Interview With Your Impossible Voice
Authors: Keith Powell, Stephen Beachy, and Karen Biscopink.
How did you come up with the idea for Your Impossible Voice? What inspired the name?
KEITH: Prior to starting Your Impossible Voice, Karen and I both worked on Switchback at the University of San Francisco. As our time there was wrapping up, we started thinking about what might come next and how we might do things differently given the opportunity to build a journal from the ground up. Not so much in terms of what a journal publishes, but how it publishes. Things like eReaders and print-on-demand services have really changed the publishing calculus and created a wealth of new opportunities.
The name of the journal comes from “Phrases” by Arthur Rimbaud. Depending on the translation, the line reads something like “bind yourself to us with your impossible voice, your voice! Sole soother of this vile despair.” The three of us had been tossing around a couple of ideas for titles but hadn’t landed on anything that we felt struck the right chord. Then Stephen suggested Your Impossible Voice and we all gravitated to it pretty quickly. It was distinct and nicely evocative of how we imagined the journal operating at the time.
What reader do you hope will happen upon Your Impossible Voice? What do you hope they’ll find there?
KAREN: One particular conversation from my Master’s program that has really stayed with me is around permission-giving moments. That’s what I want the journal to be for our readers and contributors–a liminal space where anything goes, where each piece is a unique moment in time and everyone’s experience is respected.
What do you look for in a publishable piece of writing?
STEPHEN: While it’s difficult to pinpoint the amorphous qualities that can make writing compelling, two of the qualities that most get my attention are urgency and idiosyncracy. Urgency is simply the sense that the author actually has something to say–something that is intellectually or emotionally compelling, something that hasn’t been said in the same way by everybody else, something that reminds me that I’m not dead yet. Idiosyncracy is that quality of voice and perception that suggests the author is really looking at the world with a unique vision, that they are seeing things in a fresh way. Ideally, idiosyncracy is that quality that comes from the particular combinations of lenses the author is using to see the world, and isn’t just “quirky” for the sake of quirkiness. “Quirkiness” to me represents a formulaic imitation of strangeness, without a deeper engagement with the actual strangeness of existence. Surface level quirkiness is easy. What moves me is a convincing entrance into the terrifying or comic or heartbreaking utter bizarreness of what actually is–the world, our consciousness, the odd interminglings that comprise our reality.
What has been the most challenging part about being an editor?
KAREN: Before Josh joined the team and I was reviewing most poetry submissions by myself, learning to trust my intuition was a big thing for me. Finding ways to create (or disrupt) balance and movement throughout the issue… these are things I’m constantly working on. Rejection letters are also hard. I’m a poet and don’t like seeing rejection letters in my inbox, so I still get pangs when they go out.
How has your work with Your Impossible Voice affected your writing? Has it affected your reading life?
KAREN: My reading life has gone off the charts. Every month when Small Press Distribution releases their poetry best-sellers, I go a little nuts getting caught up. I think the people at my branch library are going to reserve a section of the holds shelving for my anthology requests. In terms of writing, working on the journal has been an incredible reminder to submit my own work more regularly. It sounds trite, but I’m genuinely inspired by the effort and love in the submissions that come in every day. And it’s important, this constant reminder of how many people care about the genre.
KEITH: Working on the journal has made me a more economical writer, hopefully a more precise writer too. I find myself working to say more with fewer words. In terms of my reading life, I’m a more critical reader for sure. Less forgiving. I also find myself straying more frequently from my traditional comfort zones. That’s due almost entirely to working with Stephen and Karen. They’re always bringing in these amazing works by authors whose writing I’ve ignored with my insular reading habits.
What is the next exciting thing happening at Your Impossible Voice?
KEITH: We’ve recently revamped our website and made all our issues available in print, so we’re all pretty excited about that. What I’m most looking forward to now though is Issue 8.