This is one in a series of “less is more”-style interviews with participants in the Commonwealth Reading Series.
The fourth Commonwealth Reading Series event takes place on Tuesday, February 17, 8 PM, at Amherst Books. The reading is co-sponsored with the Juniper Initiative and the literary journal jubilat – whose managing editor, Jessica Fjeld, generously agreed to hit pause on her editing and writing work just long enough to nano-answer a few questions.
MCC: What’s new and exciting at jubilat these days?
Jessica: Our fifteenth issue came out last month, and we’re hard at work on sixteen, which will feature a forum on experimental African-American poetry that everyone here is really excited about. Since issue 14, we’ve been working with guest editors Cathy Park Hong and Evie Shockley, both of whom I admire as poets, and I appreciate what they’ve brought to the magazine’s editorial vision. jubilat is in many ways a collaborative project–that’s the way Rob Casper, the publisher, wants it to be, the product of a conversation rather than an autocrat–and it’s fascinating to watch the magazine quietly shape-shift, issue to issue.
The other thing we’re working on is planning our tenth anniversary year, which will be 2010. There will be a bunch of great events and other exciting (if top-secret at present) stuff.
MCC: What’s the main thing a writer submitting to jubilat needs to keep in mind?
Jessica: It gets said over and over, but please read our magazine before you submit. A sample copy costs less than most sandwiches. You can order it online and I will mail it to your house for free. If you’re engaged by what you find, and feel some commonality with the work we’ve published before, then odds are your work is a good fit for us.
MCC: Who wins the poets vs. prose writers paintball war?
Follow-up: and how would editors fair*?
Jessica: [* as an editor, I have to say: you mean “fare”!] This is a tough one. Prose writers are definitely capable of the long slog, really putting in the hours, but then the poets by contrast would be light on their feet, maybe more adaptive. But the organizational skills that make someone a good editor–following up on all the little details while keeping a bigger picture in mind–probably bode well for paintball too. I think a tight guerilla team of editors could take everyone out.
MCC: How do you balance your duties at jubilat with your writing?
Jessica: Maybe it’s because I read O’Hara’s Lunch Poems at too young an age (if such a thing is possible) but to my mind, the ideal time to write a poem is a lunch break. I like the defined window of time, and also the opportunity to take my brain out of operating at one gear and let it shift thoroughly into another. I also get to read a lot at work, both poems for our magazine, and books and magazines that are sent to the office–it’s part of my job to keep up with independent publishing. So in many ways, being in the office and attending to the magazine’s well-being complements my writing life well. Other days, though, I’m glad I work half-time and that I have long hours to myself at home, at my own desk.
Jessica and jubilat, along with the Juniper Initiative, are co-sponsors of a reading at Amherst Books in Amherst, MA on Tuesday, February 17, 2009, 8 PM, featuring Noy Holland, Caroline Klocksiem, Elizabeth Porto, and Susie Patlove. Read about all of the events in the Commonwealth Reading Series.
Jessica Fjeld is the managing editor of jubilat. Her chapbook, On Animate Life, was selected by Lyn Hejinian to be published by the Poetry Society of America in 2006. She lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.
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