Lynne Potts on Editing Process in Poetry- Part 2

Last week Lynne Potts professional poet and  poetry editor @ AGNI introduced us to the poetry editing process in Part 1 of the interview, She talked about how important instinct is when you create a poem and how you can never overestimate the importance of the zing factor in your work.


Today Lynne looks at other aspects of poetry editing like getting over subjectivity, digital poetry and how to inspire the poet in you.

This question has to do with the tough choices that you have to make as an editor of poetry. How do you deal with idioms and ideas that may not be pertinent to the culture you are familiar with? Does it create some kind of bias in the editor’s decision?

I can’t really answer this.  I know a good poem (I think!) no matter what part of the world it comes from – as long as it’s mostly in English.  Foreign words can even work – if you do it right.  Hard to explain.  Poetry is not culture-specific.  It’s magic language.  It puts you under a spell.  It can even spook you.

  How do you overcome your subjectivity? This question helps readers as well- what makes a poem good? Many poems are “liked” in the social media but when it comes to acceptance in magazines they are mostly likely rejected. What is a good poem all about and how can a reader learn to recognize it?

I don’t overcome my subjectivity.   It’s there and I know it.  No use denying it.  And I don’t think anyone can tell you what a “good poem” is.  Think of the thousands that have been written that are not just good – but dazzling!   My best advice is to keep reading – and keep writing.  Eventually you learn what is good from what your own soul tells you.  (Hope that doesn’t sound too mushy.)

Could you recommend any book or literary exercise that will help poets who are serious about perfecting their poems?

Yes, I could recommend hundreds and hundreds.  Read all the poets whose names you recognize – then start reading the ones whose names you don’t know.  Of course everybody suggests, Triggering Town, and it’s excellent – but no “how to” book helps you be a poet, in my opinion.

 Your take on the plethora of writing groups online and otherwise. Has the tremendous overdose of how-to-write information(word count reminders, prompts, title generators,etc) improved the quality of submissions in the poetic domain?

Writing poetry isn’t about any of those things.

Is publishing online akin to literary suicide(as none of your poems will be accepted elsewhere for publication)?

Heavens, no.  We’ll be reading everything on line soon.  Lots of the good magazines publish print AND on-line.  AGNI does – if I may claim it as a “good” magazine.

 What are you reading right now?

I’m currently reading W.S Merwin’s The Carrier of Ladders, Mary Ruefle’s Madness, Rack and Honey (her lectures on poetry which are really poems themselves),  Mark Strand’s Dark Harbor , Alan Weisman’ The World Without Us (non-fiction on the state of the planet), and Wilfred Thesinger’s Arabian Sands (history) – and, to be honest, I have a bowl of chips here too. 

I’m ecstatic about this two-part interview. Thanks once again Lynne for your illuminating take on the editing process of this ‘magic language’ called poetry.


neelthemuse@ 2013

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