“Sapling,” from the wonderful folks at Black Lawrence Press,is a curated, streamlined weekly e-newsletter. Each issue profiles a contest, a small press, and a literary journal, and features an interview or article. For issue 250 they contacted QuillsEdge to feature us, and Jane did this great interview. Read on!
This week Sapling talks with Jane Seitel, Editor at QuillsEdge Press.
Sapling: What should people know who may not be familiar with QuillsEdge Press?
Jane Seitel: In March 2014, with my “co-conspirator,”
Elliott batTzedek, QuillsEdge Press made its
debut as a chapbook press featuring “indispensable poetry from women over 50.” Launching the press at Split This Rock Poetry Festival in Washington DC was as much a social and political statement as an artistic one. While I am older than Elliott (who recently hit the half century mark) both of us came from a time of speaking out against the status quo and rallying for political and social change. We came to adulthood during a time when poetry flourished as a vital expression of re-visioning our world. Writing race, class, gender and resistance was our embryonic ocean. And now, as older women and poets, we are noticing the political and social tide imperiling the generations born during and after World War II. In a country idealizing youth and beauty, what becomes of the beauty and worth of the older and elderly? In poetry as well, we have found a divide, in part a generational divide between the old and the young. While reading for presses and publications, and having submitted myself, age seemed at times a divide. When I was part of predominantly younger reading panels, there seemed a difference of aesthetics, perception of content, craft, etc. I was surprised to find there was not a single active chapbook press exclusively for women over fifty; yet, at the same time, many women well past fifty were taking up the pen and passionately writing all sorts of poetry. When I started writing poetry at 56 I showed my first work to a woman friend who was also an award winning poet and prose writer. She asked me if I didn’t feel myself becoming more invisible as I grew older? She asked if I was devoted enough to write poetry, even if I should go unacknowledged?
The editors view QuillsEdge as one antidote to the creative and social invisibility that older women poets may experience. As editors, we brainstorm ways in which we can publish chapbooks which express the brilliance and diversity of older poets, but also hope to become a public presence, educating the poetry community about why our community’s writing is a valuable resource. In our mission statement, welcome all women to submit, to allow us the view each in her chosen diversity as straight, dyke, queer, trans and all the permutations of modern self-identity. We view our contemporaries as a new generation redefining what it means to be an “old woman.” We want to read poetry that astonishes, makes inspired and startling connections, that cherishes the tradition of the craft of poetry and reaches towards new expressions. We intend to take the time to notice and appreciate each potential contributor.
Our first contest, which opens on September 1, has, for its theme, “On the Edge.” Barbara Crooker, an extraordinary poet, is our final judge. As part of the mission of the press, we offer of a variety of ways to enter. You might simply submit your manuscript or, as an opinion at minimal cost (to help you and help us to fund our shoe string startup) decide you would like one of the editor’s to respond to your manuscript withtwo page letter or a phone call. Our focus is to acknowledge the strengths of your poetry and also address what might enhance the manuscript. Since poets work in relative isolation, for some writers, this service may be of some value.
QuillsEdge also has a website, where we post press news—of sister presses, book reviews, and other posts to join together poets in our community. We value our community’s input. You can find us at our QuillsEdge Press website or on Facebook.
In the essay “To invent what we desire” Adrienne Rich asks What does a poet need to know? At QuillsEdge, three of these things speak directly to us as older women and poets:
~That you yourself, through recombinations and permutations of the languages you already know, can re-create fierce change, for yourself and others, on a page, something written down that remains.
~That this in itself can be a means of saving our life.
~That this in itself can be an activity of keenest joy.
Sapling: How did your name come about?
Jane Seitel: Our name, QuillsEdge, although deliberated upon for weeks on end, turned out, at last, to be the happy accident of my keyboard. We had settled on the putting together Quill and Sedge, as QuillSedge, when having a mind of its own, my unconscious trickster capitalized the E instead of the S. Both having more confidence in the right than the left hemisphere, we laughed and popped the cork. So telling it slant, as Emily Dickinson wrote, QuillsEdge was inked into the world.
Sapling: What do you pay close attention to when reading submissions? Any deal breakers?
Jane Seitel: We seek: Poetry with impresses on us your unique literary fingerprint— something we have never read before with the ability to thrill us or to give us pause. We adore poetry that is transitional, transitive, willing to undertake new structures and expression while maintaining a deep commitment to craft. We need to see a clear engagement to life in the contemporary world with tenacity, vibrancy, innovations as well as expressing the timely and the timeless. So send us your most deeply resonant and personal. The poetry embracing brave questions that obsess you, and demands you to hone and perfect it over time.
What we do not want is poetry that is solely memoir, or poetry that comes from a place of racism, intolerance, that is ego driven with mean spiritedness. We do not appreciate “sloppy” poetry (although one mistake or two does not a manuscript unmake) which has been dashed off without attention the details of language and syntax. When we see poetry which seems seamless, or approaches what articulates those maddening struggles of the world and your personal we say Yes!
Sapling: Where do you imagine to be headed over the next couple of years? What’s on the horizon?
Jane Seitel: Part of what has always depressed me about publication is that although you may be a first or second runner up, a nice letter is the sum total of the appreciation expressed by many presses. Part of our mission is to find new ways to publish more of the poetry which is not strictly “the winner’s” poetry, but to find ways of anthologizing works by other noteworthy contributors. Also, we have a commitment to making these chapbooks artful by using superior and imaginative papers, really noticing font and style, by commissioning woman visual and graphic artists, and designers, and working with the poet so that her vision of her poetry is expressed though presentation. As part of our continuing quest to honor women over fifty, we will continue to resource the women’s community for services contributing to our publications.
Sapling: As an editor, what is the hardest part of your job? The best part.
Jane Seitel: I have edited for other publications and also done screenings at presses. To view each manuscript threw fresh or new eyes, is always in my awareness. I need to stay with a manuscript, even if perhaps, the organization of the manuscript does not seem ideal; to see beyond certain idiosyncratic issues of composition and read into the soul and substance of the poetry itself.
Sapling: If you were stranded on a desert island for a week with only three books, what books would you want to have with you?
Jane Seitel: Being a triple Gemini, I would probably find a way of taking 9 books in my carryon! However, the first three I would put in would be “Arts of the Possible” (essays) by Adrienne Rich, the second would be an large book with lots of pictures I got from the used book store on World Mythology and the third would be an unlined book of perfectly blank pages.
Sapling: Just for fun, if QuillsEdge Press was a person, what three things would it be thinking about obsessively?
Jane Seitel: QuillsEdge obsessions: Where did I put my tale feather? Can I fly now? Duck, Duck, Duck or Goose?
Jane Seitel is an Expressive Therapist and educator (Lesley University, M.Ed) and received her MFA in Poetry from Drew University in 2011. Recent publications include Prairie Schooner, The Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Bridges, Midstream, Split This Rock and Lilith. She received the 2010 Charlotte Newberger Prize, and was a finalist in the 2013 Florida Review Editor’s Prize and 2013 So To Speak Poetry Award. She is the founder of QuillsEdge Press, a chapbook press dedicated to publishing the poetry of women over fifty. She is currently a doctoral student at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.
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