Hi, I’m “14/17/2000/FP2007.” Given name, Russell Rowland. My Aurorean alter ego, created by editor Cynthia especially for the 15th Anniversary Issue, tells you (and reminds me) that I have appeared in the journal fourteen times, had seventeen poems published in it since 2000, and was Featured Poet in 2007. As I remarked to Cynthia after receiving this informative moniker, she and I go back a long way. Indeed, if I’ve counted on my fingers correctly, only five contributors to the landmark issue go back farther.
Each time I turn the pages, the feeling increases that this unique suffix of numbers and letters is as special to me as my educational and professional degrees. First, and most obviously, the Aurorean is such a handsome journal. Font, format, and photography (by Cynthia) distinguish one of those publications in which one is delighted to appear, confident that one’s own work will look so darn good in context (as opposed to mags that have one biting one’s nails about what may have happened to it in its pages). When my contributor’s copy arrives, I always think, “When I finally have a book, may it look as nice as this…”
Second, the combination of “New England,” “seasons,” and “uplift” work together to produce a consistent, convincing viewpoint, that both transcends the individual contributions, and unites and reinforces them. It’s a magazine with a message: not a heavy-handed, preachy, or travelogue message, but a worldview that, like the work of a good individual poet, finds universality in the particular. Each issue seems less an anthology or miscellany than a unified statement about life as it is lived among the blessings and idiosyncrasies of a given place. And, as another editor puts it about another mag, in the Aurorean there is no “pissing or moaning” about our lot. Between its covers one finds a celebration of life in this environment, under these circumstances. It may sound trite, but for fifteen years under Cynthia’s editorship, it has encouraged our gladness to be alive.
Third, my “14/17/2000/FP2007” reveals her intentional focus in the Anniversary Issue, which is no different—just perhaps more explicit—than the focus in the issues that preceded it. This focus is, she says, “to celebrate our contributors and our relationships with them.” Nothing could say more about the personal touch she brings to editing, about why it’s a pleasure to be associated with her as a contributor, or about the kind of person she is: happy to step out of the spotlight on the auspicious anniversary, and let it shine on her poets.
I write as one who has been submitting for publication long enough to have dealt with all kinds of editors: the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have on occasion not been treated well, sometimes unintentionally and sometimes intentionally. I have received responses that might have made a less determined writer give up, aghast. I’m as aware as any writer that editors are human beings, and in a few cases flawed ones.
One is safe with the Aurorean. Submissions are treated with care, submitters with respect. Transactions are timely, predictable, professional, yet cordial. At all times it’s obvious that a warm, caring human being is at the other end, one who is a writer herself and knows what both sides of the desk are like.
It is indicative of the kind of respectful, solicitous, meticulous relationship that Cynthia has with her contributors, that she and I have become friends over the years—friends who have never laid eyes on each other (save by photo), but whose mutual regard began with the common cause of poetry and over time included details of family, illnesses, aspirations, and mutual encouragement. I have no doubt many other contributors can say the same. In theory, it ought to be problematic to mix an editor/contributor relationship with a friend/friend relationship. Warning flags about conflicts of interest pop up. But in practice, there has never been a problem. Cynthia and I have enriched and exhorted each other, in good times and hard, as friends do. We have made each other chuckle, and made each other thoughtful, as friends do.
But she has never hesitated to return a submission, with thanks and best wishes, if it didn’t seem quite right for the Aurorean, and our camaraderie has not suffered in the least. She has, thank goodness, felt no need to accept my work solely because she likes me. Indeed, our friendship often seems to benefit the editorial process. I fondly remember, when I was to be Featured Poet in 2007, the exchange of e-mails as we wrangled over one blooming line in a poem, working together to make it better, but not easily seeing eye to eye. It was a friendly wrestling match, ending in laughter. I have worked with over a hundred journal editors, and with how many do I enjoy that kind of relationship?
So, this is “14/17/2000/FP2007,” and proud to be so, signing off with the hope that, like the odometer on my car, the numbers in my Aurorean moniker will keep turning over upward—both for the sake of my development as a poet, and for the satisfaction of knowing that, not unlike our flag over Fort McHenry, the Aurorean is “still there.” Thank you, Cynthia—and I trust you can hear the affection behind those words.
——Russell Rowland is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, recent winner of descant’s Baskerville Publishers Poetry Award, and 2010 winner of Old Red Kimono’s Paris Lake Poetry Contest. His chapbook, Train of All Cabooses, can be ordered from Finishing Line Press. He enjoys Moxie, classical music, hiking, and snow-shoeing.