To visit www.members.aol.com/Runes
For a poem by Susan Terris
by CB Follett & Susan Terris, co-editors
In the old black-and-white movies, Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney would get together in someone's garage and say to one another, “Hey! Let's put on a show!” The genesis of RUNES, A Review of Poetry was something like that. As poets and colleagues, part of a 4 person critique group, women who'd known one another as our children were growing up, we started discussing the idea of our own poetry magazine. Our backgrounds are diverse. We both have long careers in other fields (CB Follett is an artist. Susan Terris has had 21 books for children and young adults published.) and have reinvented ourselves as poets with intensity and passion in mid-life.
At first the idea of starting a magazine was a lark — something we'd toss around as we sat waiting for a poetry reading to begin or when we examined someone else's poetry publication. We are, we believe, perhaps certifiably mad to decide to publish with no university or organizational funding; but we do value our independence. We began with two distinct objectives: (1) to print the finest poems we could find and (2) to respect each poet who submits to us as we'd like to be respected when we submit our poems to other publications.
The first issue of RUNES was projected to be 96 pages; but as we read through the more than 2000 submissions (everything read by each of us at least twice and many submissions read three and four times), we gradually expanded our vision and decided on 144 pages for each edition. Our first issue featured poems by Jane Hirshfield, David St. John, Richard Wilbur, Ronald Wallace, and 95 other poets known and unknown. Every poet who sent work to us got some kind of personal note. We ended up selecting poems in a wide range of poetic voices and styles. We tried to arrange the poems so they proceeded logically from one to another so they would tell a cumulative story to the reader. When we were finished and held the printed issue in our hands, we came to the conclusion that we had produced a poetry annual or anthology rather than a magazine.
We publish once a year in December. Each issue has a theme. RUNES 2001 was “Gateway” and RUNES 2002 will be “Mystery.” We interpret these themes broadly. “Mystery” will have a Hubble Telescope photo of outer space, because we believe this theme represents life and the amazing and inexplicable as well as the literal Sherlock-Holmes-sort-of-mystery. To keep our lives under some sort of control and allow us to continue to produce our own work, we accept submissions only during April and May (no e-mail submissions, please) and send out (respect for our contributors again) our acceptances and/or rejections by July.
Starting in 2002, we will have a competition each year and offer a prize of $1000. The competition will have the same theme as the issue. This year's judge is David St. John. It is not necessary, however, to enter the competition to be published in the magazine. Every submission will be read and evaluated — we promise — strictly on its own merit.
So how does it feel to have this first issue to hold in our hands as we begin work on RUNES 2002? It feels terrific. We have received wonderful feedback from poets and editors all over the country. Poet's Market is going to feature our cover in its 2003 edition. We are proud of what we've accomplished so far. But we're also a little frightened. Can we live up to the standards set in 2001? Can we make the publication even better in 2002? We've been excited by the sizable number of subscribers we have; but will this continue? How are we going to pay for this long-term if subscriptions don't continue to grow or if our contests don't produce the revenue necessary to fund the prize? And, above all, why are we doing this in print when it would cost so much less to publish on-line?
And the conclusions we've come to? We're risk-takers and willing to put our energy and hearts into making this work. As trite as it sounds, we believe that anything worth doing is worth doing well. We both publish poetry in on-line zines and love doing this for its immediacy and because of the large numbers of people who read poetry this way today. But still we both believe that putting out a print journal in this era of internet and superfast communication is an act of faith. We like to think there are many people like us who still love the feel of paper and the smell of fresh ink, and who enjoy sitting down to savor the beauty of language and new insights into an old world.