Letter from the Editor
Sooner or later, one inevitable step in our editorial process is for me to send out a file of the final selection of poems to the editorial advisory board so that they know which contributors and specific poems have been selected for the upcoming issue. Before this the board always offers input individually either by voting or commentary and critical evaluation to help with the selection process, but I don’t always make it clear where I stand. Often I just listen. Sometimes I go with consensus, sometimes against, so it isn’t always clear to them who or what will be featured until the file arrives.
Pamela O’Shaughnessy, serving on the board, echoed my thoughts about the wild grab bag of variety we ended up with in this issue and said, “Hey, I just went through the poems for issue 9 and they are knockouts. I really like Byro and Perchik and Ramona. It makes you want to write about these different ‘flavors’ of poetry – how some are mad imagists, some thought-disorder types, some involved with language experimentation – like different kinds of flowers, violets, sunflowers, cacti… great choices!” My job as editor is to look for a coherent, organic whole for an issue and when possible, include or hold back poems until we reach something that feels of a piece and complete. An editor’s selection is restricted by and always reflects a sample culled from what has been submitted or solicited, but a magic takes place even amidst random elements that builds into a surprising organic unity with very little effort. It seems akin to writing to form or convention.
We’re really pleased and proud of this issue, not only because of a kind of unity in diversity present, but also because all of the contributors agreed to ‘play’ when asked if they’d like to review their fellow contributors, for they also receive ‘a file,’ and are offered the chance to do a critical write-up of other contributors in a given issue – an option we began with issue #8. Not all critics of poetry are poets, but all poets must be critics in some form or fashion, just by nature of the demands of the craft. Any poet who participates in revision becomes a critic of their own work. Randall Jarrell, a wry and wise American poet and critic answers the question, “What is a critic, anyway? So far as I can see, he is an extremely good reader – one who has learned to show to others what he saw in what he read. He is many other things too but these belong to his accident, not his essence.”* Everyone who participates in ‘criticism’ of the literary kind has to come to grips with what they think their job is – and we are still working through that for ourselves on the editorial panel here, and our contributors have begun joining us in the fun as well.
Since this journal arose out of the online workshop, The Critical Poet, we believe that a poet who practices criticism especially with peers can’t help but become a better (or at least more self-aware) poet in the process. It is an exercise which forces one to come to grips with and articulate not only whether they believe a poem works but why or how. Most readers know whether they like something but not everyone can say why. We at Triggerfish and our contributors can’t always either, but we’re not afraid to try. What is there to lose?
We hope you enjoy the rich variety of minds and voices on display through the poetry and criticism here as much as we enjoyed bringing it all together for you!
* from Randall Jarrell’s essay, “The Age of Criticism,” from No Other Book: Selected Essays, page 295.