random poem project
Studying creative writing as an undergrad at the University of Colorado at Denver, I would go to the campus library for a block of time and read through every issue of a journal I could find. This was pre-smartphones, so, instead, I left the library each day with 2-4 xeroxed poems in my bag.
I most remember discovering a poem, "Uncle Outside," in Poetry. I feel Poetry has always kind of hidden author names on the page so the poem is the main event. As I collected my photocopy from the machine, I read the author's name, only to discover it was my poetry and poetics professor, Jake Adam York.
At that point, I don't think I was prepared to send work out for publication. Thankfully, the publishing impulse didn't come until I moved on to grad school. Instead, my hope was to find one or two "gut punches" per issue. A "gut punch" for me is not necessarily "the best" poem in an issue (or book), but the one that, to paraphrase the manuscript advice of poet Lauren Camp, took away my breath.
At that time (in the early 2000s), there weren't a lot of online journals, and print journals didn't feature their poetry widely online. I do remember Smartish Pace and Blackbird. Jake York was an early adopter and contributed to online publications like DIAGRAM, Typo, and Octopus Magazine (now Octo). It's no wonder these publications have always been (and remain) very high on my list of target journals.
More recently, as I tried to find the right venue for individual poems in my forthcoming collection and new poems for manuscripts-in-progress, I delight in having my gut punched by powerhouse poems. Many of these are in online journals, while some are featured online from print journals. Although I miss a handful of xeroxed poems, I now get to collect them as bookmarks.
The idea behind the random poem project is to take the guesswork and labor out of searching for great poetry online while also introducing readers to poets, journals, or poems that pack a punch.
My taste is sometimes abstract or experimental, so these poems may not be for everyone. Or maybe they will be the gut punch someone needed today. Or maybe they'll be the fresh air.