by Kristin George Bagdanov, Senior Poetry Editor 2014-2020
I’ve tried to quantify my time here. In close to six years as poetry editor, I’ve read and evaluated near 10,000 poetry submissions, worked with over 250 poets, and co-edited twenty-four issues. However, I can’t quite quantify what I’ve learned from Ruminate—the community it’s extended to me, the people I’ve learned from and with along the way. In preparing an editorial handbook for the two incredible poets who will soon take up my position, I tried to distill the essential duties of being poetry editor for Ruminate into just four pieces of advice:
Err on the side of kindness. This can mean simply replying to an email with a quick “Got it, Thanks!” or including a personal note on a rejection to encourage a writer along the way.
Think about the community we’re building through the work we’re publishing. Our goal is to build relationships through art, not simply to display what some consider the “best” art in existence.
Don’t mistake contemplation for complacency; it is a disruption in this world of surfaces.
Do “small things with great love” (Mother Teresa). The personal relationships we develop as editors can seem insignificant when measured against the impact of institutions, but when measured through the lifetime of each person, the cumulative reach of our relationships is beyond measure.
I did not enter my position as poetry editor knowing these things; Ruminate taught them to me. And I couldn’t be more excited to pass this important work on to two excellent co-editors, who I have the honor of introducing to you now:
Michael Mlekoday is the author of one collection of poems, The Dead Eat Everything, winner of the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize, and currently lives in the Putah Creek Watershed of California. They hold an MFA from Indiana University and currently study plants and minds in American literature as a PhD candidate at the University of California, Davis. Mlekoday was a co-founding editor of Button Poetry, has served as Poetry Editor of Indiana Review, and is a National Poetry Slam Champion. Recent poems have appeared in The Southampton Review, Third Coast, The Journal, Sonora Review, Hunger Mountain, and other venues, and their work has been translated into Polish.
Hope Wabuke is a Ugandan American poet, essayist, and writer. She is the author of the chapbooks her, The Leaving, and Movement No.1: Trains, and has published widely in various magazines. She writes literary and cultural criticism for NPR, and has received fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Book Critics Circle, The New York Times Foundation, the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund for Women Writers, Cave Canem, the Awesome Foundation, Yale University’s THREAD Writer’s Program, and the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA). Hope is Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is a former contributing editor for The Root, where she originated a column on African diasporic literature, and a founding board member and former Media & Communications Director for the Kimbilio Center for African American Fiction.
You’re in great hands, Ruminate fam. I can’t wait to see how this community grows through Hope and Michael’s care.
With Great Love,
Kristin George Bagdanov
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