The one with all the 8s, Tim Duffy, and Zoë Sîobhan Howarth-Lowe
8 Questions for 8 Poems
Numerology, Astrology & Poetry with Tim Duffy
The Magic 8 ball at 8 Poems beguiled me in the beginning. Its powerful black and white stark circular omen of simplicity: 8 poems, just eight, so finite and decisive. It spoke to my Capricorn nature: if you want to be in this magazine, you have to be in the top eight. I will honestly, and perhaps shamefully, admit that knowing there is intense competition makes me really step up my game and grow as a writer. I don’t always make the cut, but I grow from challenges, and so I try to embrace them.
I was lucky enough to be picked for the premiere issue. The first issue of a literary magazine is, of course, by definition a surprise. You’re auditioning, asking to be a part of something without seeing any product. I had a great feeling about 8 Poems though, and when the journal released early I was blown away by its beauty, curation, fresh art choices and unique design. 8 Poems exemplified a clear, crisp artistic vision from its inception. I watched the Twitter poetry community instantly embrace this magazine with its poetry jewel case presentation with a flurry of enthusiasm and passion. I could almost hear, inside the computer chatter, the furious flow of fingers against keys submitting their syllables and souls to 8 Poems - to have their words wrapped in its delicious art and chartreuse layout.
I was lucky enough to be able to speak with Tim Duffy who is the editor in chief of 8 Poems for The Sonnetarium. Of course, I had questions to ask, eight of them — not seven or nine, just eight.
1.) Why did you decide to start a literary magazine?
I was inspired by a lot of work out there being done by other editor poets and I was eager to add to the community. I started 8 Poems in the middle of a period of my life where I was starting new projects that were public in nature and a departure from my academic work as a scholar of Renaissance literature. I wanted to do something that was open to all and un-hierarchical. 8 Poems has featured and is booked to feature poets from all different professions, some working in academia, some very distant from it and I love the mix.
2.) What is the magic and power of the number eight?
Eight is an important number for me as I was born on August 8 but beyond that I like the amplitude and limitations of the number. Eight is both far fewer poems than you would expect but so much can be contained in eight different poems. It's a manageable number but still enough to hold your attention.
3.) Give me your dream eight poem curation. (Poems from anywhere — poems you’ve read lately by indie authors, famous, truly dream team 8 for you in this moment of life)
The greatest joy of founding 8 Poems has been discovering things I would never have thought of looking for. I purposefully try to see the journal's inbox as the dream material for the journal and it's easy to do with all the great stuff the journal gets. That said, a poet I really like and have followed for a while is being featured in an upcoming issue and that made me very happy. But, truly, my dream 8 poems are whatever 8 poems sing out from the inbox.
4.) What has been the biggest challenge and biggest joy of having your own magazine?
Some of the challenges are the greatest joys. Our submissions have really picked up since our first issue and I feel really humbled by how many great poets trust 8 Poems with their work. I never take that for granted. It's a big deal to me not to over-emphasize the gatekeeper aspect of editing. I think in the poetry community in the age of the online litmag (where just about everyone is doing the work for free on all different sides) you really have to be grateful for your submitters and do right by them. 8 Poems really tries to give fast responses and to show our appreciation even to those poets whose work we can't feature in a particular issue. The energy of the community and the work is the truest joy.
5.) Has It been hard to stick to the eight?
Yes! But I knew that would happen. By forcing a limit of 8 Poems it makes choices really hard but it also amplifies each poet we do feature. For that reason, I really try to let submitters know that often even if we pass on something at one stage we really would love to see more work from them later in the year. Our issues are just about filled through 2018 and I want to avoid a massive backlog so the work stays fresh, so it means we have to say no a lot more than yes which is hard but I try to convey when I respond to submissions just how grateful and excited we are for work even when we can't feature it.
6.) You seem to curate, in the first issue, a diverse array of poetry, different lengths and styles and forms. What kinds of poems are you dying to receive more of at 8 Poems? What makes a poem 8 Poems worthy?
The poems that scream "accept me!" let the reader know they are in good hands. The poet has really thought about their reader and wants to produce an experience for them. Beyond that, 8 Poems is really open. When I read for the journal, I try to show a range of experiences represented in the poems. Some are quite narrative, some are much more abstract, some are extremely confessional and bring a strong, memorable energy others shimmer in a quiet way. I always want to maintain a dynamic diversity not just in the content of the poems, but in the poets we feature as well. As for what we could use more of, I love the poems we're getting but I am always extra interested in poems that take on labor or devotion in an interesting way. But, truly, our inbox is open to everything.
7.) There’s a mystical feel to 8 Poems, at least to me, that Magic 8 Ball, which I had as a young adult and literally made life decisions based on its plastic prognostications. I also believe in astrology. (As you can see in the introduction above.) What is your sign, and how does that (if you feel it does) influences your writing process, habits at all?
I've never been one for astrology but I am a quite devout Catholic of the Dorothy Day left wing variety, so I'm always checking in with the sky in one way or another. I'm a Leo and though I have always been a bit resistant to astrology (I grew up with early memories of that 80s kind of grocery store aisle astrology that seemed a bit garish), the Astro Poets project on twitter has really made me connect with it, because the readings there are always so fascinating and brilliantly written. I am, also, whatever my skepticism, the embodiment of a Leo, so I tend to work in bolder ways with a lot of excited confidence. But I try to keep a cap on that Leo narcissism the Astro Poets talk about. In my own poetry, I've been working to really focus on other stories, family memories beyond my own lived experience, that force a new voice into the poem. It becomes an almost anthropological act of understanding and reconstructing, but, and here the Leo confidence comes in, it involves having the confidence to say "I can hear these voices from the past and write them." My training as a Renaissance scholar helped in that aspect as well as my years in academia. I think it's important to be confident while also making a room for others. It helps in dealing with a journal because the ability to have a clear gut feeling for what works can make submission response times very fast but it's, of course, also very important to make sure you are showing gratitude to the poetry community and testing the limits of your own taste. I often purposefully blow up my own taste to make sure I'm being fully open to new, great things. At 8 Poems, we publish very different sorts of poems, but they all have one thing in common: they honor their readers, even if they often challenge them.
8.) What writing projects are you personally working on?
In addition to my work as a columnist and some scholarly projects on the Renaissance epic and a study of the Renaissance lyric, I am at work on a series of poems about family ghosts, immigration, food, and devotion that continue the work of a chapbook manuscript I'm shopping around. I also have been writing a series of quirky recipes/food pieces with a satirical edge on the millennial experience. A piece I'm a bit proud of, "Stuffed Artichokes for Millennials Facing Structural Failure" is going to appear in Entropy sometime later this year. Though they strive to be funny, they contain real recipes meant to reinforce community and moments of calm and self-care. For the past few months, I've also been working on a draft of a novel entitled "Permission to Proceed" that swallows up whatever free time remains (the children take up most of it, but the writing still happens).
Read Tim Duffy’s amazing poem Wild Ducks at Cotton Xenomorph.
One Great Poem
Every week at The Sonnetarium, we will feature an original unpublished poem. During Ekphrastic Challenges, I may write it or have a friend write an exemplar piece to go with a piece of art. The examplars won’t be judged but are intended to inspire the competition and writing of everyone else.
On weeks when there is a writing feature, like today with Tim Duffy, the writers will be given a chance to include an original poem. If for any reason, they don’t, I will open up a submission call on Twitter entitled One Great Poem, and a winner will be picked and have their original poem featured that week on The Sonnetarium. The winner of the first One Great Poem challenge is Zoë Sîobhan Howarth-Lowe.
I Should Have Brought Them Sooner
by Zoë Sîobhan Howarth-Lowe
The sound of petals falling.
It was the only sound that would make me take
the three-minute walk to visit you
in that place. The smell of Dettol creeping
into me. My mouth full of the taste of it
mixed with urine and dust. The sound of petals,
pink hibiscus and fat lupins, the sound of colours
dripping back down the stems, running
like dye into the water, stagnant in the vase.
There are petals on the pavement as I walk
along the avenue of white flowering trees
outside the care home.
I linger, listening to the way each petal
strikes the stone. I let the flowers I have brought
shed a few more petals, mix pink with white.
I bring you flowers already wilting,
flowers that will die before you do.
Zoë is a Poet and Mum from Dukinfield. She has an MA in Poetry from Bath Spa University. Her work has appeared in Magma, The Lake, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Picaroon and The Black Light Engine Room amongst others.
Schoolgirl of the Sonnetarium Mixtape:
I was published in Five: 2: One #thesideshow this week, a dark poem I wrote that is a new favorite of mine. It’s called Broom. There’s an audio as well. I am always happy to be published on sites where I can read my poetry. Listen to Broom.
Also to prepare for my full-length poetic collection/memoir publication, I’ve made a playlist of music to accompany Candy Cigarette. If you’d like to hear the music and anticipate the poetry, listen HERE.
A brief note on some of the musical choices:
Candy Cigarette womanchild noir by Kristin Garth, The Hedgehog Poetry Press 4/2019 playlist includes Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows" from the film Exotica, a movie that planted the seed in a teenage girl's heart of becoming a stripper in plaid. The book is an aesthetic mashup of this films Exotica & Brick. It includes “New York New York," the roll call anthem every hour at the Frank Sinatra themed strip club. I hear it years later & my stripper walk returns. I may be in a mall, a grocery store. In my muscle memory, I am on a stage. I feel behind me some young girl singing in my ear an obscene juvenile rendition of what became our secret anthem: "Start spreading your legs." Even the customers adopted our pornographic iteration. Like the neon sign, these lyrics are a part of the mythology of a windowless box where I got naked (to a g-string) for strangers for 5 years. Every hour, while a neon sign blinked outside ROLL CALL NOW, all the entertainers circle the main stage to New York, New York. Strip Club neon whose popularity was equaled by one other sign in my small southern town: HOT DONUTS NOW, a couple of blocks away at the Krispy Kreme…