Interview With Memorious

Author: Rebecca Morgan Frank

What makes Memorious a unique part of the publishing community?

We are one of the older online literary magazines, for one. While I would like to think that the quality of our work is what makes us stand out, I think we are known for our clean and unique design (courtesy of our original webmaster, Brian Green), our rich interview archive (including an interview with Pablo Neruda), and our art song contest. As far as I know, we are the only literary magazine publishing art song.

What sort of qualities do you look for in a manuscript or piece of work that you are considering for publication?

Perhaps it’s old hat to say we look for the best work possible, but it’s true. When it comes to the poetry, I like to consider myself open to a range of aesthetics, but anyone who reads the magazine can see that, like all editors, I have my leanings. In terms of the fiction, we look for work that stands out because it not only offers fresh material, but also consistency in the quality of the work, in the craftsmanship. We see many stories in the slush pile that may end up as wonderful stories many drafts down the line, but they’re just not ready for publication.

Ultimately, I think the work that gets past all of us is work that makes us want to read it again, and there can be a million reasons for that.

Do you have a specific aesthetic preference? How would you describe that aesthetic?

I suppose I have just confessed to that in the previous question! The lyric poem certainly fairs a better chance than more narrative or experimental work. When I read poems I often first read for the music, and what I find there determines if I will read again. But a striking image, an admirable turn, these can get my attention as well. Perhaps my wonderful editorial staff could answer this better, as they always seem to know what to pass on to me! I really look to them, particularly my assistant poetry editor, Matt McBride, and my fiction editor, Barrett Bowlin, to continue to discover and champion work that expands the range of work we publish. They’re not afraid to argue for something that isn’t exactly my favorite, and I trust them enough to listen.

What is the readership like for Memorious? What do you imagine your typical reader is like?

From the beginning, we were interested in the quality, not the quantity of our readers. We didn’t care about being the most popular magazine on the block; instead, we wanted to be the magazine that the writers and editors who we admired would read, and that talented new writers would want to be a part of. We have tried to build our readership based on the quality of the work we publish, and I like to think that this draws readers who are reading a lot of contemporary work. From the submissions we receive and the notes we occasionally receive, our readers who are writers come from a range of generations and aesthetics. I am constantly surprised, and happy, to see that.

What is the next exciting thing happening at Memorious?

This is our third year of collaborating with Singers On New Ground, a Chicago composers organization, on our annual art song contest. Our newest composer, Brian Baxter, is busy composing a piece using the poem of our winner, Richie Hofmann. In the spring we will produce a live performance in Chicago, and a studio recording will be published in Memorious along with the poem. This is the most exciting project we have done at Memorious, for it is magical to put a poet and a composer together and then see what happens. I am not exaggerating when I say two of the best moments of my life have been the premieres of Randall West’s settings of Jill McDonough’s poems and Luke Gullickson’s settings of Katie Peterson’s poems. Watching the work of not only the poets and the composers, but also the talented young musicians, come together, is a unique experience. I look forward to continuing to develop this project of bringing together different communities in the arts. For me this project represents how literary publishing has expanded beyond the page: all sorts of magazines move between mediums and work to create community. This is a vibrant time to be a poet and a publisher.