Interview With Apartment Poetry

Editors: Jack Snyder, Bryan Koen, & Michael Joseph Walsh.

Site Designers: Elizabeth Barsotti & Marietta Pesotini.

How did you come up with the idea for the magazine?  How does the design carry over into the text itself?

JS: I had finished up my masters & was preparing to move out of my place. Which was all very good & predictable, but I still felt some heavy sinking about the whole thing. Beyond the ostensible reasons, I came to find that the lion’s share of my anxiety was tied up in leaving the building itself. Or maybe the building’s idea. Or its ideal. & this was hilarious to me because I had no functioning relationships or acquaintances with ANY of the tenants in neighboring apartments. But I could have. What we shared we shared through ductwork & drywall & coincident trips to mailboxes. Sometimes that’s all we get of intimacy: its potentiality, its arbitrary whiff.

I wanted to approach this concept through poets — to situate them together (however disparate), to house their work (however different), in the same space. Meted out into six discrete compartments yet given to community by the gesture of the floorplan. Our designers, Elizabeth & Marietta, took the idea & came up with a place where I want to live.

BK: I think of the “idea” for the magazine in a slightly different way, though it’s certainly connected to what Jack describes. It was maybe six weeks after we finished our degrees at George Mason that Jack sent out the pitch to do this journal, with the name and concept already attached. He sent the pitch to me, Mike, and one other friend. Right away, I latched onto the idea that I would keep talking poetry with these guys, because that’s a cornerstone of our friendship(s), even in their varying degrees of closeness.

The APARTMENT concept is pretty potent. It’s both singular and plural, contingent and purposeful, part and whole. The design embodies that in a useful way, I think, and I’m grateful to Elizabeth and Marietta for that, though I’ve never met them. That said, I don’t want to make a lot of lofty claims for what we do. It’s not a poetry intervention; really, it’s just a few people publishing poems they enjoy. I can’t speak for Jack or Mike, but the greatest goal for me is that the editorial process will help to maintain the vigor that poetry has brought to our relationships.

How did you begin to gather materials for the first issue of Apartment Poetry?  How did you go about the process of solicitation and advertising the journal?  

JS: Our solicitation process for the first issue was challenging for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a first issue. Second, the site had not yet been built, so we were pitching the journal blind. All of us editors (just Bryan & I for Issue 1) have wonderful poet-friends & amazing poet-acquaintances; however, we didn’t want to lean too heavily on those relationships in piecing together the first issue. We reached out to some folks we knew, & received (& published) some terrific work from them, but we also wanted to focus on meeting new people in the poetry community. A lot of them. By the end, we had solicited work from nearly ten times the poets for which we actually had room.

Much of the discourse happened through Facebook. Some through email if I could sleuth an address. Much of the time it wasn’t dialogue: just messages left suspended in the white space of Facebook Messenger. This was neither discouraging nor surprising. What I hadn’t fully prepared for was how many people — strangers, really — did respond & how graciously they responded. Even if they didn’t have anything for us but well wishes, it was neat to see firsthand the connectivity & accessibility which exist now — & a goodness that apparently never left. 

BK: If I may couch what Jack said in “Advice for Beginners”-type terms: Many poets will respond to your queries with enthusiasm and gratitude. Many fewer will actually send you work for consideration. So be prepared to solicit a lot of people at the beginning.

With the first issue, knowing that we’d be working with limited space, we set up a simple 1-5 scale. A “1” poet has no more than a few publications; a “3” has one, possibly two books; a “5” is a poet that pretty much everyone who reads poetry already knows and many people love. “2” and “4” would be sort of relative to the odd figures on the scale within a given issue. Originally, we thought we’d have 5 poets per issue, but the floor plan for the website wound up having 6 rooms, so we went with 6. Ideally, an issue will hit each point on the scale, with duplication occurring at the lower end. The first issue didn’t really turn out that way, but that’s what we’re aiming for.

Advertising—I can’t hear that word without also hearing Bill Hicks’ advice for people in that profession. So we haven’t spent a lot of energy on it so far. It’s all just word of mouth and Facebook.

What reader do you hope will happen upon Apartment Poetry?  What do you hope they’ll find there?

BK: Any reader will do. I don’t know who’s chasing down tiny online poetry journals for any purpose other than finding something new to read. That’s enough of a goal. But I guess in saying that I’m imagining an audience of people for whom the next thing they read is really, really important, and of course that’s the target audience.

JS: I don’t believe it’s bad stewardship to say that I don’t hope after a specific sort of reader. I care about every person who takes time to read the poems we care about. But, as hopes go, my only wishes are that readers find the place, that they find it a place where they’d like to take off their shoes, & that they bring along a Bundt for dessert. 

What do you look for in a publishable piece of writing?  What adjective do you hope would be applied to your journal?

BK: The best poems simultaneously teach you things and instill the conviction that you knew them all along. That’s the only characteristic that’s common to all of them.

Jack’s better at adjectives than I am, so I’ll let him handle the other half.

JS: “Complex.”

What is the next exciting thing happening at Apartment Poetry?

BK: Issue 2 is the next exciting thing—look for it mid-August. We’d like to get a lot more unsolicited submissions, especially from women, and to have a site that functions on tablets. Where it goes after that, I’m not sure, but the feeling of putting something out there is always pretty addictive and invites thoughts of expansion.

JS: Ditto. We’ve also discussed the possibility of running an annual chapbook contest at some point down the line. Chapbooks are undeniably exciting. Plus, I think all of us over here care deeply about the book-as-art-object. Just sayin’.