Interview With Spoke Too Soon
How did you come up with the idea for Spoke Too Soon?
We both write long poems and are invested in bigness, messiness, things that take up too much space, things that don’t feel normal, don’t make sense for a while, resolve themselves with spaciousness and time and explosions. We are both interested in sound and in poems that know they come from an oral tradition, poems that intend to speak to someone and are aching to be heard. We ache to be heard. We both love organizing things, creating experiences, making stuff happen, and we’re good at it. We felt like our poems weren’t being published enough in the ways we wanted them to because we were having to excerpt them or chop them up to get them published in the single-page-poem slot.
We wanted to see a place for sound and long poems. We see the critical world of the English discipline–from elementary schools to colleges–forget that texts aren’t ONLY objects, they are live, dynamic forces. To us, meaning exists between two people, not in a page. Sound is a constant reminder of live time in language. Sound is a constant reminder that words are the movement of a body. Sound is a reminder that words are MORE THAN REPRESENTATION.
We wanted people to keep talking about poems, and to know that they were wrapped in the poem for a while, and they were wrapped in a group of people who think about poems — this is why the close reading of each long poem is important to us, because it brings community and rigor to the poem-journal experience, two things that are important to us.
We were inspired by our teachers: Peter Gizzi for telling us to “be radical: have a long thought,” Lisa Olstein for reminding us that we can be organized forces of nature and also be poets, and Dara Wier for believing that truly anything is possible.
Also, we wanted to run something together!
How did you begin to gather materials for the first issue of Spoke Too Soon? How did you go about the process of solicitation and advertising the journal?
It turned out we knew lots of poets (and knew of lots of poets who knew lots of poets) who were writing long but not always getting to publish long! We started by reaching out to them. We reached out to many poets when we were starting the journal (May 2013) and we still to this day have an extremely long list of people we want to reach out to, learn from, solicit from, hear from. We met with Lisa Olstein and Dara Wier — two poets and teachers we both admire deeply — and we humbly asked their advice. We trusted our networks a lot to bring us new poets that we haven’t read, and we read and read and read! It was tricky to reach out and solicit people when we had zero journal and zero on the internet, but we’ve both been known to be more than enthusiastic, so we did a lot of convincing people — mostly via email — that we cared deeply about this project and would be honored to have them be a part of it.
And we don’t have the energy to advertise! (If you have a long poem, send it our way– Like the Spoke Too Soon fb page or friend Leora and Kelin! Tell your friends too!!)
How has the magazine unexpectedly evolved over the past couple of years?
We’ve only been around for about a year, so we can’t say, yet! It’s been so affirming to hear from people that this sort of journal–long and out loud and conversation focused–needed to happen. That energy was unexpected, and it fuels our drive to work in our spare time. We’re in the midst of a website change that will allow us to publish more work that does strange things on the page / screen, and will allow us to have more design control. We’ve been thrilled to see people come out of the forest all over the place to send us long poems during our summer 2014 open submissions period.
What do you look for in a publishable piece of writing?
We look for writing that wants to go somewhere really really badly and is trying everywhere possible to get there. We look for under-represented voices and ways of being in a voice. We look for writing clarity that inhabits a mess. We look for exploration. We look for a deep commitment to sound and to pushing the edges of what sounds language makes and what these sounds mean. We look for poems that get ahead of themselves and also wrap around themselves, comfort themselves with their own gigantic sleeves or wings. We know that in a long poem a reader may (most likely) wander away and back, so we look for poems that are constantly welcoming the reader back, beckoning the reader, chatting, yelling, chatting.
Basically, we are looking for work that resists what is commonly publishable, work that resists any sort of normal, work that in resisting normal can’t help but use the senses and take up a giant amount of space.
What tends to draw you to a particular poem?
A voice or a system that is fighting normal in a way that brings us together.
What is the next exciting thing happening at Spoke Too Soon?
Besides the new website, and the poems we can publish because we can have more design control, WE ARE BRINGING YOU THE BEST READING WE’VE EVER BEEN TO. AWP! MINNEAPOLIS, BABY! We are teaming up with Jellyfish Magazine. Details here.