Winter is coming, and 2015 is winding down. For us, that means submissions are closed, and we have the honor to read the deluge of great poetry sent our way. Selecting work is no easy task. And in the spirit of the upcoming holidays and the upcoming 2016 Poetry Prize judged by Camille Rankine, three MFA Poetry Candidates on Indiana Review’s staff weigh in on what they value–and what they might want to see in the poems that make them want to say Yes!
Poetry Editor Jessica Franck
Heart. Striking images, strong musicality, surprising lines and breaks: these are all things I love, but a poem will feel hollow to me without a heart. I’m not so interested in beautiful shells. I admire a poem when it is doing hard work. I need the poem to risk why it’s important—a place that is emotionally true.
Complexity. Making room for complication is the great potential of poetry. I suppose this could be considered subversive when so many forms of communication and representation are strategically simplistic. For a poem to see danger in something lauded as safe, value in what is deemed worthless, the coexistence of contrasting emotions, having the real dine/demolish the construct, etc. is to honor complexity. I respect that.
Nonfiction Editor Yael Massen
Purpose. The poem should be like a finely tuned machine. There are no unnecessary cogs and no missing screws. This concept applies to form, line, and content. Maybe your machine doesn’t need those extra pieces that keep banging around.
Awareness. Is the poem aware of how its metaphors are functioning? If the speaker of the poem is critical of its surroundings, does the speaker also implicate him/her/hirself? Does the poem recognize its politics? If a poem is engaging in a conversation, I want it to own up to its argument/perspective.
Associate Editor Su Cho
Voice. Make us believe in the space where the poem lives. Lead us to the landing point with its breaths, turns, and rests. The voice should resonate off the page and into the world of the reader saying—this is who I am.
Title. Short titles, long titles, running titles. I love titles that transform a poem, that complicate it. Use the title to ground the reader in the occasion. Help us unlock the poem.
A Striking Place. Take us somewhere new.
The 2016 Poetry Prize will be open for submissions on February 15 to April 1st. The winner will receive an honorarium of $1,000 and publication in Indiana Review. For full guidelines, click here.