I expound on that, since the word “energy” itself is an admittedly inadequate description. I want a poem to live, to be in present tense. I don’t want poems that were, I want poems that are. I want to feel some of the poem’s energy transfer to the reader as it’s read, and stick with them, tumbling around among the ribs or behind the ears, under the tongue. I don’t think there’s any shortage of tools to create energy in a poem: voice, momentum, lineation, humor, syntax, repetition, elision, juxtaposition, and otherwise defying expectations. Give me something a little audacious, a bit bold (though note: misogyny, casual racism, and similar hate speech against any group of people is not bold or edgy. It’s boring, intellectually lazy, and disgusting, and is not welcome). Subtlety is incredibly important and often has a cumulative effect in a poem, but if the work is so quiet it can’t get off the ground, if there’s nothing that sings or jolts or disturbs, subtle craft can be wasted in a bland vessel.
Here’s the part where I tell you that I don’t believe poems exist in a vacuum—they should be in conversation with not just other poetry but the world around us. Poems that are conscious of the culture and context outside themselves (and they needn’t beat the reader over the head about it; consciousness has a way of seeping through the writer into the words) are ones I’ll be very interested in seeing.
Here’s the part where I thank Kelly and all of TLR for bringing me onboard for this issue, and you for reading and submitting. I’m looking forward to seeing your poems, so I hope you’ll send them our way.