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New Lit on the Block :: New Note Poetry

New Note Poetry logo

As new publications cross our screens daily here at NewPages, we are always on the lookout for what makes this newest venture noteworthy. Turns out, New Note Poetry leaps the bar for being a publication readers and writers will want to explore. Publishing seasonal quarterly issues online, New Note Poetry is free for readers as well as writers.

Founding Editor Nathan Nicolau shares the dual inspiration behind the publication and the name. “’New Note’ is a riff on Blue Note Records, the popular jazz record label that was my biggest inspiration, and I wanted to make a publication that added a ‘new note’ to poetry, reflecting the experimental, avant-garde nature of the magazine.”

Nathan Nicolau headshot

So far, Nicolau is the sole editor for New Note Poetry, but his unique experience and expertise make him more than capable of managing the demands, as he explains, “You learn quickly that I wear a lot of hats at New Note! I’m a writer and English professor from Charlotte, NC. I initially wanted to get into filmmaking and got my BFA in Filmmaking in 2018. I then got my English MA in 2021. I have no prior experience running a magazine, but I combined my experience as a filmmaker, published writer, and educator to create New Note Poetry. Despite my lack of publishing experience, I always approached running New Note Poetry like a poet. ‘How would I, as a poet, want to be treated by New Note Poetry?’ is something I ask myself all the time. I think that approach has been working well.”

Add “highly organized” to Nicolau’s skill set, and both readers and writers can expect him to deliver on his mission. New Note has a published calendar that includes when submissions open, when decisions can expect to be made, and when the issue is scheduled for release. For writers, Nicolau adds, “all submissions go straight to me. I’m the only reader and editor so far. Unfortunately, with tight deadlines, I cannot provide feedback, but the response time is one month or less.” Admirable, indeed.

No new publication venture should be entered into lightly, and it is always interesting to know what spark may have started it all, as Nicolau shares, “I started New Note Poetry from a flash of inspiration. I was listening to jazz records, and then this thought popped into my head: ‘Jazz is like the poetry of music,’ but then I realized we never say it the other way around: ‘Poetry is the jazz of the written word.’ That’s where the New Note mission statement came from. I’ve been told some poets are challenged or intimidated by that statement but don’t be! It simply means that New Note Poetry seeks modern, forward-thinking, cutting-edge poetry that could only be written now, in the moment, much like jazz improvisation. New Note Poetry also came from my desire to see something new in poetry: poetry that broke the mold and played with language. I also envisioned creating a community of like-minded people who felt the same while also fostering a high-quality brand.”

The payoff for such start-up efforts can come in various ways. “The biggest positive I can tell you right off the bat,” Nicolau says, “is meeting so many fantastic, supportive people. It seriously has opened doors for me and introduced me to a whole other world I never knew existed. Another big positive is the accolades. I’ve been told by poets and publishers alike that New Note Poetry is their favorite publication. Not just because of what we publish but because of our overall aesthetic and work ethic.”

The flipside, however, Nicolau confides, “is the stress of keeping the boat from sinking. Meeting deadlines, reaching out to contributors, budgeting, and generally being as consistent as you can. It can wear on you sometimes, and I’ve had some stressful days.” But he quickly adds, “the positives definitely make it all worth it.”

In addition to the genre guidelines New Note sets for writers, Nicolau gives readers an idea of what they can expect to find with every new issue: “Bold verses from bold poets. Get ready for idiosyncratic, eclectic, sometimes shocking, but always visceral and thought-provoking. I always said New Note Poetry appeals to poetry lovers on the cutting edge.”

Each publication fills some 70-80 pages with dozens of poets as well as video/audio features. Recent contributors include Jen Schneider, Rich Murphy, John Dorroh, James Piatt, Mary Amato, Clive Gresswell, Jane Glennie, Lee Campbell, Desirée Jung, Zuzanna Michalska, Tyko Say, and Lara Beasley.

Looking forward for New Note Poetry, “The biggest goal right now,” Nicolau says, “is to keep the publication evolving. Poetry cannot be stagnant. It has to adapt and evolve over time. New Note should be the same. We are currently experimenting with new forms of poetry, including video poetry, visual poetry, cinepoetry, mathematical poetry, and many others. We are also working on our first print anthology, which is a huge step for us. I want to eventually update our website to make it more interactive as well.

“As ambitious as this will sound, I want New Note Poetry to eventually be at the forefront of avant-garde poetry. I believe in dreaming big so that you work harder to achieve those dreams. The success we’ve had with New Note Poetry just within its year of founding has been beyond anything I could imagine, so I want to keep this energy going.”

Nicolau closed by saying, “I want to leave with a piece of advice to all writers: ‘The worst they can say is no.’ Keep writing, submitting, and then submitting some more.” And read and submit to New Note Poetry!

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