An Interview with Sara Baxter, Poetry Editor
What do you most enjoy about editing poetry submissions for Tributaries?
My favorite part of the editing process is layout. Finding a home for each piece in the book is very satisfying, especially when those poems that I’ve fallen in love with just belong in a certain place such as next to a particular visual arts page, or on the very first or the very last page of the book.
What do you look for in poetry submissions? Is there a particular kind of work you’re interested in receiving?
I want to be surprised. That is all.
Just kidding—sort of. If a poem doesn’t offer something new I am likely to pass on it. Typically, I’m not a fan of poems about nature, love, domestic abuse, etc., unless the poet has managed to put an interesting twist on it. These topics are just very overdone.
Also, every word should count. In most cases, a poem that is weighed down with unnecessary verbiage might as well be prose.
And finally, form. A skillful use of poetic form (blank verse, sonnet, villanelle, etc.) generally gets bonus points from me. Oftentimes, the poem will let the poet know what form it should be. When this has happened, the reader senses it, and it’s a beautiful thing. This is not to say that I have a problem with free verse. Free verse is, after all, is a form too.
Is there a book or website you would recommend for writers who are just beginning to write poetry?
Yes! Read literary journals. A poetry collection (book of poems by one poet) can be daunting if you are new to poetry. Journals allow you to experience poems from many different poets, giving you the chance to explore a variety of different poetic styles and voices. Some of my favorite journals are Missouri Review, Cincinnati Review, and Kenyan Review.
Who are some of your favorite poets and why?
My favorite poet is Daisy Fried. I love the natural language she uses in her poems, as well as her honesty and willingness to depict the world as it really is. I especially love the expert way she handles politics in poetry. Other favorites are Dean Young, Fredrick Siedal, Charles Simic, and Emily Dickinson. I like them all for different reasons, but what I like the most, they all have in common—their poems are strange in the best ways.
If you got to have dinner with three famous authors (dead or alive), who would they be?
I’m going to cheat and give you four:
Ray Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451 inspired me to become a writer. I would love to have had the chance to tell him that.
Philip K. Dick – Who wouldn’t want to engage the gorgeously insane creative mind of this guy?
Voltaire – I absolutely adore this man. His logic-based philosophies are perfection.
T.S. Eliot – because I desperately want to ask him whether or not the “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” was meant to be funny.
Sara Baxter is a graduate student at IU East studying English with a focus on poetry and teaching. She works at IU East as a Writing Consultant and she is the Managing Editor of Tributaries. Her poems are published in Tributaries: A Journal of Creative Arts (2016) and Z Publishing’s Indiana’s Best Emerging Poets: An Anthology.