The Barefoot Muse

A Journal Of Formal & Metrical Verse

Issue #8, Winter 2008

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Dreaming in Iambic Pentameter

Anna Evans Home Page


For this issue I was all set to write a scathing piece about the trials and tribulations of editorship, prompted by a very unpleasant email I received (alas, far from a rarity) accusing me of being "anti-poetry" because I do not pay my contributors. (Aside to said contributors: hit me up at West Chester in June and I'll buy you a drink. Oh, that's right--drinks are free at West Chester.)

But I don't really think I need go into details defending my position on my lack of payment. We all know that The Barefoot Muse costs me money to produce, and moreover, that each issue takes many, many hours of unpaid work on my behalf. A more interesting question would be, why do I do it? Why does anyone do it?

This is something that relates both to my life as an editor and as a mother. Neither are life choices brimming with financial reward or positive feedback. In fact, both are primarily drudgery, but relieved by moments of exultation when the child/journal does something clever or reaps some unexpected praise. Perhaps all mothers are also Editors, after a fashion? My children would certainly see The Barefoot Muse much like a rival sibling, competing for their mother's precious time and energy.

Then John Oelfke called me a couple of weeks ago to offer me the opportunity to take over from Tom Kerrigan as Editor of the Raintown Review. And what was my first thought? Oh, I hope I won't have to give up The Barefoot Muse! Am I certifiably insane? Or am I simply like a mother of three, rejoicing to learn she is pregnant once more?

The congratulatory notes have not yet stopped pouring in, although some of them have an undertone of horror. One very good friend said "I think I would shoot myself if I had to be an Editor. But YOU are perfect for it." I had never thought of Editing as requiring much in the way of a specific skill set, aside from a certain competence in poetry writing, and that got me to thinking, what exactly did he mean by that?

Today in my overflowing email inbox was an email from a young man whose poems I have not YET taken for the Muse, although he has sent me several submissions. He thanked me for my guidance and told me that he believed it had been instrumental in him securing some recent online publication credits.

I couldn't remember what I had said to him. Sometimes, when I reply to poets who clearly have potential, I DO slip in a few pointers--"don't drop articles", "more concrete imagery", "Watch your modifiers"--that sort of thing. I also will respond to poets who send me a poem with which I really connect, but which has an obvious flaw, asking for (or suggesting) a revision. Does THAT make me a good editor?

Or is it my painstaking eye for detail? You may not realize that I code the Barefoot Muse entirely by hand in html (Insane! I know!) I like doing it that way--it gives me an intimate connection with the poems. I pore over every line, and make sure that if the poet has used white space I replicate their wishes as closely as possible.

But ultimately I suspect it is none of these things. If I am a good Editor it is because I begin each six month reading period filled with vision and hope, and painstakingly pan through buckets of poor and mediocre submissions in search of the nuggets of gold which I know I will find. It is because at every stage I hold the idea of the next issue of the journal inside me like an unborn child, and when that child emerges, uniquely beautiful (though initially red, wrinkled and screaming) I am filled with pride and also with recognition. Each issue is the product of the twenty four or so brilliant poets I have chosen, but it is also mine, the product of a six month gestation period in which I have been at times sick and tired, at times radiant and hopeful. Maybe on occasion I even glowed a little.

And when I finally ftp all the files to the web, sit back in my chair and click on to check that the cover has uploaded correctly, I may not say it aloud like I did when I held my two daughters in my arms for the first time, but do you know what I find myself thinking? "Hello!"

Anna Evans, Editor, The Barefoot Muse

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