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).