Off The Wagon And Into The Slush Pile by Miriam Sagan

Yes, I’m off the wagon. I’m reading slush again. Not so long ago in these very blog pages I announced that my editorship in one venue was over. Now I’m back in another (which I will not yet reveal, for fear of MORE slush).
And I’m ever so happy. At peace. It’s really odd, but I find reading slush ultra-relaxing. Right now, on these cold winter days, my favorite things to do are roast eggplant (it might also be brisket, but my significant other is vegetarian), knit, and watch Bollywood movies. All of these activities are leisurely, predictable, yet not without worth. (OK, Bollywood the least, but I tell myself I’m learning about culture and I do dance to all the songs.)
What is slush? Unsolicited submissions to a literary magazine, as a rule. Why is it called slush? I have no idea, except that it isn’t a compliment.
I enjoy it because the pattern is so clear (like roasting, knitting, and Bollywood). A bad poem consists of:

1. A dull underutilized title, often one word, like “Love.”
2. An opening that over sets context: I was in the kitchen, it was snowing, on Tuesday I went shopping.
3. A simplistic metaphor carried all the way to the end. (Hopefully not roasting eggplant is like reading slush).
4. An unambiguous emotion—I’m depressed, suicidal, happy I won the lottery.
5. An ending that reiterates context and wraps up already wrapped emotion.
6. No form, structure, or technique except for some predictable rhyme.
7. A self-satisfied, melodramatic, or cutesy tone.

I’ve left off many things, including word choice, but basically I’m scanning for the above. My reading slush is essentially a negative process of omission. If a submission DOES NOT have the above faults, it goes into the maybe pile.

Oh, and the cover letter. I don’t really care if you are in Yonkers, or prison. Write for therapy or have published in dozens of magazines. I don’t care if you praise the publication I’m reading for, and surprising even to me—I don’t care if I know you. I’m rejecting work by famous poets and accepting work by friends of mine (who to their credit didn’t know I was reading) with complete equanimity because I’m reading all submissions equally.

Once things are in the “maybe” pile, then my taste kicks in. I was hired to have that taste, so now I’m less objective. I love short work. I like the quirky. It’s possible I can be seduced by my favorite subject matter. Here again, I’m at peace. I’ve run an objective grid on the poem.Then I’m checking it against what I like.

I’m accepting and rejecting. Stirring the eggplant, finding a dropped stitch, doing fake Indian dance hand gestures.

Call it winter’s day—with slush.

Forthcoming in Santa Fe Literary Review–Poem by Joseph Delgado

war came. war went
by Joseph Delgado

war came. war went
like grandmother’s cigarette
smoke through the screen door
there she whittles bone and wood
praying for rain, praying for the snakes
to stop hissing her name from the
bunch grass or under the old chevy
that never got fixed
she whispers names long since forgotten milagros
dios santo nino san ysidro
she twists her tongue in psalms and
bends her back over the wash, sheets
sweat stained, a drop of blood
like a peach from the branch
hangs from the cloth, that
smell of camphor and gauze
that taste of piss in the air
pulling grit and sand from teeth
watching the wind waver through and over
grass, watch as the sunlight traces my
grandmother’s face, watch as she eyes the
ghosts sitting down by the acequeia, she tells me dont go mijo
dont go

Call for Poetry–Harwood Anthology

Calling all poets!

The Harwood Art Center is seeking poetry for a book of essays and poetry scheduled for publication in the spring of 2011.

The working title of the book is How-to: Multiple Perspectives on Creating a Garden, a Life, Relationships and Community. Using the metaphor of a garden for a community, How-to offers poets an opportunity to consider life, relationships and the development of community from start to sustainability, from individual to group.

The book will be divided into five sections: Getting Started; Bringing in the Elements; Building Relationships; Reaping What You Sow; Making it Last, and each chapter will lead off with essays depicting the garden’s development. Poems addressing the theme of individual chapters are welcome. Especially encouraged is one poem per chapter comprising a series by a single poet examining their larger philosophy about life and developing community.

Please send both a word document and a pdf of each poem to the following address and include a note indicating which chapter your poem reflects.
Submissions are due by November 15, 2010. Notification will be by email in January 2011. For more information see, or call 505-242-6367.

How-to will be the third title from Harwood’s Old School Books imprint.