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George David Clark


George David Clark

The dark sea dreams them.
They are the inexchangeable
currency of dreams,

the interest the other world
pays and pays into this one.
In the pre-dawn blue

they seem hewn out
from the littoral like great
waterlogged diamonds,

an interior gleam.
Who speaks for them
speaks for the secret

side of the womb,
for they are the long-tasseled
death-bonnets of children

we conceive but never
bring to term. And so we love
and jointly curse them.

It is impossible now
to tell if they reach for us
or we for them, so strange

is their volatile gravity.
They are sisters
to the moon then, and pulse

in her wake, a curdled
blooming of echoes
as she too is an echo.

But in the fluorescent pink
and green pockets
of their bodies, softer

than night, they're smuggling
rumors of suns we fail
to imagine. They hold

whole oceans above
their umbrellas. Tell me,
friend, is there an end

to revelation? The poison
flowers blossom inside us
like Rorschachs

we might believe in.
Evening and thunderheads
in the austral sky,

the jellyfish tides,
an exhibition of lightnings
and scaled-down Hiroshimas:

if they proceed
like messengers,
another breed of angel,

then it falls on us to hear
and heed them,
their cold medusa-bells

resounding, calling us
back through the black
sand of sleep.


White Noise

The sound of the self, or the self's deletion?

Like wind tossing leaves of aluminum foil,

Sun-babble cooling in swirls of moon dust.

A sterilized music, a soothing unreason.


An atomized god, or a god's accretion?

The mind's swimming laps in Styrofoam peanuts,

In the latest decrees from the caucus of cretins.

Like birdsong in nightmare. The boiling of seas.


That sandpaper rasping of grief on grief:

Lobotomy's soundtrack, the curdle of semen.

We've amplified fog and made audible bleach.

The sound of our names in the dialect of demons.


Whatever Burn This Be

he had first a little cold so began to cough
then could not stop coughing could not
even at night willing the throat relaxed
while his wife sought rest beside him stop

as though there were a magician and this act
called for him to draw a chain of brightly-
colored handkerchiefs from out a humbled gullet
the itch of it the steady need in waves

to cough and somehow the handkerchiefs
continuing long after any ordinary feint
had been completed at the clinics coughing yet
while doctors snaked their special cameras

through his nose and raw esophagus
that high-tech scrutiny for polyps finding none
no profit from the chest exams
ditto prescription salves inhalers steroids weeks

and months of treatments with referrals each
to new physicians likewise confident
and ineffectual until what had seemed
some misdirection of contagion

then resembled more a sorcery of coughing
a kind of violent miracle and under
escalating cost and wrack of spasm
he commenced then dubiously begging

that a god he didn't half-believe existed
would touch with healing hand this throat
where the whole world's droughts were local
extinguish now whatever unslaked burn this be

he rasped his pleas aloud would sleep
and dream of coughing wake to coughing
and in hours closed to anything but thought
and coughing he imagined himself

magistrate among the scalded throats
of Mexico the boys expectorating fire
for tourists till the inevitable night
that flash they spit they swallow

too he dwelt on Colombian neckties
desecrations whereby throats are opened
and the tongue jerked down jerked
throbbing forth to dry like suffering's ascot

would think romantically of a torturer's
garrote the metal coolness on an Adam's apple
even as the victim choked and more
cruel still he dreamed himself

hauled out on stage by this magician-sadist
his body locked from the neck down
in a rough wood box while whetted coughs
like saw blades slit and split him

who he wondered watched this
from the soundless gallery he couldn't see
for heaven clearly to his slow sere prayers
was silent just as he foreknew it would be

and further-yet despairing then
he entertained the staid analysis
of certain liquid suicides a meditation
on the image of a man relaxing poolside

in the ruthless prime of summer
sweating glass of antifreeze beside him
or the slow black drip of motor oil
into the grinding cog-works of his chassis

saw such tonics more like spells
or counter-curses by which he might pit
cough vs industry and all the best
combustion human beings have devised

he spit goddamn and now he meant it
O could not stop this ceaseless Santa Ana
within his precious windpipe chambered
so he coughed and cursed

gave in to coughing lavished
in that millisecond fraction of relief inside
each cough like thimble-shots of nectar
in a cactus coughed though surely each balm

broke on deeper coughing no longer spoke
but croaked or hissed poor throat scoured
throat blistered flayed excoriated throat
and still in addition to prescription-everything

tried homemade syrups tried honey tried
lemon-rose-holy-spring-and-salt water
a couple times counter-intuitive bouts
of better whiskies tried tequila with chilled

V-8 chasers tried to sandblast the throat
and start again from nothing always bags
of mentholated lozenges always ice-cold
carbonated anything and yet the constant

curdle of his larynx such that finally knee-wise
bent again for supplication half-swearing
half-whispering like carnal secrets his appeals
for simple peace to pain itself

mindlessly whimpering there for draught
of anything to ease this long red rash
of perfect coughing then
then like someone finally told the story

of a scar they'd worn since infancy
his cough seemed simultaneously more
and less a myth and he began suspecting
as his thoughts turned odd he might at last

be hearing a reply that if transcendent coughs
like his existed so must god a god
much stranger than he'd guessed that maybe
angled properly the noise he made

this ultimate ugliness could strike the ears
of paradise in a way no prayer could hope to
that to soothe a genius cough like his
he might start thinking like a throat

an instrument of coughing he might
become a smarter kind of cough
productive of something curiously beautiful
ordained a consecrated cougher who

by saint-like coughing harder with more pure
hurt behind it might cough up the cure
for something cough precious stones or cough
a beam of whole white light cough out

the worst parts of himself until he was
another man entirely revival fire
and brimstone coughing gospel coughing
on a stage to wild amens coughing to end

wars and famines and coughing too to call
the necessary rain lakes of it cataracts
and pearly Caribbeans of deluge coursing
blessedly the cool blue throat of an evening sky

could a new cough clean him
could he be sanctified by long apocalyptic
coughing would hurt men come to him
asking meekly that he please cough for them

cough please over them so god might
through him hear their own hidden
and inarticulate hackings voiced the way
they felt them that the lord might disburse

his mercy please sir cough they'd softly say
and moved he would in thick bellowing fits
of messianic coughing cough for them
cough kindly over them throw back his head

and let go coughs like a magician's
plump white doves an endless stream in flight
toward heaven that cracked and ragged
blessing through his crimson throat forever

                                -from Reveille


Poems - Bio - Reviews - Interviews - Reading

George David Clark was born in Savannah and raised in Chattanooga and Little Rock. He now lives in Washington, PA with his wife, Elisabeth, and their three young children.

The author of Reveille (winner of the Miller Williams Poetry Prize from the University of Arkansas Press), David’s recent poems can be found or are forthcoming in AGNIAlaska Quarterly Review, The Believer, Blackbird, Cincinnati Review, The Gettysburg ReviewSouthwest Review, Yale Review, and elsewhere. Earlier work appears reprinted at Verse Daily, Poetry Daily, and in a variety of anthologies and special series.

After earning an MFA at the University of Virginia and a PhD at Texas Tech University, David held the Olive B. O’Connor Fellowship in Poetry at Colgate University and, later, the Lilly Postdoctoral Fellowship at Valparaiso University.  He’s received additional honors from Southern Poetry Review (the Guy Owen Prize), Narrative Magazine (the 30 Below Prize), and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference (a Walter E. Dakin fellowship), among others. The current editor-in-chief of 32 Poems, he previously served in various capacities on the staffs of Meridian, Virginia Quarterly Review, Iron Horse Literary Magazine, and the Best New Poets anthology. David now teaches creative writing and literature as an assistant professor at Washington & Jefferson College.


Poems - Bio - Reviews - Interviews - Reading

A Review of George David Clark's Reveille by Raena Shirali, first published at The Journal

Each blurb on the back cover of George David Clark’s Reveille—winner of the 2015 Miller Williams Poetry Prize—identifies the surreal, dreamlike element of these poems, an element that is of our world, but not quite. Reveille, French for “to wake up,” is just that—a call to attention. It is also a view of this and other worlds that reaches past literal experience and into the realm of the imagined. But this is not a surreal book. We aren’t being asked to leave realism behind. Rather, the poet asks that we reconsider boundaries of our existence, of our realities, of our imaginations, and of our conceptions of religion and reverence. To do any of that, we must, first, wake up.

It’s fitting, then, that each of the four untitled sections in Reveille begins with a reference back to the collection’s title: “Reveille on a Silent Whistle,” “Reveille with Kazoo,” “Reveille with Reimbursement,” and finally “Reveille with Lullabies,” a poem which constitutes the entirety of the final section. Each “Reveille” calls to us in its own distinct, yet markedly musical manner. In “Reveille on a Silent Whistle,” the speaker refers directly to the reader(s) as “Sleeper,” implying, by appealing to us in a semi-conscious state, that our existence has perhaps, until now, been ill-defined—that we have erred in only considering consciousness as awareness. These poems ask us to consider that the full experience of reality might just now be “unfurling through the whisper-weight trumpets of light.” Indeed, every subsequent “Reveille” includes at least the concept of “sleep,” if not a reference to the reader as “Sleeper.” Reading Reveille feels, truly, like a lucid dream you don’t want to wake from, where “an angel spray-paints her wings,” where there are “suns we fail / to imagine,” and where “The bed’s / a clock gone haywire / or a compass / locked on heaven.”

If we consider Reveille as a lucid dream, we can identify real vs. unreal as one of the many binaries Clark’s poetry collapses. Take, for instance, the final line of “Reveille with Reimbursement”: “I’ve brought you the orange you dreamed of.” Clark is constantly bringing the dream world into our own, asking that we question the division between what we consider tangible and true, and what we consider fantastical. The stuff of Reveille is the stuff of both waking and dreaming: “fabrics made wholly of water,” “the long-tasseled / death-bonnets of children / we conceive but never/ bring to term,” “pink champagne,” “jaguar pajamas,” “leaf-scent / fragrant in a sweatshirt.” What, Clark seems to ask us, makes any one of these images more or less real than another? How do we decide what deserves to be worshiped?

Worship—especially as it collapses yet another binary: secular vs. sacred—is introduced early in the collection. In “Reveille on a Silent Whistle,” our existence is not a result of God’s will, but is a part of His own dreamscape, His own (sub)conscious projection. The passivity—or should I say, this tranquility—of existence is philosophically important for the collection as a whole. Nothing has caused us to be here. Everything has caused us to be here. Our being here is a quiet chaos, and Clark renders it in lush music and vibrant dream. No poem singularly captures this chaos, music, and reverence more effectively than “Reveille with Kazoo”:

From your overlong, even invincible sleep;

from the pink and orange moth-scales

that collect on your mind like a dust;

from the stately plush where you jonah

in a bottled frigate’s belly;

from this lopsided aerie of marigold sheets:

wake up.

“jonah” is not capitalized here, implying, I think, that anyone—not just churchgoers—can experience an escape from our world and still be resurrected (awakened) in this way. Religion is engaged with in an unpredictable, almost-subversive manner, as the poet seeks to explain or enter the sacred space in secular terms. Consider, for example, “Prodigalia,” wherein Clark embodies the persona of the younger son from Luke 15, detailing the revelry and near-animal lust the son experiences at leaving his home and his God behind. Clark reveals the insufficiency of the binary between secular and spiritual yet again as the poem acknowledges the spiritual deprivation of the speaker, but also revels in his physical lust and pleasure. Why, Clark asks, can we not find something to worship in all parts of this story?

In “Jellyfish,” the poet implores, “Tell me, / friend, is there an end / to revelation?” When in our development do we stop appreciating the wonders of the world around us? Childhood is often considered a holy time for this reason—our collective sense of awe is preserved while we are young. But does our experience of wonderment have to be limited to the past? Clark engages again with childhood and memory in “The Past a Sanctuary Staffed by Poltergeists.” This poem calls attention to the random nature of memory and apotheosis, to the fact that what is holy is what we deem holy. In this way, again, Clark concedes veneration of the sublime, but maintains that all we can do in this life is worship what is present.

One cannot read Reveille without noticing Clark’s handle on meter, on the iamb. These poems do not employ form for form’s sake—rather, they draw the reader’s attention to the ceaseless and inevitable rhythm of our world. Take, for instance, “Cigarettes,” the final poem of the first section, written in tetrameter. “She phrases it that way because pleasure / is complicated, more so perhaps than suffering,” does not read as doctrine, but rather, a musing made precise by the accompanying beat. “Interview Conducted Through the Man-Eater’s Throat,” too, plays not only with call-and-response, but also with an ABABCDCD rhyme scheme. “Whatever Burn This Be” eschews traditional capitalization and punctuation, instead manipulating repetition in word choice and subject matter, the effect of which is almost incantatory. There is repetition in reverence, and reverence in repetition. Clark’s use of meter, rhyme, and repetition—somewhat traditional tactics—is never predictable, never monotonous. Rather, the affect is “sonorous and redolent” of a poetic tradition that Clark intentionally manipulates to create his own brand of music. And these claims, this music being written about what it means to be human does not exist in a vacuum and, the poet seems to imply, neither do we. There is a current underneath all of these poems, propelling them, and us, into a more complete and musical existence.

Reveille’s religion is any world, real or imagined. The line between the actual and the imagined—between waking and dreaming—is explicitly addressed in the book’s final poem, “Reveille with Lullabies.” Clark writes: “Because there’s not enough rest in the world / there’s not and won’t be enough waking.” And:

There’s not enough blessed in the world

we wake in


But your chorus is vanilla

and its waves of fragrant vowels

bathe our names delicious in our ears


On the book’s final page, the author quietly reveals his core belief system. These lines are almost cooed to us, as the child in the poem is cooed to over and over again. Perhaps we, unlike the Sleeper, will finally wake up to the world around us. We’ll listen to every beat and measure. We’ll find worship in saying to ourselves, over and over: this is beautiful, and this is real. This is all real.


A Review of George David Clark's Reveille by Dorothy Chan, first published at Hayden's Ferry

2015 winner of the Miller Williams poetry prize from the University of Arkansas Press, George David Clark’s Reveille, rings in each poetic section with a reveille, or a wake-up call. Clark defines and creates his own meaning for this term—the title Reveille creates a “call” for the rest of the book, transporting the reader into the author’s painterly world of “a lattice musics,” “a bathing suit red as tomatoes,” “the gloss of lacquered walnut golds and olives jigsaw,” and “the holy face plum-colored.” Clark uses touches of color to guide the reader through this imaginary world that borders on the holy, and the first section opens with “Reveille on a Silent Whistle,” with its angelic imagery of “Two seraphs in the live oak’s highest boughs are sleeping,/constructing minutely their crystalline fretwork.”

Each section of this collection opens with a reveille, which becomes the framing device of the book. Reveille not only wakes up the reader into this world, but in each sectional reveille, the reader is introduced to another aspect of Clark’s world. Imagery that is biblically influenced, painterly-produced, and sublime floods these slow-paced and careful poems. For example, the second section opens with “Reveille with Kazoo.” Clark’s speaker travels this dream-like musicality:

                                    From your overlong, even invincible sleep;
                                    from the pink and orange moth-scales
                                    that collect on your mind like a dust;
                                    from the stately plush where you jonah
                                    in a bottled frigate’s belly;
                                    from this lopsided aerie of marigold sheets:
                                    wake up.

In this opening stanza, Clark’s anaphora builds up this dream, only to culminate the reader into a “wake up.” The language is sensual, the lines gingerly lengthened, building up the dream and moving back and forth between the spiritual, with the reference to Jonah, and the spiritual turned down-to-earth, with “this lopsided aerie of marigold sheets.” Clark’s painterly quality is also gradual: he gives us gradients of color, only to wake us up into another world, this one postmodern: “The swimming pools/of the future were born this morning.” And with each section reveille, comes multiple turns. The following poem, “Interview Conducted Through the Man-Eater’s Throat,” takes us to the opposite spectrum of colors with “Like the blue-black char in a chimney.” The poem also takes us to the opposite spectrum, challenging form in stanzas filled with question and answer. In fact, Clark utilizes the musicality of the opening to formally influence and pervade the rest of this section.

Clark pushes the modern even more with “Reveille with Reimbursement.” The collection may start with the mythical and spiritual, but Clark is able to ground and transform the book’s movement into the present day. We close with “Reveille with Lullabies,” a strategic bookend that takes the reader deep into the speaker’s persona and subconscious. Clark leaves us with a blessing:

                                    We rise when something calls us out of bed

                                    Your song’s not addressed to the dark
                                    We wake in
                                    Or for you as you dress in the dark

                                    Rise now rise now and bless us

                                    till our cries lie down cry less


Poems - Bio - Reviews - Interviews - Reading
An Interview with George David Clark by Jessica Piazza, first published at Poetry Has Value

Jessica Piazza: Your name, your journal, your position with the journal:

George David Clark: (David), 32 Poems, Editor-in-Chief

JP: Tell us a little bit about your literary journal.

GDC: 32 Poems is printed twice a year and distributed internationally with subscribers across the US and in about twenty foreign countries. Each issue includes 32 shorter poems, most of them under a page in length. We publish no critical prose whatsoever in the print issues, just the poems and brief author bios, and we hope that minimalist focus allows us to foster an intimate, unhurried reading experience that lavishes as much attention as possible on each individual poem.

We are not limited to a particular school or style of poetry, but we do tend to favor work that is keenly aware of its form and that avails itself of a variety of sonic resources. We prefer free verse that remains attentive to rhythm and metered verse that complicates its patterning of stress with a variety of other effects as well.

In our thirteen years, 32 Poems has showcased many of the most-recognized poets currently writing in English, including Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, MacArthur Genius Grant winners, Poets Laureate, and recipients of the other major honors in American letters. The journal also prides itself on championing talented writers early in their careers and has, on several occasions, featured poets appearing in print for the first time. Our emerging poets have gone on to earn such honors as “Discovery”/The Nation Prizes, National Poetry Series Prizes, Ruth Lilly Fellowships, Stegner Fellowships, Walt Whitman Prizes, and many other book prizes, fellowships, and awards. Work first appearing in 32 Poems can be found frequently reprinted in the Best American Poetry and Best New Poets series, on such “best of” sites as Verse Daily and Poetry Daily, and in a wide variety of anthologies. Selections from 32 Poems have also been made into short films and recited by high school students in the national Poetry Out Loud Contests.

Perhaps I should also mention that while it’s just the poetry in the physical journal, we also want to host a larger conversation about contemporary poetry through our website. To that end we began publishing regular prose features online in 2013 and these reviews, essays, and interviews have themselves been reprinted in collections of essays and criticism and in such series as the Poetry Daily Prose Feature. We also partner with teachers of creative writing through a program called 32 Classrooms in which our editors introduce students to the craft of literary editing, discuss work featured in a recent issue, and invite student contributions to the ongoing discussions on the 32 Poems blog. 

We’re independent, so while I teach at a college and our physical address is there on campus, we receive nothing more than that mailbox from the institution. None of our editors receive course reductions or financial compensation for their work. Really it’s the generosity of our readers (many of whom have subscribed for over a decade) that keeps us afloat. They deserve the credit for 32 Poems, they and the associate editors who do the largely thankless work of reading, simply because they love finding great poems in the slush pile and championing them as loudly as they can.

JP: In a world where literary markets don’t often pay poets, why did you decide to do so?

GDC: We want to communicate to our contributors and our readers that this work is valuable. Really, our payment is miniscule, only $25 a poem (though we hope to increase that soon), but we feel it is important to send a check of some size with contributor’s copies. We also see this as a way to make ourselves more competitive for poets’ best work. There are so many journals out there that it’s awfully easy to get lost in the crowd. Paying our poets is one more way for us to stand out as a place that cherishes poems and curates them with special care.

JP: What are the funding sources for your magazine? 

GDC: About three quarters of our income comes from subscriptions, with the other 25% collected from readings fees for online submissions. (We accept work submitted through the mail free of charge.) While we do have a link for donations on our website, we’re not very good about asking for money and only very rarely does that page get any traffic. If our subscriptions dropped significantly we would no longer be able to print the journal and if we didn’t collect reading fees, we wouldn’t be able to pay contributors. 

JP: What does your journal pay for accepted poems?

GDC: $25

JP: What is your acceptance rate for poetry?  

GDC: Duotrope says we’ve taken .25% of the work tracked through their system, but they acknowledge that their estimates tend to run high. The last time I ran our numbers we were closer to a .1% acceptance rate.

JP: Do you think that acceptance rate is in any way affected by your pay model?  

GDC: I do, but probably not in a way one could easily track. Our submission volume and the quality of those submissions are also affected by our online reading fee. 

Based on my experience with other journals, I think we have one of the most competitive slush piles around. Surely part of this is due to our pay model, but our quick response times also play a role, and the reading fee tends to discourage weaker, carpet bombing campaigns. We fill most issues with work drawn entirely from the slush pile and as a general rule I only solicit if we’re still lacking a couple poems when the deadline looms.

JP: If your journal charges for submission fees, tell us why you chose that route, how it’s worked out and what you think about that system:

GDC: I have thought about this question a lot and, while I have answered most of it already above, I’ll add here that I like the idea of a (very) low hurdle in the submission process itself. We want something that encourages the poet to pause for a moment and ask if they really believe their work is right for us. That may be a small reading fee or it may be the mild inconvenience of printing work out and submitting through the mail. (It was important to me that we still offer some way to submit free of charge, and of course we also accept free submissions electronically from subscribers.)

I know some poets will refuse on principle to pay even $2 or $3 to submit and I can understand that position, even if I think it’s misguided. Perhaps the general lack of compensation has encouraged us to believe that if we aren’t being paid, we shouldn’t have to incur any costs associated with the production and promotion of our work.

On the other hand, there may not be another art form that requires less of a financial investment from its practitioners. Painters buy canvas and paint, musicians purchase their instruments, but poets need only a pencil and paper. In terms of training costs, the better grad programs fully fund their writing students. A poet could pay fifty reading fees a year for three years and still not spend as much as one does buying a good guitar. That poet will also be helping support her peers through those fees. Ultimately, I think it’s healthy (both for the field and for the poems themselves) when artists, especially younger artists, invest something tangible, even only a couple of dollars, in their own work. It’s a way that the submitter can assert that their work has value upfront.

Those who object to reading fees tend to voice their objections loudly, but I think they’re really a small minority. We get more submissions now than we did when we accepted fee-free email submissions in 2011-12 and the extra inch of cushion in our budget has allowed us to do so much more to support our contributors.

JP: Do the staff and editors of the journal receive any compensation?  If not, how did the decision come about to pay writers and not those who work at the magazine?

GDC: No, our editors are not compensated for their work. Actually, I think we all lose money on 32 Poems. Our editors pay their own way to AWP and other conferences where they represent the journal and we’ve often funded special promotional efforts out of our own pockets.

We simply don’t have the money for any alternative and our thinking is that 32 Poems exists for the poets and poems it features, not for its editors.

JP: Many poets say that exposure to their work is a form of compensation, and that can be true, especially for young or emerging writers. How do you feel about exposure as payment?

GDC: I agree that publication can be a form of compensation in and of itself, certainly the opportunity to appear in my favorite journals alongside my favorite contemporary poets means much more to me than any money I might be paid.  I don’t think “exposure” is the right word though; most of us could find more readers by posting our poems to Facebook than we can by publishing in print. But strong journal publications also make writers competitive for other opportunities: fellowships, residencies, scholarships, etc. And perhaps more importantly, journal publication gives us access to editors who can improve our poems and champion them to readers. There are non-paying journals that I submit to primarily because I admire their editors and I know, whether the work is accepted or not, that I am likely to learn something from their assessment. Really, I don’t think anyone would say the only reason they are submitting to a journal is for the possible payment.

JP: Along those lines, what is your journal’s readership, as far as you know?

GDC: We distribute around a thousand copies of each issue, but increasingly readers come to us online where we share extensive selections from the print issues. We’re also always exploring new ways to develop our virtual community—to build a conversation around the poems—so we do a lot on the website (through our marginalia series and through a partnership with teachers called 32 Classrooms) to increase both exposure and the depth of our readers’ engagement with the work.

JP: The Poetry Has Value project was created to spark conversation about poetry, money and worth, since it seems taboo to consider poetry in terms of financial compensation.  Why do you think this taboo exists (if you do)? 

GDC: I think a lot of us are embarrassed by the profound indifference of our culture to our art. We want to think of poetry as a vocation, even an artistic “career”, but the economics of this life remind us that by most definitions what we do is merely a “hobby”, and not a particularly cool one. We make this thing that we believe is incredibly powerful and beautiful, but few people want it and even fewer are willing to pay for it. If we think about it in those terms (and conversations about money make it hard not to), we’re going to be discouraged. Better to concentrate on those other non-monetary measures of value and then celebrate the affirmation of a check whenever one does come along.

JP: What advice would you give to those starting a literary magazine who don’t plan to pay writers?  What about to those starting a literary magazine who do plan to pay writers?

GDC: I wonder if one part of the problem is that there are too many literary magazines out there already. The poetry community’s resources, human and economic, are terribly scattered. To anyone who is considering starting a new magazine, I would encourage you to ask yourself honestly if there is really a need for the journal you have in mind. Will you be doing something different, charting some new place in the literary landscape? If not, well, every week Duotrope’s newsletter lists a half dozen start-ups and another half-dozen magazines that have folded. On the other hand, if your desire is simply to edit and encourage good work, you might simply seek out existing journals you respect and look for opportunities to join their teams. Good journals need the renewal of good editorial help. 

JP: What, if anything, do you think could help change the system in place now? Whether as writers, editors, readers or just people: what can we concretely do to work toward a system that compensates poets for their work?

GDC: I don’t know…. I think those of us who are teachers should be working to develop not only younger writers, but also a larger community of poetry readers. Business people, architects, athletes, engineers who read poetry. And really all poets should be teachers in one way or another. We need to be sharing the poems we most admire with non-poets, not just our social media echo chamber, and we should be willing and able to discuss and explicate what we share. The world needs us to articulate where the pleasure lies in language.

Honestly though, the best poetry places enormous demands on a reader’s intellect and feeling, and as long as our culture suffers from a deficit of attention, it’s hard to imagine a system that could compensate poets much better than the one we have now. We are just not a patient and thoughtful people. Most evenings it does seem there is little to be done, but I also feel as though I may have done some small thing any time I turn off the TV and pick up a book or a journal. Tonight it’s going to be Diane Suess’s Four-Legged Girl and the new Southern Poetry Review.

JP: Would you like to highlight a piece from your journal that you’ve especially loved lately?   

GDC: This past spring we published an incredible lyric by Chad Abushanab that has been on my mind again in recent days. “Halloween”  is a poem that begs to be memorized; it’s so sonically interesting you will find yourself chanting its lines at odd points in the day, but even more importantly it’s a poem that risks real sentiment. The conceit of Halloween dress-up and pretend belies the tragedy of our parents’ seemingly irresistible models. And like Larkin’s “This Be the Verse”, the brilliance of Abushanab’s poem lies, in part, in its ability to transcend simple criticism of the father and implicate the poem’s speaker as well. I won’t forget this one any time soon.

 Click here to read an interview with George David Clark at How a Poem Happens


Poems - Bio - Reviews - Interviews - Reading

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George David Clark

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