DD: How did DIALOGIST come into being? Can you give us a brief history of the quarterly?
ML: DIALOGIST’s inception was a response to a self-perceived divide between well-wrought, meaningful, and challenging content and a hierarchical, often censorship-based publishing structure. The latter being the direct, literal sense, as well as the industry’s smattering of personal/house editorial aesthetic that follows the adage for framing all media, that what’s included is just as important as what’s left out. Thereby, and too often, creative voices are segregated into two primary groups: rising and established. Because creative value does not exist along a continuum, so much as within a malleable framework of dialogue, it was a necessary experiment to provide a more open, shared venue for this broad gradient of experience to interact—ideally leading to new, personal explorations of consideration and creation for both readers and contributors.
DD: Can you discuss the dialogue between the visual arts and poetry that is so essential to this journal?
ML: I’ll defer to Jennifer’s take on this one.
JP: Visual Arts and Poetry have dialogue together in the journal by balancing the creative input of the contributors. This allows the readers to experience a diverse range of creative outputs and creates an insightful look into the creative fields. The communication between visual arts and poetry in the journal creates a rhythm for the audience to experience when viewing the journal and creates visual imagery to compliment the written word.
DD: What is the most encouraging experience you have had as an editor?
ML: Submissions review is an inherently intimate process, wherein a certain trust is exchanged between a poem, its speaker, the poet (or however it’s carried out), and an editor. Returning to your first question, not only is my capacity one of a reader, it’s also a necessary burden to serve as a gatekeeper of sorts. Assuming that a submitter is familiar with the content that we put out, that someone has found value in the journal as a collective space is always quite humbling. Although it makes me uneasy to turn away most poems, I feel a unique elation the moment that our team decides to accept a poet’s work. With that work we’re expanding the conversation, and this is a responsibility that I feel our whole team takes very personally.
DD: What is the most encouraging development you’ve witnessed in contemporary poetry?
ML: Contemporary poetry knows itself quite well by now, so we might ask what’s yet to be done. Because I didn’t come at the “poetry game” with any formal experience, aside from some time in an MFA, I’m admittedly ignorant to the tastes, forms, and schools of thought that have led us here. So for me it’s more a question of what’s left to be said, and noting the present U.S. political cum human rights climate, in conjunction with persisting social, environmental, economic, etc. issues worldwide, there are urgent conversations that we need to be having. Furthermore, important declarations that we need to make. Poetry is, by its nature, at once proletariat and bourgeoisie. Then there’s its middle ground. This is an area that I hope DIALOGIST occupies. To answer your question directly: that we’re still engaging in discourse, investing in discovery, even when things are awry (haven’t they always been?), is encouraging.
DD: What is one thing that American poetry needs more of, in your opinion?
ML: Empathetic inclusivity. Taking the overall example of writing conferences, MFA programs, and top-tier literary/poetry journals, we’re dealing with a class establishment that is self-sustaining at best, and entropically regressive at worst. As a reader foremost, then an editor, I cannot align with the posture of the same panel discussions, the same cliquishness of the same names, and the same subject matter wearing the same coat. Rediscovering our peripheral awareness might remind us of why we do what we do, and why we do it at all. In a way poetry can be a mirror, and that’s certainly important. But we must also remind ourselves that poetry can be a window.
ML: I wonder what Jennifer would add in terms of art.
JP: To add to what Michael has said and in terms of art, it needs more openness to new artists and easier access for upcoming artists to reach a wider audience. As an editor, I strive to search for uniqueness in the art and diversity in what is chosen. Art will always need that search for new perspectives.
DD: If you could only read and say and remember one poem (written by someone else) for the rest of your life, what poem would it be?
ML: The still unwritten poem of anyone reading this. So mentioned, I’d like to ask who you believe readers should spend time with to better understand the true social implications of contemporary poetry.
DD: This week I’ve been reading Kaveh Akbar’s startlingly beautiful chapbook, Portrait of the Alcoholic (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2017). I’d recommend two additional chapbooks: dear girl: a reckoning by drea brown and Equilibrium by Tiana Clark. In fact, I’d recommend the entire catalogs of Bull City Press, Gold Line Press, Orison Books, and Organic Weapon Arts. All of these presses are doing amazing work, ushering in a plurality of voices who address the current political moment quite profoundly.
Some other recent books that I admire immensely and which seem like required reading for our dire times include:
I’m also looking forward to new collections in 2017 by Javier Zamora, Danez Smith, Layli Long Soldier, Tarfia Faizullah, and Dean Rader.
Finally, I’d like to mention an anthology that will be coming out soon, Resist Much/Obey Little: Inaugural Poems to the Resistance. This collection, featuring 320 poets from all corners of the poetry world, will be available February 28th from Spuyten Duyvil Press.
DD: What does the future hold in store for DIALOGIST?
ML: In regard to growing uncertainty over the sanctity and equal protection of individual liberties, again fast eroding as a result of Western political developments (or regressions, I will say), maintaining accountability within our global community is a multifaceted undertaking—not least of which is our common duty to honor critical and creative self-expression. I hope that for its present state and future editorial iterations, DIALOGIST’s ultimate purpose is as an unbiased refuge for the arts and a hub for necessary cultural critique. As an immediate and pragmatic request, I encourage people to identify grassroots initiatives from which they gain personal enrichment, and to support them. Whether by word-of-mouth promotion, time volunteered on staff or for public events, or becoming patrons to the comfort of personal budget. Where aid is withheld or rescinded by organizational or governmental powers, there should be a joint imperative to save the greatest soft asset of our shared human experience.
They ask me
What’s it like being a brown woman in America?
I want to say
It’s like screaming in a dream
And expecting a reaction.
They ask me
What’s it like being an immigrant in America?
I want to say
It’s like wearing perfume
And everyone is allergic.
They ask me
What’s it like praying for change in America?
I want to say
It’s like pressing your ear to the dirt
and hoping to hear the sea.
DIALOGIST Managing Editor: Michael Loruss is a native Californian, a veteran of the United States Army, and an alumnus of Berea College, where he studied English literature. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Hollins University, and was a ’13 co-recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize. Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, his work has been published in Guernica, The Paris-American, PANK, and The Los Angeles Review.
DIALOGIST Art Editor: Jennifer Palmer was born and raised in Pennsylvania and currently resides in Kentucky. She holds a BA in Art and Political Science from Cedar Crest College, and a MFA in painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Jennifer is an artist and has been featured in New American Paintings and included in the Viewing Program at the Drawing Center in NYC. She currently works at colleges and a university in the greater Louisville area and exhibits her art nationally.
DIALOGIST Poetry Editor: Dante Di Stefano is the author of Love is a Stone Endlessly in Flight (Brighthorse Books, 2016). His poetry, essays, and reviews have appeared in Brilliant Corners, The Los Angeles Review, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. He is the winner of the 2015 Red Hen Press Poetry Award, the Crab Orchard Review's 2016 Special Issue Feature Award in Poetry, and the 2016 Manchester Poetry Prize.