Snapshot: No, Dear Magazine

Brooklyn-based No, Dear magazine is edited by Emily Brandt and Alex Cuff. Each print issue is hand-sewn and features original cover-art. On Friday they will celebrate the release of Issue 9 with a 7pm reading at Pete’s Candy Store featuring the following readers: Franklin Bruno,  MRB Chelko,
Barry Denny, Tyler Flynn Dorholt , Natalie Eilbert, Alina Gregorian, Mike Lala, Aubrie Marrin, David McLoghlin, Amy Silbergeld, and Sampson Starkweather.

Below is a brief interview (conducted via email) where we discuss everything from community, aesthetics, and geographic constraints.

SK: When was No, Dear started and who were the founding editors?

EB: Alex and I met when we were both in the NYC Teaching Fellows program, trying to survive our first years as public school teachers while maintaining our identities as writers. I had been in a poetry workshop for a few years at that time, and I invited Alex into the workshop, which used to meet at the now closed Stain Bar in Williamsburg. We founded No, Dear in 2008 along with Jane Van Slembrouck and Katie Moeller, who were also solid members of the workshop. We thought it would just be one or two issues to showcase work from the workshop and some of our friends and acquaintances. Then it kept growing.

SK: No, Dear is a journal of restraints, by which I mean the contributor must reside in one of New York’s five boroughs and submit poems that fit into the issue’s theme. Can you talk a little bit about how and why you set geographic and thematic guidelines for No, Dear?

EB: No, Dear grew out of a close and evolving community of writers. We wanted the publication to foster the local writing community, which is why we limited it to work by NYC writers, and chose not to publish online. The content would be local and tangible. Everyone in the issue should be able to easily come together to celebrate the issue launch and get to know each other a bit, in hopes that paths will get crossed and friendships will develop. Our first theme was “flight” and we figured it would somehow unify the submissions. We like that some writers create new work especially for the theme, and others use the theme as a lens to cull from their existing work. The resulting issues create a unique dialogue among the selected poems.

AC: The NYC constraint fosters the poetry community that we are interested in supporting, dipping into and building. There is something really special about the launch readings in which all the local poets come together and learn about one another’s work. There are definitely benefits in reading and publishing the work of poets around the country and beyond and its wonderful that lots of journals already do this. I like knowing that the poets we publish are in our community and most likely going to attend the reading and bring their friends. Recently we collaborated with the wonderful women behind Argos Books, Iris Cushing and Elizabeth Clark Wessel, both of whom we met when their poems were published in No, Dear.

I’m personally overwhelmed by the availability of online poetry journals and I think the local constraint makes that feel less overwhelming. We’re already separated from other writers and communities by the great internet and for me the local aspect of No, Dear lessens this feeling. (I also recognize the community that results from the internet.) It’s a question that we return to from time to time. We’ve talked about publishing an issue of poets solely outside of the five boroughs or an issue dedicated to one other city. And if we did that, I’d definitely want to travel to that city for the reading to meet the poets.

I see the issue’s theme as less of a constraint than geographic constraint. Most of the writers take the thematic guideline pretty loosely and often in ways we hadn’t anticipated which is an amazing part of reading submissions. So the thematic constraint is fun. Regardless of the theme, the individual poems and their dialogue with one another create the issue, which often redefines our initial idea of the theme. Also, I think that both constraints limit the amount of poets who blindly send poems to the magazine. Not that we want less submissions. It is such a privilege to have poets send us poems. But it is nice to know that there’s been a great deal of thought in the process of sending us work.

SK: Can each of you talk a bit (as concretely or abstractly as you’d like) about your aesthetic taste?

AC: This is a hard one for me.  Certainly there’s subjectivity in regards to our taste in everything but I don’t have a set of criteria for a good poem. And I’m hoping my taste will continue to shift and broaden as I continue to experience the work of new artists. I certainly haven’t read enough poetry in my life to have that figured out. I like to be surprised. A few books I’ve read and loved and reread this year are Lisa Jarnot’s Amedillin Nosegay Cooperative, H.D.’s Helen in Egypt, Jon Sand’s The New Clean, Adam Falkner’s WHAT IS NOT YOURS, Dan MagersPARTYKNIFE and Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red. All of which vary greatly in terms of style and subject matter. I don’t find myself looking for a certain style when I’m editing No, Dear and I don’t set out to write a certain type of poem. I think something that makes each issue strong is that Emily and I don’t always share the same taste in poems which always results in spending a great deal of time carefully reading and discussing the submissions. I learn a great deal during each editing session.

EB: I’ve never been one to have a regular hangout. As such I don’t adhere to any stylistic camp, at least not that I’m aware of. My own writing has a pretty wide range. I read around and like a pretty huge aesthetic range. However, I always respect poems that have something at stake. Style is wonderful. But substance over style.

SK: No, Dear has had a guest editor work with you for the last three issues.  Each of the guest editors has been a poet who has previously been published in the journal. Can you talk about how you two arrived at the idea of having guest editors?

EB: Originally, Alex, Katie, Jane and I were editors. Over the years, Katie and Jane both moved on to other pursuits. Alex and I could have continued on our own, but fostering community is hugely important to us, and so the idea of rotating guest editors seemed like a perfect way to incorporate other voices into the issues and extend the reach of the journal. We always learn so much from our editing conversations.

SK: The ambition of No, Dear does not seem to be limited to being solely a print poetry journal. You two seem committed to No, Dear being an active and exciting invitation to an ever-expanding community of poets in New York. Could you touch on this and share with us your vision for No, Dear?

AC: I think I already touched on this when discussing the NYC constraint. I think that many of us can agree that despite the sheer volume of people in the city and its rich arts community, New York can be a pretty alienating experience. I’m not interested in creating another Facebook community in my life. And although the act of reading a poem is often a wonderfully solitary one, the community, the friendships, collaborations and dialogue that result from a project like this are equally important.

EB: I love looking back at how much we’ve grown and at how many NYC poets we’ve connected with. But we still have so much more to do! There are so many poets and communities of poets that we have yet to connect with, and that, to me, is the most exciting part.


-steven karl