I used to specify that I wanted odd stuff when I solicited poetry from people. “My tastes skew toward the experimental,” I would say, like a full-blown doofus, “please send your most challenging and innovative material.” I hoped to goad writers out onto a limb, to take a risk at my behest, as if my support would encourage them to do something daring they would otherwise not attempt. This approach to solicitation rarely brings in the kind of poems one expects, which really just means each poet’s idea of challenging and innovative is unique. I had not realized that poets, by and large, are always out on some sort of limb, or that my understanding of boundary-pushing poetry is only one among many. What’s more, I’ve found that no matter what you say, you can’t bait poets into producing work in too particular a vein, and a lone editor’s idea of good poetry is almost always too particular.
Of course, I still want odd work, I’ve just learned to ask in a less oblivious way. My new approach for soliciting fun, challenging, risk-taking poetry is to ask for what people want to show off, what they’re excited by, what they have cooking right now, what’s been waiting in the wings. Give them an open invitation, the fewer stipulations, the better. Better still: get to know people, support their work, build trust, let them know I want to see what they’re all about, not what they think I want them to be about. Forget about editing and be a human. This strategy is guaranteed to turn up the good stuff because, let’s face it, everybody is a little weird, and poets especially. We all like a reason to keep doing our weird thing out on that limb, so this issue is filled with poets I admire, odd ducks one and all, doing just that.
Kyle Flemmer [photo credit: Sarah Thomas] is an author, editor, and publisher from Calgary in Treaty 7 territory. He studies digital poetics at the University of Calgary where he is a teaching and research assistant. Kyle founded the Blasted Tree Publishing Co. in 2014 and is a former managing editor of filling Station magazine. His first book, Barcode Poetry, was published by The Blasted Tree in 2021.