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New Lit on the Block :: RockPaperPoem

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New to the scene, RockPaperPoem publishes three times a year online (April, August, December) in an open-access format. The editors seek “today’s finest poetry from established, emerging, and new poets residing anywhere in the world.” Their mission is to include a diversity of voices while highlighting work “that expands the boundaries of contemporary poetry, without sacrificing accessibility for experimentation.”

RockPaperPoem has newly established itself as a 501(c)(3) under the guidance of founding members and Co-Managing Editors Alan Perry and Vince O’Connor. Perry’s background includes a BA in English from the University of Minnesota and current role as Senior Poetry Editor for Typehouse Magazine. He also authored Clerk of the Dead (Main Street Rag Publishing) and has been a Best of the Net nominee, with poems appearing in Tahoma Literary Review, Third Wednesday, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Ocotillo Review, and elsewhere.

O’Connor’s background is also as a Poet, technology consultant, and author of Lessons From Life (Local Gems Press). His poems have appeared in Snail Mail Review, Talking Stick, Main Channel Voices, Poetry Super Highway, and elsewhere. He has written numerous magazine articles on computer technology and writes training materials for businesses and technical manuals for software companies. His play, “Nearly Departed,” was published by Players Press.

As Perry explains, RockPaperPoem was started by a group of peers who “wanted to create an independent journal that was accessible to all and not connected to a university or other governing organization. We wanted to produce a journal that showcased the kind of poetry we want to read: contemporary poetry with a depth of emotion and humanity, and a variety of themes that expands the boundaries of the genre, without sacrificing accessibility.” The name RockPaperPoem came along as “an original creation by one of the founding members. It has a playfulness to it and is ‘ear-catching,’ but it’s grounded in a passion for ‘rock solid,’ engaging contemporary poetry.”

Holding to this ideal, Perry assures that RockPaperPoem readers “will find well-crafted, contemporary poetry grounded in humanity with a depth of emotion that provides an engaging experience.” Some recent contributors include Lauren Camp, Robbie Gamble, Carla Sarett, David B. Prather, Kathryn Kysar, Cameron Morse, and Kari Gunter-Seymour.

For writers looking for publishing opportunities, Perry shares the editorial process. “We have three open reading periods per year, lasting about six weeks each. There is no fee to submit poems, and anyone with an internet connection can read our journal. Thanks to our worldwide reach, we have received submissions from nearly every state in the US, and from dozens of foreign countries. We have three Sr. Poetry Editors who each read all the submissions we receive. We vote on each poem and discuss those where we differ in our views. In a collaborative process, we ultimately select anywhere from 15-25 poems per issue. Our Graphics Design Editor then sources and/or creates images to accompany the topic or theme of each poem to truly personalize the experience for our readers. Unfortunately, we’re not able to provide feedback on the hundreds of submissions we receive each cycle, but we do respond quickly to our submitters – within 30 days of closing a reading period, oftentimes faster.”

Like so many startups, there are some hurdles to overcome, as Perry says, “The biggest challenge has simply been the start-up process itself. We now have a heightened respect for those journals that have begun before us! And now that we are officially a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, we respect the work it takes to achieve this, as well!”

Overwhelmingly, though, the positive experiences weigh out the challenges, “Since we only consider unpublished work,” Perry says, “our greatest reward has been to see dozens of beautiful poems from talented poets get their first ‘daylight’ in RockPaperPoem! It has been an utter delight to connect with the poets who create these wonderful poems and begin building connections that we hope will last. We don’t solicit work from any specific poets, and we ask contributors to wait a year before submitting again. But it’s very gratifying to have some poets’ work again appear on our pages. The quality and depth of the work we have received has been remarkable and humbling for our little start-up journal.

Looking ahead, Perry says RockPaperPoem has some great plans. “Now that we are a 501(c)(3), we can begin fund-raising to expand our offerings to our submitters and readers. Among our future ideas are: ‘guest editor’ issues; contests; poet interviews; online readings; print collections/anthologies; additional award nominations; and at some point, payments to contributors.”

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