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Lit Mag Spotlight: RATTLE

RattleCalling all poets! The first Lit Mag Spotlight of the year is shining on RATTLE. This wonderful poetry lit mag gave some thorough answers to our interview questions that can help all writers in their submission process, not just poets. Check out the three fantastic poems that struck a chord with RATTLE, gain some insight into what they’re looking for from a submission and a poem, and enter to win a free one-year subscription, PLUS a RATTLE editor’s critique of up to three pages of your poetry (view an example at the bottom of this article)! Now that’s a deal!

CONTEST: Leave a comment on this blog post by February 13 to enter to win a free one-year subscription and an editor’s critique of up to three pages of your poetry. PLUS: Anyone subscribing to RATTLE can mention Writer’s Relief in the merchant checkout, and they’ll send you a FREE copy of their current issue! This contest is now closed. Congratulations to Robin, our winner! Thanks to all who participated!

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Give us the lowdown on your journal’s mission.

Poetry—the spoken song—is one of the oldest, if not the original, human art form. It’s innate within our psyche, and the way we acquire and understand language. It’s why my daughter loves Dr. Seuss. In other countries, regular people memorize poems voluntarily, because the poems mean something to them. Here in the United States, regular people think that they don’t like poetry at all. Obviously something has gone terribly wrong. Without pointing fingers, let’s just say that the esoteric, experimental, scholarly poetry of the Academy fails to connect with most readers—and by lauding what doesn’t connect, it also serves to alienate most people from writing it, as well. RATTLE’s mission is to promote the practice of poetry by everyone—not just academics and MFA students. We do this by treating all poems equally, regardless of the CV behind them, and only publish those poems that sing.

Describe your ideal submission in 15 words or less.

As Joe Biden would say: No malarkey. Speak your truth and don’t fake it.

Tell us about a piece you recently published that got the staff really excited. Why did you love it? Why did it strike a chord?

We love every poem that we publish; that’s why we publish them. Picking favorites is an impossible task, but here are a few, chosen somewhat randomly:

Rob Smuniewski Is Dead” by Jack Powers is one of the most touching and true eulogies I’ve ever read.

I always think of Lynne Shapiro, who, as far as I know, only published this one poem before she passed away, “Sloan-Kettering,” which also won a Pushcart Prize.

Another favorite is Li-Young Lee, who wrote most of “Seven Happy Endings” after waking up in the middle of the night at his hotel, just prior to being interviewed for our issue #21.

But there are just so many poems to love. There’s a young poet, Joanne Koong, who has a piece forthcoming in our winter issue—at the time a 17-year-old high school student, and she submitted the best group of poems I’ve seen in years. 17! That’s just amazing.

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Regarding submissions: What’s the most common turn-off that you encounter (in terms of craft)?

We read upwards of 60,000 poems each year, and the vast majority are just devoid of any kind of insight—they have nothing to share. They might be well-written, but poems are tools of transformation—they have to do something that makes the reader see the world in a different way, or become lost in an emotional space, or sing something that echoes inside. It’s not an easy thing to do, and so craft is always subservient to that magic. If a poem sings, I couldn’t care less about craft. I think writers tend to become preoccupied with line editing, as if that minutiae is what makes a poem. The real talent is in digging deep inside of yourself and finding something that will both surprise and ring true.

What’s the most common oversight (in terms of submission guidelines)?

Ha! Forgetting to attach the document to the email? We’re not picky about guidelines. You have to get the poems to us in a way we can read them and include a way to reply.

Why is your journal awesome?

If you don’t like RATTLE, you don’t like poetry. And that’s fine; you’re just missing out on something big.

Where can readers find your submission guidelines?

Right here

What else would you like to say?

It’s important to understand the way we operate. Unlike most magazines, we don’t solicit any work, ever. We just encourage the hell out of submissions, and take the most interesting and memorable poems that we receive without even looking at cover letters or biographical notes. So if you like to skim a table of contents looking for famous names, you might see a few, but know that every poet in there was treated equally. There is no back door. That’s what makes the magazine so much better to read than anything else you’ll read. But also keep in mind that we receive more submissions than anything other magazine, including Poetry and The New Yorker and Paris Review, as far as I can tell. We’re friendly and encouraging, and read year-round, and reply quickly, and above all else we really need them. So everyone has been rejected. A lot. One poet was rejected 57 times and then sent us one of my all-time favorite poems (I won’t say who it is, because I don’t want to embarrass him). So don’t be discouraged. Keep submitting. Submissions are as important to us as what we Critique Sampleactually end up publishing. It’s all part of a larger process.

Check out RATTLE on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter @rattlepoetry!

CONTEST: Leave a comment on this blog post by February 13 to enter to win a free one-year subscription and a critique of your poetry. This contest is now closed.


19 Responses to Lit Mag Spotlight: RATTLE

  1. I love poems that sing. I also love poems that make me think. I quite like literary journals that know what they’re going for. And I appreciate the mention of memorized poetry. I’ll have to check out this “Rattle,” which I’m somewhat ashamed to say I’d yet to hear of before this (so way to go Writers Relief, doing your job and such).

  2. I am “the snowman buried in an avalanche” (Jorgensen) who consumes and crafts poems to “urge our salty hearts” (Lee) and illustrate “how beautiful the workers are.” (Shapiro)

  3. Christian Wiman wrote, “For many people, true, poetry will remain remote, inaccessible… But who knows by what unconscious routes poetry is reaching into lives that seem to have nothing to do with it? Who knows what atomic energies are unleashed by a solitary man or woman quietly encountering some arrangement of language that gives their being–shunted aside by chores and fears and who knows what–back to them?”

    This articulates, so well, the power of poetry in the individual’s life; and if poetry can comfort and engage and transform the individual’s life, it can reach into communities and cultures, too. I love the mission of this magazine, and I hope it brings poetry to people who might otherwise never read it.

  4. This is wonderful, and I’m delighted to see that one of my former instructors, Megan Fernandes, has a piece in the current issue!!

  5. I have disappointed by most academic, scholarly journals. The poems they publish are difficult to read and even more difficult to understand. I have stopped reading them. I enjoy writing and reading pieces that move me and ones I can understand. Thanks for this article. I will be subscribing to Rattle.

  6. I like the magazine’s mission and the poems that I read from this article have interested me into reading more from them. Even if I don’t win this, I am glad to know about the magazine now and will submit in the future!

  7. It’s good to see publications that actually cater to the reader instead of the critic. I second Laura C’s comments. I too teach literature and much of the contemporary poetry is so esoteric that it’s of no value to an ordinary person. In my opinion, as poetry is a form of communication, that renders it useless. We need more poetry that reaches people where they are instead of where some elite feels they should be.

  8. I completely agree that “the esoteric, experimental, scholarly poetry of the Academy fails to connect with most readers.” I teach literature and am pretty good at interpreting it, but a good 3/4 of the contemporary poetry I read I can’t understand— and if I can’t understand it, where does that leave someone who doesn’t read literature for a living? If a reader can’t relate to a poem at the basic level of understanding, then what good is it? Certainly modern life is chaotic and messy and difficult to understand, and many writers want to reflect that chaos in their verse, but their comes a point when you need to put something on the page that a reader will relate to– whether it’s a “message,” or images, or emotion. Isn’t that what communication is all about?

  9. When a mathematician friend asked me, truly puzzled, why I wrote poetry, I found myself saying that it was how I made meaning in my life. Thinking I probably was not going to make sense to him, I was surprised to see him nod his head thoughtfully in agreement. Now he understood. And so did I.

  10. I found the selection of poems shared in the interview moving to read and good examples of what folks at Rattle are looking for. I will submit to them because the writers they have published and the people at Rattle are folks I’d like to be in company with! Straight up!

  11. As a prospective submitter I always found their site to be one of the most friendly and useful around too.

  12. I completely agree that craft is not necessarily what makes a poem work — it’s not a machine in the sense that many people think it is. There is no such thing as a blueprint for a ‘good poem.’ And congratulations to Joanne Koong, well done!

  13. Rattle Mag gets it spot-on with bringing poetry to the masses. I didn’t choose to be a poet, being a poet chose me.

  14. This is so encouraging, for readers and writers. I’ve been a Rattle subscriber in the past and will renew again; thanks to Writer’s Relief for posting this as a reminder. I want to show support for Rattle’s mission. Poetry should be for everyone.

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