Poetry makes you know : that your bliss and suffering is,
forever shared and forever all your own.
– Dylan Thomas
Poets love to write poetry for its own sake, but they feel especially inspired to continue writing when they see their work in print. Yet getting poetry published can be a daunting task; hopeful poets face a 99 percent rejection rate, according to a letter I received recently. When I tell someone in a workshop to seek publication, the most common question is, “Where?” The bigger question might be, “Why?”
As Ted Kooser points out in The Poetry Home Repair Manual, “A poem published : might net you a check for enough money to buy half a sack of groceries.” But he goes on to quote Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney: “The aim of the poet : is finally to be of service : to the larger work of the community as a whole.” Here in Santa Barbara we are fortunate to have two poetry journals doing just such a service: Askew and Sage Trail.
Askew is a tabloid format journal, unbound and printed on high quality paper. Editors Marsha de la O and Phil Taggart discovered the style when they fell in love with the East Coast literary journal 5AM. It offers them the opportunity to publish long poems on a single page, with a lot of white space and room for the poem to breathe. The inspiration for the name Askew comes from Emily Dickinson: “Tell the truth but tell it slant.” Askew publishes twice yearly and retails at $5 per issue. The journal solicits poets, takes referrals, and accepts submissions, which should be sent to ASKEW, P.O. Box 559, Ventura, CA 93002 from June-August and January-March.
Both of Askew’s editors are also accomplished, frequently published poets. De la O’s first book of poetry, Black Hope, won the New Issues Press Poetry Prize and a Small Press Editor’s Choice Award. Taggart was editor of Art/Life from 1996-2005. Long a supporter of area poets, he has organized innumerable readings. His book of poetry, Opium Wars, was published by Mille Grazie Press. He recently was honored in Ventura with the Mayor’s Art Award, the first time it was given in literature.
Among the many gems from Askew’s last issue, #5, is “Tarzan Aging” by John Ridland. Here is an excerpt:
I remember when
I remember: je me souvienne.
Most of the time it’s Decemberand I rock until the last cricket
clicks off, and the flickering
projector chews to the end of a reel
from my canned collection of
‘me Tarzan, you Jane’-
the Jane I love.
Suzanne Frost is publisher and editor of the monthly Sage Trail poetry magazine that she began with Albuquerque poet Cathryn McCracken in February 2008. Suzanne draws on poetry with a “southwest flavor,” capturing the cultural and natural diversity of this region. Every issue is released on the second Saturday of each month at the Santa Barbara “Poetry Zone” reading, held at the Karpeles Museum at 2 p.m. Frost has been writing poetry since she was seven, and prints one of her poems in each issue. Having just celebrated the first anniversary of her magazine with issue #11, vol. 2, Frost remarked, “It’s like giving birth to a baby every month.” To subscribe to Sage Trail, send $15 per year to: Sage Trail, P.O. Box 4012, Santa Barbara, CA 93140. You may also email poems to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is a wry poem from the latest issue by Santa Barbara poet Sojourner Kincaid Rolle. It’s titled “Mother Tongue:”
“Is English your native language?”
a woman at my front door queried me.
And I, Carolina-born female
of Ethiopian, Cherokee, Aborigine, Irish
and other parts unknown descent, &
in my best drawl replied “Yes”
and she said, “Oh, ’cause if it isn’t,
you sure have a way with words.”