BETTERING AMERICAN POETRY 2015
CALL FOR NOMINATIONS
Our goal is to model a collaborative editorial venture that breaks with the anemic capitalizing tradition and goes ahead of institutional efforts that rank poems as the “best”. The “best” hides the subjective goals and values of the few determining what work should receive visibility and reward. The “best” implies that some voices should be prioritized over others. We wish to challenge the idea that a few gatekeepers should oversee the publishing order each year by actively defining and maintaining a hierarchy of voices, an order that replicates the status quo that tokenizes and marginalizes difference. Our efforts will intentionally shift favor so that the literary landscape within this anthology reflects a ranging plurality of voices in American poetry and illuminates the possibilities of sharing space.
To this end, we have decided to call our endeavor Bettering American Poetry. For us, this means that rather than seek out the kind of work that best exemplifies “American poetry” as such, our task is to spotlight the poems that are working to radicalize and reinvigorate our American imagination. We feel that to “better” American poetry is to jam dominant systems of taste to the best of our abilities, and to resignify the very phrase “American poetry” with the languages that it so desperately lacks. We intend to center voices of resistance, subjectivities that emerge from the radical margins, artists whose Americanness transcends nationalism and other borders, perspectives historically denied institutional backing--in short, poets and poetries that are urgent and necessary but do not get along nicely with Power. And in this process, we recognize that “bettering” is, always, an ongoing act: it is a struggle against the obliterating forces of American history, politics, imagination and poetics. We don’t pretend it is possible to have finished bettering American poetry, which is why we dedicate ourselves to the task anew, daily. This anthology represents just one, concerted effort to better American poetry, but it is one that we hope will resonate.
As editors, we share a collective spirit but represent an array of tastes, visions and desires. Please check out our bios below for a glimpse into our poetry predilections. Several of us have also made statements included in “What Is Literary Activism?” at Poetry Foundation.
For an outline of poems we hope you’ll nominate, consider: We want work that is unafraid to look, to shake shit up, to speak. We are interested in poems that challenge patriarchal and white supremacist power structures. We love poems that burn misogynist, homophobic, ableist, transphobic, racist, xenophobic attitudes and behaviors at the core. Poems that critique the dominant culture and flummox the status quo, that speak with voices historically misrepresented, underrepresented, censored, and silenced make us sit up and listen hard. We want poetry that revolts, disobeys, mucks up the accepted order and betrays nepotistic allegiances. We long for poems that sting, love without fear and exist without fear. We want to swoon over your clashing engagements with the world.
● Nominate poems published in 2015 in any format, small press ventures included. Send poems to BetterAmericanPoetry@gmail.com
● Include poet’s name, title of poem, date & title of publication the poem appeared in, and online link to the published poem or to the publication the poem appeared in.
● You may nominate your own work or someone else’s but please limit nominations to three poems.
● U.S. citizenship NOT required.
● Due to time & space constraints, please avoid nominating exceptionally long poems.
● Deadline to nominate is November 30, 2015.
● The anthology, BETTERING AMERICAN POETRY 2015, will be published in print by BlazeVOX Books in February 2016.
Kenzie Allen is a descendant of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin. She is a graduate of the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan where she was the recipient of Hopwood Awards in poetry and non-fiction, and she has been awarded an Emerging Writer fellowship to Aspen Summer Words and the Littoral Press Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Iowa Review, Drunken Boat, SOFTBLOW, Apogee, Boston Review, and elsewhere, and she is the managing editor of the Anthropoid collective. She lives in Norway, and on her tribe’s reservation in Green Bay.
Eunsong Kim is a doctoral candidate at the University of California, San Diego. Her essays on literature, digital cultures, and art criticism have appeared or are forthcoming in: The New Inquiry, Model View Culture, AAWW’s The Margins, Art in America, and others. Some of her poetry has been published or will be in: Denver Quarterly, Seattle Review, Feral Feminisms, Minnesota Review, Iowa Review, and Action Yes. Her first book will be published by Noemi press in 2017.
Amy King’s forthcoming book, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. King joins the ranks of Ann Patchett, Eleanor Roosevelt & Rachel Carson as the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the WNBA Award (Women’s National Book Association). She serves on the executive board of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and is currently co-editing with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology, Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.
Jason Koo is the founder and executive director of Brooklyn Poets and creator of The Bridge. He is the author of America’s Favorite Poem (C&R Press, 2014) and Man on Extremely Small Island(C&R Press, 2009), winner of the De Novo Poetry Prize and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop Members’ Choice Award for the best Asian American book of 2009. He earned his BA in English from Yale, his MFA in creative writing from the University of Houston and his PhD in English and creative writing from the University of Missouri-Columbia. The winner of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Vermont Studio Center and New York State Writers Institute, Koo is an assistant professor of English at Quinnipiac University and lives in Williamsburg.
David Tomas Martinez's debut collection of poetry, Hustle, was released in 2014 by Sarabande Books, winning the New England Book Festival's prize in poetry, the Devil's Kitchen Reading Award, and honorable mention in the Antonio Cisneros Del Moral prize. Features or reviews have appeared in Poets & Writers, Publishers Weekly, NPR's All Things Considered, NBC Latino, Buzzfeed, and many others. He is the reviews and interviews editor for Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts. He has been a Breadloaf and CantoMundo Fellow, and is finishing his Ph.D. in the University of Houston's Creative Writing program. Martinez is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of creative writing at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX.
Airea D. Matthews is a 2015 Kresge Literary Arts Fellow. She is the Assistant Director of the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she earned her MFA. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming inBest American Poetry 2015, The Missouri Review, The Baffler, Callaloo, Indiana Review, WSQ, Kinfolks and Muzzle. Matthews' prose appears in SLAB, Vinyl, Michigan Quarterly Review and VIDA: Her Kind. She is the co-executive editor of The Offing, a channel of the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Héctor Ramírez is a writer and teacher living in Boulder, CO. He received his B.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University and is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He reads fiction submissions for Timber journal and is an editor and staff writer at Vannevar(www.vannevar.net). His work has been published in The Café Irreal, Buffalo Almanack, American Book Review, The Poetry Foundation’s “Harriet” blog, and elsewhere.
Metta Sáma is author of le animal & other creatures (Miel Books), After "Sleeping to Dream"/After After (Nous-Zot), Nocturne Trio (YesYes Books) & South of Here, published under her legal name, Lydia Melvin, by New Issues Press. Her poems, fiction, and creative nonfiction essays have been published in Heir Apparent, Valley Voices, Puerto del Sol’s Black Voices Series, Literary Hub, Kweli, bluestem, Apogee, All About Skin (edited by Jina Ortiz & Rochelle Spencer), Please Excuse This Poem: 100 Poets for the Next Generation (edited by Lynn Melnick & Brett Fletcher Lauer), among others. She has served as special guest editor for Reverie, Black Camera, RedLeaf Poetry Journal and North American Review. She serves on the advisory board of Black Radish Book and the Board of Directors at Cave Canem and VIDA and is a Fellow at Black Earth Institute. Sáma is the director of Center for Women Writers and an Assistant Professor and Director of Creative Writing at Salem College.
Vanessa Angelica Villarreal's work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Poetry Foundation Harriet blog, The Feminist Wire, Caketrain, DIAGRAM, The Western Humanities Review, NANO Fiction, The Colorado Review Online, and elsewhere. She is a CantoMundo Fellow and her book, BEAST MERIDIAN, was a finalist at Nightboat, Futurepoem, Saturnalia, and Willow Books, and is forthcoming from Noemi Press in 2017. Her hometown is Houston, Texas.
Nikki Wallschlaeger’s work recently has been featured in Storyscape Journal, Dusie, Fanzine, The Enemy, The Brooklyn Rail & others. She is the author of the chapbook I Would Be the Happiest Bird (Horseless Press) and her first full-length book of poems, Houses, also from Horseless Press in 2015. Her graphic chapbook I Hate Telling You How I Really Feel is forthcoming from Bloof books. You can reach her at http://nikkiwallschlaeger.com/