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New Lit on the Block :: ONLY POEMS

ONLY POEMS. You might think that says it all, but the name is only the beginning of this new online startup that curates a Poet of the Week every Sunday as well as a Poem of the Month for Substack.

ONLY POEMS was founded by Shannan Mann and Karan Kapoor as a way to honor the literary community they are both an integral part of – “the true fire of which,” Mann states, “is stoked by lit mags. Both Karan and I are writers who submit a lot. We wanted to give back in some way, to create a unique platform for poetry, which is an ecosystem we are most familiar with.”

The unique platform of ONLY POEMS includes a Poet of the Week series which shines the spotlight on a poet’s oeuvre of work (“or a small beautiful sample of it”) by publishing 3-10 poems by the same poet. “ONLY POEMS also features a detailed interview with the poet,” Mann explains, “which includes conversations around their work, the poetry world at large, and anything else a life of letters might conjure for them.

“Our Poem of the Month is a themed call,” adds Mann. “Our next poem will be released on our Substack on February 14, Valentine’s Day, so for this, we sought submissions on the theme of ‘Love & Sex.’

“Besides wanting to find more creative and fun ways to promote poets and the practice of poetry, our intention with starting this series was to make the editorial relationship more transparent. When we publish our Poem of the Month, we will also ask the poet to give a blurb about why they wrote the poem and the editor who selected it to give a blurb on why they felt compelled to choose this particular piece over others.”

What Readers Can Expect

For readers, the ONLY POEMS’ website is paywall-free and houses a full archive. ONLY POEMS also has a Substack that helps fund the magazine featuring MFA deep-dives, exclusive interviews with poetry and publishing world experts, book recs, poetry courses, and more. Some of the content there is paywalled alongside free content. Mann and Kapoor wanted to find innovative ways to promote not just submitting to lit mags but also reading them and actively taking part in the community.

“When Karan and I created ONLY POEMS,” Mann shares, “we knew we had to be true to ourselves. We’re poets ourselves and we’re also readers…obsessive readers. When we love a poet’s work, we want to find everything we can by them online and read it all. When readers come to ONLY POEMS, they can expect to not just have a few good poems of many different poets in any given issue or day, but rather a beautifully laid out small portfolio of poems by the same poet alongside an interview about their process, practice, and anything else that matters to them as a poet and a person.”

Some recent contributors include Major Jackson, Bob Hicok, Tim Seibles, Denise Duhamel, Rae Armantrout, Rosebud Ben-oni, Amit Majmudar, Jose Hernandez Diaz, Matthew Nienow, Leigh Chadwick, Jane Swart, Arah Ko, M. Cynthia Cheung, Chiwenite Onyekwelu, Reuben Gelley Newman, Hillary Smith-Madden, Myriam Klatt, Réka Nyitrai, Paul Hostovsky, and Halee Kirkwood.

Starting a Lit Mag

Starting a lit mag is a unique experience for each endeavor, as is sustaining that work. “Every year,” Mann says, “we hear about lit mags going kaput for one reason or another (usually financial), but let’s also not forget how many more open. Lit mags are the Hydra of the lit world!

“We literally launched ONLY POEMS overnight,” Mann tells us. “It took almost a full 24 hours to plan, prepare, buy domains and website packages, design the website, and make our first social media post. Since then, we have grown so abundantly and swiftly, and we are deeply grateful for this.

“We also have a lot more planned for the year(s) ahead. The biggest lesson we are learning is to ‘GROW SLOW.’ None of the editors get paid for this. All of the editors are working and studying full time. Two of the editors have a toddler! We are also writers. And we have a huge passion and love for ONLY POEMS. We want this to last forever. We want our kids’ kids to run the thing. We want a huge community of poetry lovers all over the world! We also want this to be sustainable for us. So, the three of us do a good job of keeping ourselves in check.”

For Writers Considering Submission

The three editors currently on the masthead include Founding Editor Shannan Mann who has numerous publishing credits and award recognitions, Editor-in-Chief Karan Kapoor, an MFA candidate at Virginia Tech, and Managing Editor Justine Payton, an MFA candidate at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

For writers interested in contributing works, submissions are all via submittable with a response time of 6 weeks. There are free and paid tiers, including a 3-Day Fast Response Option for the Poet of the Week series and a new Editorial option called “Merciless and Brutally Honest.” Writers can submit up to ten pages of poetry and a detailed cover letter and receive comprehensive line edits as well as a detailed page of feedback including suggestions for where to submit their poetry.

“All of the poems submitted for feedback will automatically be considered for publication,” Mann adds. “If we choose to publish them at ONLY POEMS, we will refund the full feedback fee, no matter the tier someone has picked.”

“Every single poem submitted is read and reviewed by Editor-in-Chief, Karan Kapoor,” Mann explains. “I also read all of the pieces that make it to the final round of considerations. We plan our editorial calendar around 4 weeks in advance so this means that anyone we pick for publication will be featured within 1-2 months of an acceptance.

“Because we have been receiving a wonderfully large volume of submissions, we are currently on the lookout for readers who can work with Karan to give each poet their full due. Our readers will be assigned batches of submissions to give their initial thoughts on. Each submission, along with the reader’s notes, will then be reviewed by the EiC before a final decision is made.”

The Future of ONLY POEMS

When asked about future plans, Mann replied with unwavering enthusiasm, “Oh wow where to begin! Well, we’ll be announcing our inaugural Poet of the Year contest soon. We are also going to have free community Zoom poetry salons, a free launch-your-own lit mag session, lots of exciting poetry and publishing-related workshops and seminars, an end-of-year print anthology, and the list seriously goes on and on and on…eeek and also yayyy.”

Community Is Key

When offered the opportunity to ask herself a question we had not already, Mann was true to the mission of ONLY POEMS by asking, “What are you doing to champion the indie lit community at large?”

And she answered, “We think this is a deeply valuable question that every player (reader, writer, poet, novelist, technical person, editor, investor, etc.) in the indie lit/lit mag world should ask themselves. What are we each doing the champion and promote and grow and help the community?

“We don’t want to have our blinders on and make it all about our own little project and our own work. Yes, all of that is important and necessary. But the heart of writing is expression, sharing, reaching out. I never want to forget this. ONLY POEMS is dedicated to not only promoting and supporting our contributors long after publication, but alongside this we will also be coming up with ways to champion and promote and support contemporary poets publishing in other lit mags we love.”

Whether a reader, writer, or both, you are invited to become a part of the ONLY POEMS community today!

Spread the word!