Saturday, May 02, 2015

The 50 States Project: CA, MO, IL, VA, CO

This is the continuing saga of my attempt to place my writing in at least one journal in every state, in no particular order.

13. California. California is a big state with a ton of journals. I always thought I’d have a hard time getting published in California for the same reasons I thought I’d have a hard time getting published in New York: because California seemed like a different world to a small-town boy from Arkansas. My first publication in California was in an anthology called Roque Dalton Redux, by Cedar Hill Press, which was an anthology on the poet Roque Dalton. This gave me the confidence to treat California journals just like anywhere else. Next, I placed a poem in The Scrambler a cool journal out of Sacramento with a press attached. They took a very playful, post-experimental poem. Big Bridge was a nice coup. I contributed to their War Papers series with a pretty dark confessional poem.
14. Missouri. One of the first publications I ever had, and we’re talking a decade ago, at least, was in 2River View which is an online and print journal. They took a couple playful, funny poems that ended up in my first book, Anthem. 2River is published in chapbook form, which was my first experience with that kind of format. I continued sending them work, by the way, and they never took anything else by me. Natural Bridge is a print journal out of the University of Missouri, St. Louis. They took an early short story of mine called “The Cow Graveyard,” which was about a couple boys stealing a rifle and going off to shoot it, and then discovering a cow in distress. Very rural, very Southern. A now defunct journal, Margie, provided me an early ego boost. I had a couple poems published alongside some of the biggest names out there. The editor had a habit of calling poets to tell them they’d been accepted. I was still in grad. school, at the time, and really felt over the moon about all this. Probably the best known journal in the state is The Missouri Review, which hasn’t published me, nor has Boulevard, New Letter, River Styx, nor Pleiades, all very well-established journals. To be honest, I assumed they were all out of my reach when I was younger. Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi is another fine Missouri journal, out of Southeast Missouri State University, which took an essay on my family’s fish farming business, and how it was affected by my father and uncles aging. Gingko Tree Review, out of Drury University, is another fine journal which took a post-experimental quirky little poem of mine. Missouri really has a plethora of great journals.
15. Illinois. My first Illinois pub. was in Euphony out of the University of Chicago. They took a poem later to appear in my first collection, a fairly surreal piece. Arsenic Lobster was, for me, a real coup because I tried for years to get in to this hip, independent journal. They took a funny, surreal little poem and then collected it in their annual print issue. Sou’wester is an Illinois journal I haven’t been able to crack, though I spent a while really trying a few years ago.
16. Virginia. The first journal I cracked in Virginia was The Blue Collar Review a print journal of progressive, working class literature. I actually won their Working People’s Poetry Contest with the title poem to my first poetry collection. As you can imagine, Blue Collar likes poems about work with progressive themes. They tend to favor narrative with no frills or tricks. Sow’s Ear Poetry Review is a solid print journal that took a couple tries to break into. They took a narrative, rural-themed poem. The William and Mary Review from William and Mary College, was a recent pub. I cracked with a fairly straightforward confessional love poem. Gargoyle was a different story; I was intimidated by this long-running, independent journal until I did a reading with the editor, along with a couple other editors. I sent some post-experimental poems and had a few accepted. The Hollins Critic was a tough one. I actually worked on staff for two years, and placed several reviews there, along with other material, but no poetry. It took a couple years of rejections to place a poem with them—a nature themed poem about stinkbugs, which I’m sure stood out because of its unusual subject matter.
17. Colorado. I’ll go ahead and say I haven’t cracked Colorado Review, but having a poem published in Copper Nickel, out of the University of Colorado, Denver, was one of my proudest accomplishments. At the time, it was edited by the late, great poet Jake Adam York. He was the second editor to call me about my submission, and his warm personality and friendliness meant a lot to me. He accepted an old punk-rock themed poem from me that later appeared in Anthem. He had also edited Story South and gave me one of the first poetry acceptances I ever had. Even though I only knew him as an editor, his kindness touched me and meant so much, especially when I was just starting out.

-CL Bledsoe

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