Five editors have generously agreed to help me with the Tupelo Press 30/30 Challenge, by providing, for a modest donation of $20, critiques of poetry. Jeff Santosuosso, the editor of Panoply, is the first to be presented here.
Which three words best describe your favorite poetry?
Language, imagery, and rhythm. Most good poetry does one of these well. Two makes it great. Three makes it unforgettable. (Poster child: Plath’s “Alicante Lullaby.”)
Would you mind sharing a bit about your background?
I grew up in the suburbs of Boston from immigrant families and still associate closely with that connection to the American Dream, which I firmly uphold. Majored in English in college because at that age, I had no idea what to pursue. I chose English because I liked it. Good idea for me, paying more qualitative dividends as I age. Got an MBA because after my parents’ divorce (when I was about 12), we lived on government aid for a while. No way I wanted to continue on that path. Long career in business, which has taken me all over the world. I love to travel and have 2 states left to achieve a bucket list item of visiting them all (MT and ND). Got “back” into poetry about a decade ago. Been married 26 years, with a son through college and doing fine on his own. He lives in Dallas, where he first attended middle school. The local arts scene in Pensacola is healthy, but a bit fractious. It’s a small city. There’s a biennial anthology published, which is fine, but way too infrequent for me. So with two friends, we launched Panoply in 2015. It’s a thrill to edit. Some of the work is so uplifting! I’ve made some good friends via poetry, many of whom I’ve never actually met. Reminds me of pen pals. Most poets I know are introverts. Not me. Extravert. I have learned to inquire and listen. It’s hugely important in business. But I think my natural inclination gives us an advantage as we market Panoply. We read blind so that we can concentrate on the poetry, not the poet (see below) and are just as proud to debut a new voice as we are to include a Pushcart nominee.
What sets apart the poems you accept from those you turn down?
See above. I like craft, even loose craft or meandering. I’d like to infer that there’s been some deliberation. I also am partial to the unusual. If a poem makes me think and/or feel differently, unusually, I’m ready. Take me somewhere I haven’t been, or via a new route. Not afraid of rhyme or formality. Those can be refreshing.
If you were a poetic form, which would you be?
Sestina. I’m a sucker for form, and I think repetition can be a very effective tool. I am fascinated by memory and association. These days, I am focused on when and how poetry approaches song.
Do you pay much attention to cover letters? What do you like/dislike about them?
No. Not to be rude or dismissive, but I dive right into the poetry. My own cover letters are quite lacking. I “get” personal context. It can be overwhelming. In our local workshops though, one of the catchphrases we use is, “Imagine that 60 years from now some teenager in Peoria is going to pick up your poem out of the blue…”
List three favorite poets, an admirable animal, and your go-to beverage.
Poets: Robinson Jeffers, Sylvia Plath, Carl Sandburg. Go figure. (This is a bit difficult for me, as I’m an aficionado, not a scholar. I don’t really process that way. Much more intuitive, and I generally prefer poems over poets. Likewise, I love both Dali and Hopper.)
Animal: elephant. I have a predisposition to the large, apparently peaceful slow ones, like elephants and cows. Elephants have 6-chamber brains and publicly grieve.
Go-to beverage: Uh….in order of consumption: water, coffee, milk, martinis (these days with jalapeno and something sweet to counterpoint), hefeweizen. Tea in the winter. It relaxes me, even the regular stuff.
* * *
Please consider supporting poetry and literary publishers (specifically Tupelo Press). Perhaps one of these incentives will entice you?