Category Archives: Publication

Interview with Poet Carol Smallwood by Carole Mertz

I am pleased to feature Carol Mertz’s interview with Carol Smallwood.

Carole Smallwood is an interviewer, editor, and literary judge. Her most recent book is Patterns: Moments in Time (Word Poetry, 2019). A multi-Pushcart nominee, she’s founded and supports humane societies. A collection is also forthcoming from Main Street Rag. Their conversation right after this poem by Smallwood:

We Select

a few—the selections random: a melody, morning fog, a path,
knowing with certainty at the time they’ll be ours to the end—
an imprinting sudden as first love with no thought of aftermath:
a sunset, muffled cry, a Thanksgiving dressing, smile of a friend.
Knowing with certainty at the time they’ll be ours to the end,
they return at unexpected moments, their clarity a surprise:
a sunset, muffled cry, a Thanksgiving dressing, smile of a friend
bringing feeling from depths we cannot withhold, disguise.
They return at unexpected moments, their clarity a surprise
an imprinting sudden as first love with no thought of aftermath
bringing feeling from depths we cannot withhold, disguise:
a few—the selections random: a melody, morning fog, a path.

C.M. Carol, from the number of collections you’ve published within the last decade, it’s obvious your work is a rich flow of creativity. Can you tell us a little about your attitude toward work and your writing process? When did you start writing poetry?

Smallwood: Writing never seemed to be work ever since learning to read in school. The whole idea of words—the way they sound, look, evoke, made me feel right away it was a new world I wanted to explore. Of course I had no idea what was involved but knew it was one I wanted to be in. Poetry was a form I didn’t think I’d ever try, as after taking college poetry classes in which one class period was figuring out what a poet meant in one line seemed impossibly hard. But finally I decided to try a few so jumped in and was amazed to get acceptances which encouraged me in 2006 to keep going. Probably dealing with cancer at this time prompted me. Yes, I’m OK now but facing mortality pushes one. By chance I ran across formal poetry and after much struggling came up with a villanelle which gave me so much satisfaction I found out how to do triolets, pantoums, and other forms; the rondeau my latest. I found How to Write Classical Poetry: A Guide to Forms, Techniques, and Meaning (Ragazine) to be of great help. As far as the process of writing, it is illusive, very mysterious. The best comes from our unconscious which we know little. It seems the times I try the hardest are times I do the least and when I am not trying, ideas come. Writers are always writing even if not putting words down as it is a simmering on a back burner we have little to do with. Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea in a very short time as he was ready for it, it was cooked so to speak.

C.M. Do you work mostly at home? If not, how do you establish your routine, for example, if working at a library or another location? In Interweavings, your collection of creative nonfiction, in your essays, and in some of your poems, you refer to visits to the library, and sometimes to the napkins at McDonald’s. I’ve always wondered if you actually took lunches at McDonald’s.

Smallwood: Yes, I work mostly at home now, around 5 hours at the desktop computer. When not at home I often jot down words on paper that is always handy and yes, sometimes when I run out, on napkins or placemats. Lunch out is my carrot to keep me working and I’m a good customer of fast food places—they know me by name and what I order.

C.M. When working at an outside location, what writing tools do you carry in your tote bag?

Smallwood: Just my list of things to shop on back of scrap paper and two pens. Often ideas pop up while I’m driving, so I have a clipboard handy on the passenger seat. It is hard to read on the fly (if you want to read it).

C.M. I’ve admired your essays at Society of Classical Poets on various poetical forms. Does content of your poems dictate the form you choose, or vice versa?

Smallwood: A cinquain sometimes starts as a poem but ends up as a sestina or fiction. My computer screen has a big folder called Unfinished Work that I keep going and often use, that is, finish. My latest notes I took last night long hand watching television.

C.M. Does the material reside in your mind (pre-inscription, as it were) and then you shape the poem? Or do you begin with the formal outline of a villanelle or pantoum, for example, and work the lines into the poem’s formal construct?

Smallwood: Ideas come first and then I write it as a narrative not thinking what form it would fit. The challenge in most formal poetry is not to make it too “sing song” that is, the rhyme must not overwhelm. I often start out with many lines but end up with just a few or toss it.

C.M. In various passages from your writing, you’ve referred to John Galsworthy? How has his writing influenced your own?

Smallwood: I have lunch with John every day even if carrying hard copies in my purse makes it heavy. It was in high school I first read him and greatly admired his style—not knowing about him at all, I just felt it was special and someone I wanted to keep reading. I now have a set (Devon Edition) I treasure that came with uncut pages as well as several autographed books. He has written widely in other forms besides fiction, but it is his novels I keep reading. His The Forsyte Saga has been in at least 2 major television series but I can’t watch it because my image of the characters just doesn’t match those on screen after reading it so often. I often think of his:  “Art was unsatisfactory. When it gave you the spirit, distilled the essence, it didn’t seem real; and when it gave you the gross, cross-currented, contradictory surface, it didn’t seem worth while.”

C.M. Do you have favorite contemporary poets? I feel I’m always trying to catch up on authors I haven’t yet read. Do you feel that kind of pressure?

 Smallwood: Yes, I have that same pressure of keeping up to date. And concluded one just cannot!

C.M. One of my favorite essays from your Interweavings is the one you call “Beginning the Day.” I like it for the “present moment” of the essay and for its reverence of the past, told as much by the scarf the cat played with (made from flour sack material), as by items such as stones saved from the past and reference to an old Department of Agriculture land study. This essay achieved such a balancing of “then and now.” Can you tell us something of how this essay came about?

 Smallwood: Thank you! The things I mention were taken from what I saw. As one that fights to fall asleep, seeing dawn has become very familiar but I can never really capture it—it is an amazing process seeing familiar things take on reassuring form early in the day. The essay was an attempt.

C.M. Your collections are so interesting and so varied, one from the other. In Water, Earth, Air, Fire, and Picket Fences you organize your material according to the earth’s elements, speaking sometimes of the Swan Nebula and sometimes of tea bubbles. The unity of Prisms, Particles, and Refractions, on the other hand, is so different from that of A Matter of Selection where in your preface you address the question of words left in poems and thoughts suggested by what’s left out. When you start assembling your material, do you always recognize immediately the common thread that will make the collection cohere?

Smallwood: Thank you! It isn’t until I’ve written nearly twenty new poems that I can detect a theme to shape a new collection. There is a thread that connects them even if didn’t know it when writing them and it is satisfying to find, pin it down.

C.M. I think readers would be most interested in learning what part of the collection process you find most enjoyable? most laborious? most challenging?

 Smallwood: The most enjoyable is seeing the collection fall into place as a unit out of so many parts. In each collection I use 3-5 Parts in Roman Numerals to place the poems as a further definition. And begin with a Prelude, end with an Epilogue. Give it structure, maybe it is the librarian part of my background. The most laborious is thinking of a new poem: thinking is the wrong word—it just comes when it is ready. Sometimes you are convinced you have written your last one and a new one is a thing of the past; it is all over. The most challenging is to keep yourself open, the waiting.

C.M. If you don’t mind serving further as teacher, could you tell the novice poet how to go about organizing his/her material, or how or when (s)he should approach a publisher?

Smallwood: Once you finish putting the collection together, add requested blurbs, let it sit a month at least, read it with new eyes. Make sure the table of contents matches the order of the poems, spellcheck. If possible, have a friend spellcheck.  This is the way I organized my most recent poetry collection, In the Measuring:

  • Blurbs
  • Half Page (title only)
  • Title/Author Page
  • Epigraph
  • Recent Selected Work
  • Table
  • Foreword
  • Introduction (Preface)
  • Acknowledgments
  • Prelude
  • Names of Parts
  • Epilogue
  • About the Writer

Decide if you want to pay a fee for a contest, or a reading fee. Most publishers go this route but some do not. A reliable list of publishers is by Poets & Writers: Small Presses

Expect to wait, make dozens of submissions as the competition is high. I’ve had 8 poetry collections published so far and another hybrid (not all poetry) is coming out in November from Finishing Line Press; a poetry collection in 2019 from WordTech Editions. John Dos Passos expressed it well when he wrote:  “If there is a special Hell for writers it would be in the forced contemplation of their own works, with all the misconceptions, the omissions, the failures that any finished work of art implies.”

***

Carole Mertz, poet and essayist, is the author of the 2019 poetry chapbook, Toward a Peeping Sunrise (Prolific Press). She writes for various literary journals in U.S. and Canada and resides in Parma, OH. Mertz is the Book Review Editor at Dreamer’s Creative Writing.

10 WordPress-Hosted Literary Journals Accepting Poetry Submissions

  1. Dogwood – A Journal of Poetry and Prose: An annual national literary journal seeking works from writers during its fall reading period each year. We publish fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction of both contest winners and other writers in May of each year. The literary journal is produced by the faculty in the Department of English at Fairfield University, and Fairfield undergraduate students gain hands-on experience in helping to edit and produce the journal by taking EN 340: The World of Publishing or The World of Publishing II.
  2. The Magnolia Review The Magnolia Review was born in October 2011 by Bowling Green State University creative writing undergraduates. Suzanna Anderson is the Editor-in-Chief and Founder. Please visit the Submit tab for information on how to submit. While The Magnolia Review will not have physical copies at this time, the editors may compile a print version if funds become available. We publish two issues a year, deadlines on November 15 and May 15. The issue will be available January 15 and July 15 online.
                                                                             
  3. The Mantle: Founded in 2017, The Mantle is an online quarterly journal dedicated to contemporary poetry. We’ll publish the most memorable poems we receive. When the time comes, we’ll nominate for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Find our submission guidelines here.
                                                  
  4. Naugatuck River Review: This is a literary journal founded in order to publish and in doing so to honor good narrative poetry. We publish twice a year. Our first edition was Winter 2009.  A print issue will be available through this site for purchase. It will also be available for download. Publication rights will revert to the author of the poem and we do not pay for poetry published. We accept simultaneous submissions, but please inform us if your work is accepted elsewhere. Naugatuck River Review is dedicated to publishing narrative poetry in the tradition of great narrative poets such as Gerald Stern, Philip Levine or James Wright.
  5. Panoply, A Literary Zine: Join us here for a wide-ranging and impressive array of writing.
                                                        
  6. Peacock Journal: Have you ever been so attracted to something, you just wanted to be close to it? You just wanted to exist within the same space? Or have you ever seen something so beautiful you thought it might be a door to another world? And all you desired, with the entirety of your being, was to pass through that door, into that other place, and just exist there for a little while? It’s not a separate reality, it’s a heightened, more intense reality, fuller and more complete. Write that and send it to us. It’s really difficult. It’s far easier to write gritty and pedestrian. But try it. Send us something about water and wind and light and the interplay of harmonies between them.
  7. Pearl S. Buck Writing Center Literary Journal: See website for current submission guidelines.

  8. Quill’s Edge Press: QuillsEdge Press is dedicated to publishing the poetry of women over the age of 50. We offer an annual chapbook contest during the fall and winter, and beginning in 2017, an annual anthology of new, emerging, and established women poets called 50/50: Poems and Translations by Women Over 50.                                                                                              
  9. Seshat – A Homeschool Literary Magazine:  Submissions will be open until September 1, 2017. Please review the submission guidelines before submitting your pieces to our email. All pieces will be reviewed immediately upon being received.The inaugural issue of this journal is planned for release on September 15, 2017. Any further news regarding this new release will be updated as time passes.

  10. Sliver of Stone:   a nonprofit online literary magazine. Our editors are the talented progeny of the Creative Writing Program at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. Our mission is to provide for a web-based environment for outstanding literary fiction, nonfiction, poetry and visual art from around the globe. We want to expand the influence of these genres beyond their traditionally academic audiences.

Want to add a wordpress-hosted literary journal to the list? Send a link to ZingaraPoet@gmail.com

First Digest of 2018 and OPEN SUBMISSIONS

Hello Dear Readers,

This is the first time I’ve had a minute to put together a digest since September. I’ve been negotiating a number of major life events, including a few health challenges and a career change. It’s been trying, but I’m the better for having gone through them and am happy to return once again to my passion project.

I am also happy to announce that submissions are once again open. In addition to taking poems for the weekly Zingara Poetry Pick, I am asking for poems to publish during National Poetry Month. If enough poems are received to post a poem every day, I will so. If not, I will just post however many I can. If, on the other hand, I receive more than I can fit into a month’s time, I will post them at other times of the year. So, please send your best work and tell all your poet friends. Open slots will fill quickly. Submission guidelines, which you should review, can be found here.  Please mention in your cover letter if you are submitting for National Poetry Month or for the regular feature.

Now on to this month’s fine selection of  truly wonderful poetry by talented poets who have generously shared their work and talent with Zingara Poetry Review.

Watch for February’s digest for a recap of January poems and definitely keep an eye out for more upcoming stunners.
Thanks everyone, and WRITE ON!!
Lisa