Monday, August 2, 2010

Building A Rep

The other day, I took my foot-long, just-about-full-to-its-limit 4x6 card file out and told my husband and Assistant Editor that I was leaving with our 1,000+ poets. Later in the day, I placed the card file back in the gray metal cabinet where it is kept, and said that I was now leaving the poets to themselves, envisioning 1,000+ Aurorean poets gathered together for the evening, perhaps enjoying some lively poetic discussion.

We set out to be different in one distinct way: we set out to treat poets the way I'd want to be treated as a poet. This involves, for one thing, the infamous black hole. This is where one's poetry goes (most often) when it is sent out to a publisher. There are two types of black holes. One, the black holes in which one has no idea where one's poetry has gone off to (like an errant space ship)—specifically, if one's poetry actually arrived at said publisher. Two, the black holes from which it may never return (those hopeful groups of poetry that are forever lost, about whose fate said poet never hears a word).

At the Aurorean, we thought the answer to black holes were twofold, yet simple. 1) Let people know their poetry was received. 2) Reply to poets' work within the time promised. Therefore, it won't take a NASA scientist trained in fearsome intergalactic black holes to come to a reasonable conclusion about the whereabouts of one's submission. 1) If we didn't acknowledge your work, we didn't receive it (or, you didn't enclose an SASE, but that's another blog for another day). 2) If we didn't reply to your work in the time promised, we didn't receive it (or, same parenthetical disclaimer as above).

Simple. Yes, this takes a bit of extra time. Yes, it takes a bit of extra investment when we don't have an e-mail address for submitters and need to acknowledge their work by postcard. But really, isn't it worth it? For the peace of mind? To show poets that we care and are ever-mindful that without their submissions, we are nothing (well, we might be a lovely cover, a letter to no one from me, and all blank pages, but that's all we'd be without our submitters). That we know what it's like to have our work sucked into a black hole.

What does all this have to do with my 4x6 card file? Well, this is what houses a 4x6 card for every poet who has ever appeared on our pages. Some poets have been with us since almost the beginning and have 3 4x6 cards stapled together. A poet's card contains their most recent contact information, and a notation on every appearance with us. It is a history of our relationship with each poet, in that they thought enough of us to send their work our way. In that we found a poem—or a certain number of poems—penned by this poet that we felt fit our journal. In that they have continued to think enough of us to keep sending us their poetry, in that we have continued to find gems in their submission envelopes.

I wish I could sit down and chat with all of our poets. But for now, they are all holding a very important meeting in a file box. Perhaps they are workshopping. Perhaps they are working on sending us their next batch of work—which we will acknowledge with a smile, and reply to within three months (unless they forget their SASE).


  1. I wondered why you were beoing so nice about my submissions - it doesn't diminish my warm feelings bout the Aurorean to find that you do that for everyone - I am honored to have a place in that card file

    Jim Todd

  2. I'd like to think we do it for everyone to the best of our ability, Jim!

    Yes, the T's are all tucked in for the evening. If you all want to have a poetry party, that's fine—as long as your editor and the S's and U's can sleep. :-)

  3. Cynthia, this is definitely what sets the Aurorean(and you as Editor) apart;you treat every poet as you would like to be treated.
    What an honor for all of us (myself included)
    to be part of your card file!!!

  4. That is, I try, Natalia :-)
    The card file is pleased you are nestled in there amongst its R's!

  5. What a party that would be. Perhaps someday we can have a real one with all of the Aurorean poets!

    It could be potluck and each person would have to bring their favorite poet's favorite dish!

    I wonder what Sylvia Plath liked to eat? :)

  6. Bridgette, there would be SO much food! Syliva Plath. I can't imagine! I'd have to bring Robert Frost's and Emily Dickinson's favorite foods (if we're going the deceased favorite poet route). :-))

  7. Cynthia, the respect you show each person who submits poetry to your journal is remarkable. I wish other publishers would follow your example!

    And now, Bridgette, I have to figure out Billy Collins' favorite dish for the party...

    Margaret Eckman

  8. hahaha - Cynthia - you need to do a separate post about the food! It would be interesting to find out who everyone's favorite poets are and related that to food. :)

    I think Sylvia liked comfort food, like salsbury steak and cookies. :)

  9. I imagine Emily loved bland Yankee dishes, that Sylvia SHOULD have eaten more comfort food, and I can't imagine what Billy Collins eats. I'll have to think about that one, Margaret and Bridgette!

  10. Hi Cynthia,

    This poem reflects how protective I am of my poetry when I send it out. (Call me crazy) The fact that the Aurorean provides notice about receipt and resolution of a submission is fantastic!

    After the Postmark

    I figure the quickest way is to fly,
    but it’s going to cost me:
    the boat ride to the airport and back,
    one day’s parking,
    a coach class ticket to New York City,
    round-trip cab fare,
    plus one day of vacation time.

    Or, I could leave the house at 6 am and drive,
    which would be cheaper
    (mostly gas and tolls),
    in which case I’d have to use two days of vacation time
    because I’d be too tired to go to work the next day.

    Either way, I can be in the publisher’s office
    by noon or so when the mail arrives.
    I’ll have my legs crossed
    and my hand resting under my chin--
    the very picture of nonchalance.
    Nana said you’re known by the company you keep,
    so I’ll be checking out
    who else is in the waiting room, too.

    No matter what happens behind the editor’s door,
    my poems and I will still have each other
    on the ride home.

    Susan Mahan

  11. Susan, thanks so much for sharing this! It's lovely to envision our poems wending their way around as we hope they make it to their destinations and are read and appreciated! Very imaginative!