Interview With Diode
Author: Patty Paine
What makes Diode a unique part of the publishing community?
This is a great question. It prompts me think about the value of being unique in a online publishing market that sees the launch of new journals every day, while also considering what makes diode unique now, and how to make diode even more unique going forward.
One of the most unique aspects of diode has to be that it’s homed in Doha, Qatar, an ambitious and rapidly growing country. Even though the Internet serves as a kind of a universal home, diode is influenced by the fact that I live in Qatar, and have for eight years. I think being homed here has infused diode with a heightened sense of possibility. Like Qatar, diode is small, there are just two people working on diode. I edit, and Jeff Lodge, who designed the journal, puts each issue online. Also like Qatar, we want to have as large an impact as possible, and we work hard to promote diode and its contributors. In terms of content, because I live here, and have worked with poets in this region, diode has featured the work of many Middle Eastern poets, and this has enriched diode a great deal. Living in Qatar has made me much more interested in translation than I was when I lived in the U.S., and that too has been reflected in diode’s content.
I think diode offers a unique mix of work from across the poetry spectrum, and from both emerging and established authors. I work at VCU Qatar, a branch campus of VCU in Richmond, VA. VCUQ is specifically an art and design college, and this too has influenced diode. A couple years ago we started a “special features” section. In that section we’ve run reviews, and essays, but we’ve also been able to include mixed media and art an design related pieces. I would very much like to include more arts and design features in the future.
In the “nuts and bolts” area, I think we’re unique in that we read all year, and that we almost always respond within 30 days. As a poet, I don’t like when journals hold poems for months and months, so when I started diode I vowed that I would respond as quickly as I could.
What sort of qualities do you look for in a manuscript or piece of work that you are considering for publication?
It’s difficult to articulate, but I look for poems that provoke and challenge, that engender a reaction-emotional, intellectual, even physical. I want to be stunned. I have to believe that something is at stake, that what is unfolding word by word in the poem, matters. I look for work with a sense of purpose, while conveying that there is an intelligence and imagination at work. Basically, if I wish I wrote it, I want it.
I believe all the poems in diode have these qualities, but I’d like to offer this particular poem by Catherine Pierce as an answer to what I look for:
Because I’ll Never Swim in Every Ocean
Want is ten thousand blue feathers falling
all around me, and me unable to stomach
that I might catch five but never ten thousand.
So I drop my hands to my sides and wait
to be buried. I open a book and the words
spring and taunt. Flashes—motel, lapidary,
piranha—of every story, every poem I’ll never
know well enough to conjure in sleep.
What’s the point of words if I can’t
own them all? I toss book after book
into my imaginary trashcan fire.
Or I think I’ll learn piano. At the first lesson,
we’re clapping whole and half notes
and this is childish, I’m better than this.
I’d like to leave playing Ravel. I’d like
to give a concerto on Saturday. So I quit.
I have standards. Then on Saturday,
I have a beer, watch a telethon. Or
we watch a documentary on Antarctica.
The interviewees are from Belarus, Lima, Berlin.
Everyone speaks English. Everyone names
a philosopher, an ethos. One man carries a raft
on his back at all times. I went to Nebraska once
and swore it was a great adventure. It was.
I think of how I’ll never go to Antarctica,
mainly because I don’t much want to. But
I should want to. I should be the girl
with a raft on her back. When I think
of all the mountains and monuments
and skyscapes I haven’t seen, all the trains
I should take, all the camels and mopeds
and ferries I should ride, all the scorching
hikes I should nearly die on, I press
my body down, down into the vast green
couch. If I step out the door, the infinity
of what I’ve missed will zorro me across
the face with a big L for Lazy. Sometimes
I watch finches at the feeder, their wings small
suns, and have to grab the sill to steady myself.
Metaphorically, of course. I’m no loon.
Look—even my awestruck is half-assed.
But I’m so tired of the small steps—
the pentatonic scale, the frequent flyer
hoarding, the one exquisite sentence
in a forest of exquisite sentences.
There is a globe welling up inside of me.
Mountain ranges ridging my skin,
oceans filling my mouth. If I stay still
long enough, I could become my own world.
Do you have a specific aesthetic preference? How would you describe that aesthetic?
I try not to have a specific aesthetic preference. I primarily write narrative poetry. I’m aware that I might be biased toward narrative poetry so I try to work against that bias. When I started diode in 2005, I set out to establish that diode would be inclusive, and that we wouldn’t preference a particular aesthetic. I hope we’ve succeeded in that mission.
What is the readership like for Diode? What do you imagine your typical reader is like?
I like to imagine that there is no typical diode reader. I’ve heard from high school students who were asked to read diode for class, on the one hand, to a senior citizen who doesn’t write poetry, but enjoys reading poetry on the other hand, who wrote in to request that we make the font color a bit darker (we did). We are fortunate to have a large readership, and by Internet standards we’re quite elderly. Our 6th anniversary issue will go live in February, and if I can hijack this question a bit, I’d like to thank all our readers for honoring diode with their time and attention. It means a great deal to us.
What is the next exciting thing happening at Diode?
This is the first time I’ve announced it publicly, and I do so nervously, but with a great deal of excitement. I’ll be launching Diode Editions soon. We’ll be holding a chapbook contest, and are hoping to move into publishing full-length collections in two years, or so. We’re hoping to create beautifully designed collections of stunning poetry. I want Diode Editions to be a press that fanatically supports its writers, and that consistently publishes incredible work.