Bang-Bang-Brujas, Fine Wines, and Ways of Looking: An Interview with Co-Poetry Editor Maddie Mori

Photo courtesy of Maddie Mori. 

Photo courtesy of Maddie Mori. 

With a little less than two weeks to go before our October 15th submissions deadline, we wanted to give prospective submitters a bit of a peek behind the curtains. To that end, we decided to ask Maddie Mori, one of our new Poetry Editors, some questions about writing, reading, and being in the world. Savor these delicious thought morsels as you put the final touches on your submissions, which if we haven't mentioned are due by October 15th. 

1. First of all, congratulations on your new position! Do you and our co-editor have any big plans for the poetry section this year?

Thanks! I’m so excited to work with Washington Square this year and with my poetry sistah Maggie Millner to continue the outstanding work of our former poetry editors, Jessica Modi and Ama Codjoe.

2. You studied wine-making as an undergrad. How is choosing a poem like choosing a wine?

I’ve always thought the most important step to being able to discern different wines and to discuss them is to first know what wines you like to drink. Are you more of a spritzy, summery Vinho Verde, or a muscular, old-world Barolo? I feel this is similar with poetry. I want to always remind myself what poetry styles have brought my friends and I joy, rather than perhaps following trends in publishing. I suppose I’ve always been attracted to the esoteric, and to a sense of craft, maybe partially because I’m an introvert (as are many poets) and I value the small, diligent communities found with both winemakers and poets.

3. Can you tell me about your experiences as a submitter? How does that inform your work as an editor?

My experience in submitting is its best to submit the work you’re most excited about. When I have 5 or 6 poems I’m feeling good about, I will cross my fingers and typically go with the mass submission approach (sending out one packet, with a few pieces swapped in and out, to several journals and contests, rather than several different packets sent to several journals/contests). I’ve seen from the editing side that a poet's private passion and confidence for their work tends to be palpable in the content. 

4. What advice would you give to a possible submitter?

I suggest familiarizing yourself with back issues of Washington Square Review  to get a sense of the history of our aesthetic, but also, don’t be afraid to submit work that feels a little experimental or wild. Just because we may have not published something in a certain form yet doesn't mean we won’t! We crave those fresh voices! I also suggest giving your whole submission, your cover letter and your writing, several passes before submitting. Take the time to make sure all your information is correct. It doesn’t make us feel special if we receive a submission addressed to the wrong journal!

5. What's the last poem you've read that's really resonated with you?

 I’m the kind of reader that bounces between several books at once, not to mention the dozens of poems I always have queued up to read on my computer that friends have posted online. For the poem that last resonated with me, I'm having a hard time choosing between “Ovidian” by Kathleen Peirce from her 1999 book The Oval Hour, which I just started reading at the suggestion of Catherine Barnett, “A Poem in which I Try to Express My Glee at the Music My Friend Has Given Me,” written by Ross Gay to celebrate his (frankly so sweet) friendship with the poet Patrick Rosal, or “The Moon is Trans” by Joshua Jennifer Espinosa, whose poems I have admired for a few years now and who just read recently with our NYU Graduate Program Emerging Writers Reading Series (as you know TJ since you read with her that night!)   

6. What are you working on in your own writing?

 In my own writing right now I'm working towards a guiding temporary title and sense of organization for my first manuscript! I’ve been starting to write a series of poems based on the Greek root “scope,” which designates an instrument used to view something from a unique angle, such as in “kaleidoscope” or “endoscope.” This series is attempting to write elegy, to write and preserve memory, from these same new view points or lenses. As a poet, I’ve felt most of my life a compulsive desire to organize meaning (I make strange shrines of objects in my bedroom for instance, like little gifts from friends, guitar picks I find on the sidewalk, or trading cards found in used books). I love giving myself generative projects, and I hope this series will similarly allow me to experiment, while still having some bumper rails to coast along if I stray. 

7. You and our other poetry editor, Maggie Millner, both have alliterative M-names. If you were a comic book duo, would you be heroes or villains? What would your powers be?

If Maggie Millner and I, Maddie Mori, were to develop our friendship and co-poetry editing team into a crime-fighting team, citizens may begin to refer to us, the swift shadows out the corner of their eye, as the “Bang-Bang-Brujas,” not because we would use any guns, nor would we seduce our enemies in those traditionally sexist comic book ways, but because we both rock phenomenal bangs that could stop a villain in his tracks with the sheer flawlessness of their straight cut and impressive volume, and because we both have been called “beach goths” at one point or another in our lives. We would use our bangs to deflect all variety of punches, curses, and misogynist one-liners. We’d help operate a badass poetry journal, with also alliterative-named Associate Poetry Editor, Hannah Hirsh, called Washington Square Review, when duty did not call.

8. Finally, what are some of your interests besides poetry?

 I love distracting myself from writing by watching Bjork or Kate Bush music videos and staying up to date with the Facebook group “animals eating fruit,” which frequently refers to piglets as “snortpuppies” and hedgehogs as “spikeboys.”

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