POETIC BASTARDS: I got an email about a literary magazine based near Atlanta (name withheld to protect the guilty) that is once again putting a black eye on the poetry scene. A person in the know told me the journal is no longer interested in locals and only wants to publish more national and internationally known writers. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. It's this kind of moronic, backward thinking that has given traditional print journals a black eye (along with guest editors who only pick their friends.) While the number of people reading lit mags continues to dwindle, the old white men who edit them are pouring another glass of Scotch and digging in their heels. Then they bitch and moan about lack of readership, quality, and funding. Boo-fucking-hoo.

When did "local" writers became such pariah? Atlanta happens to have a community of national and internationally known poets and writers that journals should be begging to publish in their pages. I know this goes on all over the country, but there are segments of the poetry community here in Atlanta that continue to have this elitist, snobbish attitude that is eventually going to destroy them. I usually keep this kind of cynicism to myself, but the news about this particular journal just put me on edge. If they had the long history and reputation of some of the others in the state, then maybe they could get away with this contemptible stance that local poets are nothing but a bunch of untalented yahoos, but this journal just doesn't have the chops yet. Finding a true mix of both local, national and international voices should be the hallmark of a good editor. Moving toward a banal middle ground showcasing the same old, same old is truly a disappointment.

A good many of those in the "poetry establishment" hate independent journals, online zines, self-publishing, slams and open mics. I've raged against these sad bastards for ages, but I've discovered it's basically like screaming at an old person in a nursing home: it's impolite, it accomplishes nothing and they are going to die soon anyway. Let them have their last gasp of elitism and high-and-mighty. As they continue to shut the door on the new generation of poets, the new breed is going to find ways to circumvent this nonsense. And that means more independent journals, more online zines, more self-publishing, more slams, more open mics. The establishment can either get their finger on the pulse of the majority or they can prepare to have their life-support cut off. Instead of "weeping over the decline of the formalist," reach out and teach rather than preach and cast aside. Embrace the new writers, the new forms, the incredible energy that exists in the poetry world right now. Poetry is not dead. As a matter of fact, it's never been more vital. Open your eyes.


David Herrle said…
I wholeheartedly and wholeheadedly agree, Collin! I'm reminded of a question by Public Enemy over a decade ago: "Who Stole The Soul?" Elitist blowhards have; mediocrities on thrones have; conventional, entrenched, sniveling ingrates have (for the most part).

Some of the best art I've experienced has been from "local" artists and/or artists who are not rubbing elbows with network moguls like Grisham or Lehane. And guess what? "Local" artists AREN'T LOCAL elsewhere! DUH!

Enough! I'll pop an eyeball if I continue.

Well, quite fittingly, I've received my latest agent decline. Was the 'script read? OF COURSE NOT. It was judged on the query letter/synopsis. Like rejecting a potential model by only looking at a photo of her skeleton.

The rejection slip contained an apology for the use of an insulting form letter, but "due to the volume of submissions..." Yeah, yeah. You'll pick another "saleable" copy of every other damned formula and stay in that gutless groove that keeps you respectable (at the expense of your ingenuity). Puke.

On a POSITIVE note, however: each stumble is proff that you're moving. And some man/woman of integrity and grit and creativity will notice the fine work of "locals" or "unestablished" artists in due time.
Collin Kelley said…
Everyone's freaking out a bit over which journal is doing this. I can tell you which ones it's not and then you can speculate all you like: Atlanta Review, Terminus, Georgia Review, Five Points, Lullwater or Old Red Kimono. Hope that helps. :)
Anonymous said…
You go, boy!


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