An Interview with Didi Menendez, MiPOesias Poetry Magazine (2/26/07)
Didi Menendez is the creator and publisher of the online poetry magazine, MiPOesias Magazine as well as miPOradio, whose byline “where poetry tunes in,” aptly describes an energetic site where you can listen to podcasts of interviews and poetry readings from accomplished poets. She is a busy woman who has a passion for introducing new voices to the poetry scene. “But what I love most,” she is quick to point out, “is inspiring others.” It is clear she has been successful in this endeavor.
Among many other pursuits, she also hosts MiPO Café Café, a hip meeting room with serious poets critiquing and encouraging one another. This is but one of many sources which she taps for possible candidates to give podcast readings and interviews at miPOradio.
MiPOesias Magazine is a beautifully designed online poetry magazine that greets you with a seductive splash of images and drawings, then immediately ushers you in with a default podcast of a recited poem. Amy King is the Editor-in-Chief and Jenni Russell is the magazine’s Print Editor. Recently, Didi arranged to have Nick Carbo, a prominent author of three critically acclaimed books of poetry, take the reins as guest editor for the Asian-American issue of MiPOesias. The resultant product is nothing short of genius. I haven’t found anything remotely similar anywhere online or in the printed world.
Didi loves certain aspects in the design elements of the MiPOesias Magazine, but wrestles with the technical deficiencies of browsers and incompatibilities of formatting which can often frustrate contributors as well. She relates,
“For example, let’s say someone wants their poems formatted a certain way and they send me the poem attached in the way they think it is going to be seen online. Well, what I get is not what they necessarily are seeing at their end. First, many writers for some reason feel that they need to format their fonts at their end and send me all sorts of funky fonts that are not necessarily in my own computer, therefore my computer is going to default to whatever font I have. This is also the case of other people reading their work and whether it is being seen on a Mac or on Windows or on Mozilla Firefox....etc. This is the part where my head bangs against the monitor and I take my frustrations out on my peaceful editor Amy King.”
Didi (DM), Jenni (JR) and Amy (AK) were kind enough to address some questions I put together with a view toward giving our readers a feel for how one can interface and interact with online poetry magazines such as MiPOesias and miPOradio and begin to benefit from the richness available in this growing web sector.
EN: How did you come up with the name, MiPOesias?
DM: I was trying to write ‘all my poems’ in Spanish. I was searching for the availability of domain names, and mistakenly typed in MiPOesias. It was available, so I bought it.
EN: Do you like the term ‘ezine,’ in referring to online poetry magazines? How would you define that term, and what, in essence, makes an online magazine different from a paper-only printed magazine?
DM: I do not like the word ‘ezine’ and I do not use it. I treat my publication just as if it were on paper. I publish and design it in the same way any print publisher would. I treat the work I do as professional. I have been trying to bring this across from the very start of the publication. I have been trying to educate people and strive each year to make the magazine better than the year before. Hence my production of audio; and also, last year we made the magazine accessible with an RSS feed.
EN: What do you see as some advantages that online magazines provide versus printed?
DM: …since the audience understands this word [ezine] to mean that a magazine is available electronically, then the answer to your question is that MiPOesias, because it is available online, receives more varied readers than your print publications because it is accessible by everybody that has internet access. This gives our contributors a more varied audience and far more readers than a print journal will ever have unless that print journal has now been made electronically available as well. You may check our readership from the stats which are available online.
EN: Where is your time spent in managing MiPOesias? Which tasks do you prefer?
DM: I work on the magazine mostly on the weekends and on miPOradio on weeknights as well as the weekends. miPOradio actually takes up most of my time because it is a radio program which is available on the internet and we have various programs which need to be uploaded regularly. On the other hand, once I have created a template for the issue at hand, the magazine is easily updated (unless there is a format issue as mentioned earlier). I have taken to resolving formatting problems by using Adobe PDF and turning the problematic “submission” into a jpg instead of copy.
EN: How does one submit poems to MiPOesias? What is the acceptance rate?
AK: I really don't keep count, so unfortunately, I can't give you even a rough ratio. On the plus side of the question, I don't feel limited by how many submissions I can accept because Didi updates the magazine quite often, more so than any other online magazine that I'm aware of. We're something of a weekly or bi-weekly production – this allows me to accept good work whenever it appears. Sometimes there might be a lull on the receiving end, which sends me out to solicit work. I like this balance because we can publish a range of people who have never been published before side-by-side with established writers.
[EN} From the website: Submissions are only accepted via email. Do not send work being considered by another editor. Send only new work. Response time is within a four to eight months time frame, not including holidays. If you have not received a reply after 8 months, you may send a query. Once a submission is accepted the recipient will receive further details with the rest of required material for publication including a photo of the author not already online and audio of the accepted work. Publication of the magazine takes place once work is accepted and materials requested are received by Didi Menendez.
EN: Does MiPOesias have a persona or a particular style of poem that you look for? Could you give a general idea of the kind of poems you turn away?
AK: I suppose if I had to generalize the style, I'd use the very abstract word, “experimental.” However, I hesitate because I've accepted many poems that one could also classify as traditional, even formal. I like a range of work, and the foremost facets that I look for are shaped by the common elements of poetry: content and form. Of course, I prefer innovative forms that allow for multiple readings. I also appreciate carefully-crafted poems. These two adjectives, “innovative” and “carefully crafted,” are not always exclusive.
Poems I tend to overlook are those that seem to be striving for some sort of obvious message that one can summarize upon a first reading. In other words, I don't enjoy poems that can be read and digested instantly and attempt to incorporate some sort of romantic notion about life's ups and downs. I tend to think of these poems as “Hallmark-y” and too quick. I want work I can dig into a few times over and still be surprised by. I'm a firm believer in the act of reading, that the reader has a responsibility to participate in the poem's materialization vis-à-vis her own mind.
EN: Can everyone “tune in” to the poetry at MiPOesias or miPOradio? What does your readership profile look like?
AK: Absolutely. Poetry comes in all shapes, sizes, and sounds, just like music, which means there's something out there for everyone. It's my responsibility as an editor to locate an array of quality of work that piques curiosity, and further, gives readers something substantial to delve into. Luckily, our readership and submissions have proven to span many styles of poetry along with a smorgasbord of content. We have some very talented people sending their work in on a regular basis, for which I am grateful. I should add a qualifier here: our audience won't like everything we publish anymore than a person will like every song on the radio – but there's always something you'll find yourself moving to.
EN: I believe MiPOesias has a printing arm where you publish chapbooks. Would
you describe what that looks like? How many poems do you need to assemble a competitive manuscript?
JR: Our publishing arm is quite sexy but also tough. It has a huge bicep and tiny wrist. The manuscript should include 17-25 pages of poetry.
[EN]: From the website: Our print product is located at lulu. Submissions are open from January 1st through April 1st and from August 1st through November 1st each year. Manuscripts should include a table of contents page and a page including your name, email address and mailing address. Please DO NOT send illustrations or an acknowledgements page for previously published poems. We are not interested in where you've been published. Just send us your best work. Poems from the manuscript may be previously published, but the chapbook as a whole should be unpublished. We accept electronic submissions only.
EN: MiPOradio is fascinating. Given that this medium is rapidly expanding on the Web, where would you like to take it, personally? What are the benefits of listening to poetry, versus reading poetry?
DM: I believe your statement about rapidly expanding on the Web is incorrect -- I believe the real answer here is that if your journal does not have some kind of Web presence, you might as well go fishing and call it a day. Regarding the benefits of listening to audio versus reading poetry, I will answer it from a personal standpoint as a listener vs. a reader. If a poem is submitted with audio, I can listen to it while I work on the magazine. I get a better appreciation for it. Again this is a personal opinion on my part.
Regarding where I would like to take the magazine, it all depends on my creativity and resources-, and my study of web trends. Also, I am nothing without the good work of people in the front line such as Amy King, William Stobb, Grace Cavalieri, Bob Marcacci, Jenni Russell, Michelle Buchanan and our wonderful contributors. Plus, let’s not forget the help I receive on cafe cafe's community from Diego Quiros and all the writers who encourage each other there.
EN: Is the vocal recitation of poetry an innate gift, or can it be learned, perfected? What kind of reading style attracts you?
DM: What I have learned from producing audio on MiPOesias is that not everyone can read their poems well. Some people simply do not give the poem the energy it deserves. They actually forget to stop at the periods, to give the commas their time of day and forget why they wrote the poem in stanzas to begin with. Some people should not record their poems. It may actually turn a reader off. I don't know this, though, until I get the audio. Sometimes we can blame the microphone and software they used. I recommend that writers try to read publicly as much as possible. We have a Reading Series in New York every last Friday of the month at Stain Bar located in Brooklyn. Any contributor of MiPOesias or Café Café is invited to read.
EN: What would you tell the serious writer who is exploring writing poetry and would like to develop and hone their skills?
AK: Read a lot of poetry. Read widely. Locate a few poets whose work you strongly admire. Imitate, imitate, imitate their work. Get a book on poetic form and style and toy around with the ideas that catch your eye. Remember that you can enjoy writing. Join a community of writers like the MiPO Café Café forum and practice critiquing others’ work as well as posting your own. Learn the art of editing. Defend the parts of your work you love. Finally, make writing a habit. Set yourself a daily schedule, even if it's just an hour a day, and sit down to write. If you don't write, don't do anything else except sit there and read others' poetry, with your pen and paper in front of you. Stick with the schedule and allow yourself to write badly. Be patient. Don't expect fame or praise when you finally publish. Eventually, you'll be a serious writer.
EN: Can you tell us any “hot” new directions, programs or plans that you personally
have in the wings?
DM: I am always looking for new audio programs. It is very hard to find the right individual for this. I have approached a certain prominent poetry blogger a few times about having a version of his blog available on miPOradio but, again, the technology and time that is involved in getting me the audio and recording the audio and uploading the audio for such a task is limited not necessarily just on my part but on whomever is the one recording. So expanding miPOradio is more in my future plans than the magazine per say, and how to make this process easier, better, faster and friendlier on writers trying to get their work recorded. Then there is the matter of archiving the work on miPOradio. I have turned to PENNSOUND for this. I am not offering PENNSOUND everything at this time, because frankly I have way too much audio out there. However, every year I plan on sending them audio to archive in the University so it is available 100 years from now whereas I know that my publication will someday not be. Hence when I die, the magazine will too.
Recently I published the Asian-American issue guest edited by Nick Carbo. I approached Nick in the spring of 2006 and told him that I wanted to publish an Asian-American issue and that I wanted him to guest edit it and by golly he did and there it is now.
EN: Thanks to Didi, Amy and Jenni for taking the time to answer these questions.
-originally published on Gather.com, Feb. 26, 2007. Some of the particulars in the above interview may be outdated.
***** Click here to view Edward Nudelman Poems: http://enudelman.blogspot.com/