If you’re not familiar with the indie publication Clockwise Cat, you should be! Here’s a brief interview with Alison Ross, the editor extraordinaire of this political and poetical magazine.
BLACK HEART: Where is your magazine geographically located, and how (if at all) does that affect the type of work you publish?
ALISON ROSS: Clockwise Cat is located in Atlanta, Georgia. We have published some writers from Atlanta, but most writers hail from all over the world. However, perhaps there is a slight unintentional bias toward American writers, but we welcome submissions from everywhere, as long as they are in English (or some semblance thereof if the work is severely experimental).
BH: What’s your magazine’s rallying cry or raison d’être?
AR: We exist because we have no choice. The idea for Clockwise Cat was conceived on a bicycle ride through my neighborhood. I was wanting to publish poets who were better than me so that I could sublimate my envy toward them, and also—more altruistically—celebrate their talent. I also wanted a place to showcase my own polemics and reviews. I tend to be brashly liberal and I love to rant and spew opinions. I had written for a couple of political zines, but they shut down and I was needing an outlet. So Clockwise Cat is both a selfless and selfish pursuit.
BH: Who are some of your favorite writers, and how do they influence your work at the magazine?
AR: As for poetry, I love Rimbaud, Borges, Paz, cummings, Dr. Seuss, Emily Dickinson, Breton, Tzara, Ferlinghetti, Levertov … many many more. They influence what I publish because we aim toward featuring surrealistic/symbolistic/dada-ist/noirish/beat/wildly whimsical writing. As for the polemics I write and and accept for publication, I love the writings of Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Molly Ivins (RIP), Jim Hightower, Barbara Ehrenreich.
BH: What type of writing are you most interested in publishing?
AR: See above! Poetry-wise, anything that is progressive and not too mired in tradition. If it has a touch of tradition, that’s fine, but it’s anathema to me if it’s too formalist in style. I prefer language that grabs you by the crotch with its fierce innovation.
BH: Is there anything that drives you crazy when reading submissions, or that you absolutely will NOT publish, and if so, what?
AR: Again, see above. Excessively formalist and academic poetry is antithetical to our purpose. Furthermore, I don’t want polemics emanating from the neo-conservative mindset. I loathe and revile conservative thinking because it’s lazy and ignorant and regressive and embarassing.
BH: Are there any specific examples of pieces you’ve recently published that writers should examine further?
AR: Felino Soriano is a regular poet at my zine; his style is wonderfully weird and wholly authentic. But there are so many absolutely phenomenal writers that I have published that I don’t feel it would be fair to pin down just one. Writers just need to peruse the zine to get an idea of our idiosyncratic “flavor.”
BH: What first got you interested in publishing your own magazine?
AR: I love to read and write, and I am very visually-oriented as well. My zine is a marriage of those passions. I am constantly changing the imagery on my front page, and I decorate each published poem or polemic with an image that I feel fits the “gist” of it.
BH: Be honest: have you ever gotten a really awful submission, something SO TERRIBLE that you’ve printed it out, covered with red ink (and maybe even some rude drawings), and tacked to your wall as a “What Not To Do” example to be mocked and referenced by anyone in the office? And if so, have you ever taken up the matter with the writer, in an effort to either understand or educate them?
AR: Most of the submissions I receive are quite good, but I do get some bad ones, of course. Recently, I received one that started, “Dear Poetry Editor of Clapboard.” I had a good guffaw at that. And the cover letter was riddled with errors; most ninth-graders could have written a better letter, and yet this came from an adult. I definitely let her know about her transgressions. I don’t like to hurt anyone’s feelings, but some people really need a lot of practice before they are even approaching the level of submission-ready. Oh, and her poetry was just insanely, mortifyingly bad.
BH: For that matter, do you have an official office, or is this one of those labors of love that you run out of your home? And have you any photos of your workspace to give an example of the wild, crazy, cluttered lives editors lead?
AR: My official office is my couch. The clutter is mainly digitalized, thankfully.
BH: In closing, what advice would you give to writers who would like to some day have their work published in your magazine?
AR: Pretty simple: Read several issues to get a feeling as to what styles we prefer. We are not the edgiest zine out there, but we do we have an edge and that is the type of writing we favor, poetry-wise. We also love reviews of films, books, and music. And just a reminder: if you are a writer of polemics, but harbor a neo-conservative mindset, stay far far far away from us, for we have been known to use ubridled vitriol towards those types. But if you are enlightened and progressive, please send your rants our way!