Paying for it again felt dirty. I didn’t want to. Didn’t mean to. Tried so hard to just move along, but my fingers edged in that direction, teased at where they wanted to be. And I gave in. Closed my eyes, relaxed, took out my debit card, and gave into the demons.
I reopened The Poetry Question.
Really, I was bored at work, saw an ad for AWP in Portland. And then Greg Gerding, Editor of University of Hell Press, asked me to join a karaoke poetry battle with with Write Bloody and Clash Books. I remembered how much I loved the words, the community, the energy, and excitement that came with every syllable and turn of the page.
That was what I was missing from TPQ. I was missing the excitement of the voices that may otherwise go unheard. There were so many small presses, with so few eyes on them. I was going to be their voice. The Poetry Question would become the voice of small press poetry. I pushed out 5 reviews a week, a steady stream of Power of Poetry essays and within 4 months, the twitter feed went from 300 people to 3500 people. The daily readership jumped from the 10s to the high hundreds, and all the sudden it was a thing.
But it in August it became so much more than a thing. It became a community of support when a car accident changed our home life. It became a beacon of hope when at times there didn’t seem like any existed. More than a site for reviews and discussion of the small press world, TPQ became a place for comfort, kindness, and a reminder that we, as a community, are a safe space – a family.
Poetry provides a solace when I can’t find anything else. It’s an escape when I need to run away. It’s something I can do to give back to the literary world. I learned long ago that I, myself, am not a poet; however, I also learned that reviewing poetry can be almost as creative as writing it.
I read a Twitter post earlier this week that said – to paraphrase – if you are struggling to write poems and find creativity, try to write reviews. I get it; it’s the old “those who can’t, teach.” But that’s bullshit. Academic reviews have their place. I have a background in 16th-19th Century British poetry, so I’m well versed in the world of literary criticism. But reviews don’t have to be boring. They should be reflective and thought provoking. They should pull you into the ideas behind the book, make you feel like you are a piece of it. I can write research papers (which can also be creative), but I’d prefer to not sound like a textbook while talking about poetry.
I don’t know how long TPQ will be around. The pace is tricky, time is hard to find, and while my incredible little team of writers keeps me more than afloat, I’d be lying if I said I could keep it up more than another year if it doesn’t generate at least a small income. I don’t want to see this all be for naught. I’d love to see it become the Goodreads of poetry, but to do that the Small Press world would need to be far more recognized than we’d like to think it is.
In the last 6 months I’ve re-branded and created something that feels good. It feels like a home for a lot of readers and poets. It feels like a place to discover more than 70 poets and presses and books each week. More importantly it feels like the support that’s needed.
The only goal for The Poetry Question is to publish reviews that make you want to support those presses and authors. I once heard that only 2% of the authors in the world make enough to support themselves from writing. I’d like to think I can help you all capture the hearts of the other 98%.
Chris Margolin is the Editor in Chief of The Poetry Question. He spends his days working as a middle school English and Social Studies teacher, and his evenings carving out time for family, reading, and playing music.