The Remix Journal: Josh Medsker Talks with Found Poetry Review Editor Jenni B. Baker

Found Poetry Review volume 6

Jenni B. Baker (@jennibbaker) is the founder and editor of Found Poetry Review, one of the leading literary magazines dedicated solely to found poetry as a form. I was part of the Pulitzer Remix project that Jenni organized for National Poetry Month in 2013. It was a wonderful experience, and a large part of this was Jenni’s vision for the project, and her ability to carry it through.

Back in October 2013, I had the opportunity to chat with Jenni over email about FPR and its history.


[Note: Due to LP editorial tardiness, FPR‘s fascinating recent projects aren’t represented in Medsker’s otherwise-thorough interview below—they are: OULIPOST, their 2014 National Poetry Month project, and Lá Bloom, a special online issue published in celebration of Bloomsday 2014. FPR‘s latest issue is volume 6.]




Josh Medsker: What was the impetus for starting Found Poetry Review? Tell Luna Park’s readers a little about the birth of FPR.

Jenni B. Baker: I started the Found Poetry Review in 2011 largely because I’m incapable of keeping any of my interests to myself. As soon as I really get into something, I can’t just continue to enjoy it privatelyI have to turn the volume up to 11.

Medsker: For those who don’t know, what is found poetry? Also, I don’t think I have ever asked you how you came to found poetryor what your favorite method of found poetry is.

Baker: The easiest way to think of found poetry is as the literary version of a collage. Just as visual artists tear pictures and swatches from different media and make them into something new, so do found poets excerpt words and phrases from a source text(s) and weave them into a piece whose subject and format can differ substantially from the original(s). READ MORE >

Reissuing: How Jacket2 Is Saving Literary Magazine History

Reissues Screen Shot

Danny Snelson and company have the most exciting ongoing digital archive project for literary magazines going on at Jacket2—titled, appropriately, Reissues. Reissues directly tackles the biggest problem in contemporary literary magazine readership and scholarship: historical access.

A big problem with 20th century (read: pre-internet) literary magazines is access. Literary magazines reasonably strive to be both timely and timeless—so that then, unlike novels, new issues are constantly eclipsing previous issues, which then disappear from public bookstores and many private bookshelves. Literary magazines are by definition in a constant state of self-replacement. And this “vanishing” problem is no doubt more dire in the independent, avant-garde periodical world, where magazines—and so their archives—lack the longevity offered from institutional support. And of course before literary publishing was common on the internet, there was almost certainly no digital life for these publications accessible online.

Enter the archivists. Literary magazine archiving of older publications is happening, though most of the work is being done by companies like JSTOR and Project Muse, which, perhaps understandably, keep their lit mag archives locked tightly behind a paywall. And the great open-access people at MJP, Pulp Mags, and elsewhere can only do so much, and—more importantly in the context of Reissues—work only with public domain publications, most if not all published before 1923.

All of which is why the Reissues project is so exciting: Reissues is creating an open-access digital archive of what seem to be all independent and avant-garde poetry periodicals from throughout the 20th century. (Only a tiny portion of one archive so far is obviously public domain material.) In other words, periodicals that might otherwise have been lost to the limited accessibility of print material and the cannibalizing nature of the periodical marketplace are finding a new readership. READ MORE >

Don Share’s Poetry of Multiplicity

October 2013 issue of PoetryNew Poetry editor Don Share’s first issue has arrived, with collage cover from the great Tony Fitzpatrick (who many will recognize from those Steve Earle albums). Here’s a bit of Share positioning himself as the incoming editor of America’s most conspicuous literary magazine:

I’ll always be looking over my shoulder as 
I move forward: a bad way to walk or drive, but a time-tested way of editing Poetry. The composer Van Dyke Parks, when asked about the tension between eclecticism and traditionalism, said that it was wonderful when somebody called him a “futuristic traditionalist.” 
I hope to be called that someday, too.

A glance all the way back to 1914 fortifies and emboldens me. Quartermain’s essay in this issue takes as an epigraph these lines from William Carlos Williams’s “At Dawn”—

O marvelous! what new configuration will come next?
I am bewildered with multiplicity.

Nearly a century later, Poetry receives about 120,000 poems a year. At the dawn of my tenure as editor, I share Williams’s exuberance: it’s a joy to be bewildered with poetry’s multiplicity.

The entire piece is worth reading, of course, particularly for Share’s lucid overview of Poetry’s editorial history.

Bring the Noise

So Brooklyn Magazine—a quarterly covering art, culture, and lit out where the beautiful people live—said something nice about the Luna Park Twitter feed last week:

Brooklyn Mag comment about LP Twitter feed


And I thought: well, damn. I hadn’t been really doing anything with the website for a while. I had this whole excuse: there was enough conversation about lit mags, I didn’t need to horn in, and so on and so forth. And I had other things going on. A book, for example. Someone else has another book coming out next year. There’s enough stuff. So things got quiet. READ MORE >

White Fiction

Jess Row from July-August 2013 Boston Review

The new issue of Boston Review (July/August 2013) compelled me to write a bit here about it (the last time I wrote here was about Jake Adam York’s death in December)—and it particularly compelled me because of Jess Row’s essay “White Flights: Fiction’s Racial Landscape,” an insightful, balanced commentary about the place (and absence) of race in so much contemporary white American fiction. One really eye-opening bit was about the absence of race as part of a larger American ideal of rootlessness, of finding oneself “exposed against a largely erased background.” Row deftly (and correctly, I feel) connect this to the absence of race in so much—though not all—white American fiction through the word deracination, which he pulls from an essay by Marilyn Robinson. “Deracination,” Row asserts, “is an American ideal: not to strip from the roots, but to de-race oneself.”

Boston Review July/August 2013 CoverI’m going to end this brief note with a compelling passage from the end of Row’s essay—but be sure to get the piece for yourself and read what may be the most insightful piece of writing on the landscape of late 20th and early 21st century American fiction yet—in other words, of where American fiction is now:

The dominant strain of fiction by white writers in this era represents what we might cynically call a massive reinvestment in white identity through the demarcation of new terrain (the exurbs) or through the reinvention of old (wilderness, urban gentrification). A more generous interpretation would be to see this fiction as a kind of willed amnesia, underscored by the reluctance of many creative writing teachers to confront issues of race and identity directly in the classroom and by the disinclination of most prominent book critics—and overwhelmingly white group—to bring race into play when writing about white authors.

(I am refreshed to see the ethical eye turned towards the creative writing instructor, as I so little hear about ethical need in creative writing pedagogy (though we hear about it constantly in the nursing or political science pedagogy, for just two examples).) Thanks to Boston Review for bringing this piece out.

RIP, StoryTime Africa

StoryTime AfricaI hadn’t been to StoryTime Africa‘s website in awhile, and after a recent visit I was saddened to see that it closed its doors last June. For five years, the online magazine published extremely engaging fiction from contemporary African writers.  From editor Ivor Hartmann’s goodbye letter:

When I started StoryTime in 2007 it was partly in response to the dire lack of African lit mags, especially online mags. In 2012 this is not longer the case I’m happy to say, with numerous online African lit mags now up and running and publishing a wide variety of quality African lit. In some small way, I think StoryTime has helped lead this prolific transition into online media, which has given voice to thousands of African writers who previously only had meagre, print only, platforms to do so.

Hartmann reports that “To date, StoryTime has published: 146 short stories, 45 book excerpts, and three anthologies were drawn from the best of the magazine.”

But have no fear. We end on a positive note. According to the publisher’s response to a tweet I sent out about StoryTime, “We have closed the mag but we are still publishing anthologies, see the annual African Roar and AfroSF.”

[Editor's note: David Backer originally wrote this post in January.]


What the F@%k Do Lit Mags Offer Colleges? Lit Mags & Learning, Saturday, March 9th at 3:00PM, AWP Boston

Attention 12,000 AWP 2013 conference attendees: come check out a panel on lit mags and student learning today, Friday March 9th at 3:00PM. (No, it won’t be three hours long as advertised; just a brief chat with some super nice/smart people. About an hour.)

S234. The Teaching Press: Literary Magazines and Learning. (Travis Kurowski, Jay Baron Nicorvo, Carolyn Kuebler, Ben George, Jodee Stanley) Amidst worries about college student learning, editors from leading literary magazines New England Review, Ecotone, Ninth Letter, and Third Coast discuss the educational benefits of literary magazines on today’s campuses. Topics will include the teaching press, experiential learning environments, learning-based outcomes, and how campus literary magazines are changing 21st-century publishing.

Room 313, Level 3

Death Is Simply a Shift in Tense: An Evening Will Come Tribute Issue to Jake Adam York

Evening Will Come issue 26 (Feb 2013) is a tribute issue to poet Jake Adam York, who passed away late last year. The issue includes poetry and prose from Adam Clay, Mathias Svalina, Mary McHugh, Sarah Browning, and many others, as well as a foreward to the issue from Jake’s brother, Joe York

My brother is not here anymore, but he is everywhere. And through his life and through the lives of those he touched and will touch, I see now that death is simply a shift in tense, a conjugation of the verb, another way of saying the same thing.

Dead White Magazines

From “The Intellectual Situation,” n+1 issue 15:

So what’s an old magazine to do? Should it be like the New Yorker and just . . . it’s hard to say what exactly the New Yorker does on the internet. They do not post their best pieces, except when they do. They do not have their best writers blogging, except when they do. Really, what the New Yorker has done online is remain totally unembarrassed by everything they have done online. Did they spend one zillion dollars on a “digital reader” for subscribers that must have looked great at the pitch meeting but shrinks the 10.5 Caslon type just past the point of readability? Yes, they did. Did they hold a pet photo contest on Halloween? Yes, they did. But do they care? No, they don’t. This may be a model for others, or it may just be something this one magazine can get away with. Hard to tell.

Anyway, we were very upset, and to add insult to injury our dog lost the Halloween contest to two little gerbils reading tiny dictionaries, but then we realized we could just take a Xanax and read the Paris Review. We love the new Paris Review, partly because it always makes us forget what year it is, but never in a depressing way, like Harper’s. We opened a recent issue and found all our favorite hits from the archives: poems from an ancient civilization, an experimental short story by a woman, some brightly colored art that must have been very expensive to print, and obscene fiction by a Jewish person. But what satisfied us most was the feeling that we were enjoying a product with a past, and with the distinction of an earlier age. Where did that feeling come from? Was it the Xanax (or maybe it was Valium) that made us suspect that if the issue had been released in 1959, no one would have noticed that it came from the future?…

Read the entire thing—on The Atlantic, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and The Paris Review—at the n+1 website.

Jake Adam York (1972-2012) and Superman

Yesterday poet Jake Adam York passed away after suffering a stroke. I didn’t know him. Like many, though, I read his poetry in the magazines. (I also remember seeing him introduce Michael Chabon at the Denver AWP Conference two years ago.)

I probably knew his work less than most in the literary world (if there is such a thing)—but after hearing of his passing yesterday evening from my wife, from Facebook of all places, I came across his latest publication “Self-Portrait as Superman (Alternate Take)” in the new issue of New England Review. Though it was only just published, I somehow couldn’t believe I hadn’t read it earlier.

My heartfelt condolences to family, friends, and fans of York. Below is the open-throttled beginning of “Self-Portrait as Superman (Alternate Take)”—read the complete thing at the NER website:

At twenty-four frames per second, sixty seconds is two hundred
feet of film you’ll never see: Christopher Reeve
ready to become mild-mannered Clark Kent—sharp

trilby and blue chalk-pinstripe suit—
once they call Action, the Who-me smile fading
to bit-lip circumspection, cover story and secret,

hand on the button-down’s placket, ready to pull
the buttons from their eyes, peel
the rough-hewn cotton from the ancient crest, the S

that curves like a river between the mountains,
a snake curled inside a chest, invulnerable aorta
of Kal-El’s dense alien body, gone spectacular…

Read the rest. And listen to an audio recording of York reading an earlier draft of the poem for the Kenyon Review this past summer.