& the newer children do not have
even the memory of clean water.
Something happens in midair, something
profound about being in transit.
A prayer ascending in reverse, traveling
from succulence to desiccation.
A woman married to war
only knows stillbirth.
She flings tight lungs soaked in scream,
but at who? What makes a knife go silent?
Is the wind slicing through her or
is she slicing through the wind?
This collapsible family sits beneath a tree.
The father howls at the moon &
the moon howls back. The dead babies shiver.
The mother calls herself mother &
begins to tell of a history, all of the fruit
falling, all of the days
breaking into a darker darkness.
What does the title, “Emerging poet,” mean to you?
There's an entirely different place between emerging and established, which is very important, where many poets exist. It's not a binary to me. I think an emerging poet is one who is in that place of self-discovery and experimenting with voice and technique. Not being established doesn't mean a poet is still in the process of emerging. I definitely think there's an intrinsic yardstick that separates an emerging poet from one who has fully emerged, but is not yet established. And it's not about having a full length collection out or not.
Do you consider yourself an “emerging” poet? Why or why not?
I don't have a particularly large audience and I'm not a prize or contest winner, but by my definition, I do not consider myself to be emerging. I have emerged, stepped into a confidence in my voice and my story and my art.
I recently withdrew an accepted full length manuscript because it was no longer a reflection of me as a poet. Those poems were written in my in-between stage, a stage I have now evolved out of.
A brief illustration: last year I applied to read for a big journal, but a few days later I withdrew my application. I felt like I didn't know enough and I didn't want to make a fool of myself. Now I'm co-editor-in-chief of The Ellis Review. I construct opinions and make choices confidently. That's where the difference lies, to me. It's a function of confidence.
What do you think it takes to be “recognized” in the poetry community?
This is tricky because the poem and the poet have a symbiotic relationship, but when it comes to recognition, a third party is involved. I think it takes authenticity to be recognized, which is not to be confused with originality. I think originality may be a bit overrated, almost unattainable. We all ache in similar ways, and authenticity is your version of the story. As an editor, I have a preference for work that is honest and brave. I think that's what it takes to be recognized. Or at least, what I'd like to be recognized for.
How do you think power politics shape the poetry community?
We make art to be true to ourselves, and to speak boldly about our stories, but let's face it, as creatives we're prone to self-doubt and we seek validation, too. You see a book that's a prize winner or a bestseller, and you're curious about it, almost envious. Many poets are super ambitious, so it's natural to seek validation in that same hierarchy. We want to get in the big name journals or have our work solicited often. We want to send out very impressive bios. There's a cool kid table, some kind of poetic bourgeoisie and there's a tendency to both love and hate the poets in those circles. Mostly because we want to be them, maybe. But then, one of the poets I admire and respect says something nice about my work and I don't hate the system anymore, I'm just a fanboy again. I highly doubt that we can shake off the power politics, they are almost foundational. But I'm glad there is an ongoing conversation on the fact that we don't need to have an MFA from The New School or a book with Penguin to be taken seriously and for our work to matter, because that pressure is toxic, especially for young poets.
What does community mean to you?
Community is what I think poetry should be about. And I'm glad it largely is. It's not a contest (although sometimes there are literally contests LOL but that's beside the point). It's about a shared passion for the craft. I love the poetry community on Twitter; poets with ten thousand followers engage with poets with maybe two hundred and it's such a beautiful thing to see. Everyone supporting and urging each other to make more awesome art. In my experience, it's mostly full of love and respect and I love that.
LOGAN FEBRUARY is a happy-ish Nigerian owl who likes pizza & typewriters. He is Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Ellis Review. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Vagabond City, (b)OINK, Glass, and more. His chapbooks, Painted Blue With Saltwater (Indolent Books) & How to Cook a Ghost (Glass Poetry Press) are forthcoming in 2017. Say hello on Instagram & Twitter @loganfebruary.