February’s edition of Dear Poetry Editor introduces us to Michelle Tudor, editor of England’s Platypus Press and wildness. This ongoing series offers readers insight on poetry and publishing from editors who shape the content in literary magazines and institutions around the world.
Michelle is a writer and editor from England. Along with her partner Peter, she is the co-founder and editor of Platypus Press, as well as the literary journal wildness. Her own work has been published in Asian Cha, Inspired by My Museum (anthology), Microfiction Monday Magazine, Tell Me a Tale (anthology), and others. She is currently working on her debut novel.
On Perspectives of Poetry
There are probably many misconceptions about poetry held by people both within the poetry community and external to it. One is the historically held perception of poetry as, for want of a more suitable word, stuffy. I feel that people sometimes come to poetry expecting something entirely different from what they receive. Even within the established poetry community, that attitude limits the scope of what poetry can be; its breadth is vast and can encompass any facet of the written word you can imagine. It can, and should, touch upon all types of writing, and within that, still contain something unique to poetry—something that can, and should, transcend the typical brevity of the form.
It is this diversity of voice and expression that drives us forward with wildness. We want to defy the general expectations of the typical poetry writer and reader. Three years ago I wasn’t even a regular poetry reader, and my perceptions were similar to the above. It is only through becoming part of the community—almost by accident—that I realized the beauty and breadth of the contemporary poetry scene. We want to help that further, to help remove the boundaries to ‘non-poetry’ people and, given time, I hope this will happen.
I believe Poets & Writers described my personal aesthetic on poetry succinctly when they called wildness a journal “that embraces the mysteries of the self and the outside world.” Poetry can and should be a cornucopia of things, but personally, I have a leaning towards the exterior, and how that teaches the interior. The deep composure of body and nature. As for what poetry is to me, I see it in a similar way to how I see music, a moment that lingers. So much can be said in that small window of reading, that depth of understanding.
I couldn’t really say how readers perceive the journals I edit, though it is something I obviously think about. wildness is two years old now and I’d like to think that over that time perception of the journal has evolved and that people see it as a place they want to return to. I hope that they see it as a place to find good writing, pieces of interest; a journal with a diverse and healthy variety of styles and genres, of voices that require reading, but all we can really do is hope that our aspirations for the journal are outwardly received.
People frequently comment on the journal’s aesthetic, and it is an area we’re particularly proud of—I’m grateful that an audience (and the writers) understand we care about the presentation of the work. Whilst obviously not as important as the work itself, a pleasing environment to read in can heighten the experience itself and anything we are able to do to increase the consumption and appreciation of the work we publish is a plus.
Obviously, we have all the anxieties that other journals probably have: why read us when there are so many other journals to read? The truth is, we’re doing it for ourselves and our current audience firstly, and as more people join us, we’ll do it for them as well. A literary community has to be grown and nurtured and hopefully we’ll be perceived as a journal that understands that very fact, and in turn, gives back and nourishes everyone who’s a part of it.
I have no regrets about work I’ve edited. Due to how our journal operates, the decision-making process is simply a matter of myself and Peter liking something enough to publish it. We don’t have readers and so everything we publish is mutually approved. I dare say given a long enough timeframe there could be regrets given a future context, but that is true with everything. We try our hardest though. And as we grow, as will our experience of developing the journal’s legacy—we hope that’s clear in the choices we make and the writers we publish.
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Ruben Quesada is a poet and translator. His chapbook of poetry and translations, Revelations, is available from Sibling Rivalry Press. He teaches poetry for UCLA Writers' Program and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He currently serves as the Executive Director of Arte Américas, one of the largest Latino cultural centers in California.