Thursday, May 21, 2015

Cover letter #1: "I am a bowl of fruit."

We get a few dozen submissions a day across the various Pen & Anvil in-house publications: Clarion, Pusteblume, Decameron, and so on. Over the years, that means our staff members have read tens of thousands of cover letters. And given our house policy of responding individually to each and any submission, we actually pay attention to those letters. Though it’s an ungodly expense of time, doing so means we’re able to make connections with a vastly greater number of writers, readers, and lovers of literature than we might if we only skimmed subs and dispatched them with standard boilerplate notes of rejection or acceptance.

Some cover letters stand out, by virtue of audacity, originality, sheer force of self-celebration, or, in some unfortunate cases, their contempt for editors. (We’ll post some of these in the last category in coming blog updates, not to embarrass their authors—alright, not just to embarrass their authors—but by way of opening the shop doors to let folks see how murky it can get in the back of the house.)

Some cover letters simply charm. The example below certainly did. It came to us through our online submission portal from a guy named Joe Nicholas: “an experimenter, experiencer, and editor of The Screaming Sheep.” He writes:
Imagine for a moment that you are a bowl of fruit. All you want to do is share your fruit with everyone, but you can’t. You are only a bowl of fruit. You do not have the technology for such a feat. So instead you write poems about your fruit, hoping that someone will be stirred to crave the real thing. Now imagine I am a bowl of fruit. I am a bowl of fruit. 
I hope you enjoy. 
Joe Nicholas
See? Charming! If only they were all so...

Setting aside the pleasant manner of his cover letter in favor of principled iron-bound editorial objectivity, we reviewed Joe’s attached submissions, and accepted two of his excellent pieces. You can find “Kid Icarus” and “A Love Poem” in the current Spring/Summer issue of Clarion.

Other examples of Joe’s work can be found or is forthcoming in BOAAT, Chiron Review, Found Poetry Review, Fruita Pulp, Weave, and other magazines. His online roost is

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Hanson on Vendler

From a most excellent review essay concerning Helen Vendler, appearing in Open Letters Monthly and authored by our Issue 18 contributor Jack Hanson:
Against such emotional, psychological, and spiritual power, what worth have the various over-politicized theories of literature? Many have come and gone in Vendler’s time, and were from time to time the source of insults against her and other “formalist” critics. But she herself never internalized such distinctions, and, apart from her continued engagement in what might be called post-modern literature, she even recalls auditing Paul de Man’s courses at Cornell and gaining immensely from them.
Find Jack on Twitter (not to mention Clarion! and OLM!) or click here to see a listing of his other pieces for Open Letters Monthly. His poems "Maternal" and "To the Daughters..." can be found on the issue page for Clarion 18.