Poetry Magazine Editor Jacob Denno tells us what he looks for in a poem, why black text on white is a classic and how naive arrogance can sometimes have its positive side. Jacob edits Popshot a bi-annual magazine that champions contemporary poetry and illustration.
So, why did you decide to set up a magazine for poetry and illustration?
The inspiration for starting the magazine was born out of naive arrogance. After trawling through the shelves of Borders (RIP), I felt that poetry magazines were doing poetry a gross misjustice and I could do it better. So that’s where it started! I felt that by combining poetry with design and illustration it could become much more appealing and help give the poetry a stronger sense of context.
There have been lots of exciting online journals started over the last few years, did you consider doing an online magazine and why did you chose to do print?
An online magazine was never really an option. I think the beauty of Popshot lies in its combination of poetry, illustration, and print. I’ve always been a sucker for beautifully produced magazines and books so it was a bit of a dream to produce a real, physical publication. In the past I had always written content for websites so producing an online magazine wouldn’t have seemed like anything new. To know that Popshot could sit on the shelves of Borders and Barnes & Nobles though – that was really exciting.
I hear you’re expanding to include flash fiction submissions, why did you decide to add flash fiction to the magazine?
Because I felt it would bring some increased depth to the magazine – depth that it was in need of. Before Popshot, I had read some incredible short stories by a French surrealist writer called Roland Topor. They were absolutely amazing but I had never considered trying to incorporate that into the magazine. It was only after reading Roald Dahl’s Kiss Kiss collection – which I absolutely loved – that I thought it was time for flash fiction and short stories to join the fray.
What do you look for when selecting poems?
An interesting and original idea/story told with visually explosive language that makes you feel something – whatever that may be. Sometimes we receive poems which are beautifully written but lack substance, or a strong thread. Other times, we receive poems which have a brilliant idea running behind it, but are badly executed. Trying to find something that combines the two is really quite difficult. I’m also a massive fan of internal rhyme, alliteration, and assonance. They create a beautiful rhythm to a poem without the need for meter, which sounds fluid without being contrived. If someone can combine all those elements, I’m pretty much sold.
As editor what tasks do you do for each issue?
In a chronological and simplistic order: come up with the theme, do a call for submissions, read the submissions, select the best submissions, commission illustrators to illustrate the poems/short stories, receive the illustrations back, start putting all the content into layout, finish putting all the content into layout, send the final files to the printer, talk to the distributors, receive the printed copies back from the printer, then start telling everyone that a new issue is out. Inbetween those things are a great number of emails and fretting as to whether the new issue is going to be as good as the last. Thankfully, I always feel that it is.
How many hours do you spend a week on Popshot?
This completely varies. I don’t work on the magazine full-time but when it’s really busy in the lead up to a new issue, it can take up every evening and every weekend. After a new issue has launched and all the work has been done, it can be little more than a few hours a week.
Do you have other people working on the Popshot team and what do they do?
I have the lovely Hugh who deals with subscriptions, Facebook stuff, general admin etc. I also have a network of heroes who help advise me/decide whether something is a good idea or not. They may not think that they are, but they’re key.
What do you do when you’re not editing Popshot?
I work for an advertising agency as an Editor-in-Chief. As for my spare time…I don’t really have much of that.
How do you find your illustrators?
I scour blogs, websites, agencies, magazines, newspapers and exhibitions for new illustrators, as well as sorting through the hundreds of portfolios that we get sent. I could still do a better job of seeking out the relatively unknown illustrators but it’s almost a full time occupation searching for them!
What is the worst part of running a magazine?
Haha, I’m not sure there is one. I guess it’s a lot of time spent behind a computer screen so I would love for it to be a little more tactile, but when you’re doing something you love, that pales into insignificance. I wouldn’t mind if it paid a little better as well.
What was the biggest thing you’ve learned since starting Popshot?
That trying to read white text on a black background for an entire issue isn’t that easy for people. It took me a while to learn that there is a reason why almost every single magazine prints black on white.
If you had one piece of advice for a poet who wanted to be featured in Popshot, what would it be?
Read a copy of the magazine. It’s not exactly rocket science but if you know what kind of work we publish, you’ll stand a much better chance of making it onto its pages.
Jacob Denno is the Publisher and Editor of Popshot Magazine. He also works as Editor-in-Chief at one of London’s finest advertising agencies.
Published July, 2012