What better way to usher in summer than to introduce SWWIM Every Day? SWWIM actually stands for Supporting Women Writers in Miami, and although it retains its origin’s namesake, everyone is invited to enjoy the international reach of contributors included in this daily online publication of poetry by women, women-identifying and femme-presenting writers.
Co-directed and co-curated by Jen Karetnick and Catherine Esposito Prescott, SWIMM began as a reading series, pairing one local poet with one national poet at The Betsy-South Beach. The national poet receives a writing residency at the hotel along with the reading. While Karetnick recounts their biggest hurdle was just getting started, it also turned out to be their biggest joy: “The Betsy-South Beach is incredible hotel that supports the arts. Without The Betsy as our local philanthropic partner, sponsoring the reading series and welcoming the national poet with a residency [see Writer's Room], we’d have no SWWIM, and likely no SWWIM Every Day. Deborah Briggs, who champions the arts at The Betsy, Jean Blackwell Font, who organizes the residencies and reading series, and Lori Butts, another great organizer, are awesome women who believe in us, and we are so thankful for them.”
SWWIM started, Karetnick [right; color photo] shares, as a response to the underrepresentation of women in literary markets. “It’s not only real,” she says, “it continues—despite the wonderful work being done by VIDA. We count up the table of contents in prize anthologies and it’s 2/3 men to 1/3 women. We read the 10 finalists of book competitions and see the men outnumber the women 8-2 or 7-3. We’re trying to do something to even out the odds. We took the helm because while some men are sailing, many women are swwimming upstream—especially since many of us are charged with daily domestic issues such as childcare, aging parents, and a household in addition to school, work, etc. For a woman, writing becomes a life choice—doing this instead of that, becoming that instead of this. We want to do our part to give women opportunities without forcing them to make those choices. Hopefully, in the end, the more women’s poems are seen and the more the subjects we write about are validated, the more they will be recognized, in the end, in prize anthologies and books.”
Both Karetnick and Prescott [right; black and white photo] have made their own successful swwims into the writing world. Having earned an MFA in Creative Writing—Poetry from NYU, Prescott is the author of Maria Sings (dancing girl press) and The Living Ruin (Finishing Line Press), and her poems have appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, MiPOesias, Pleiades, Poetry East, Rattle, Southern Poetry Review, The Orison Anthology, and elsewhere. Karetnick holds two MFAs: poetry from University of California, Irvine, and fiction from University of Miami. She is the author of three books of poetry, including The Treasures That Prevail (Whitepoint Press), a finalist for the 2017 Poetry Society of Virginia Book prize, and four poetry chapbooks. Her work has appeared in Cimarron Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Missouri Review, Prairie Schooner, River Styx, Verse Daily and Waxwing, among others.
Putting this expertise to work, Karetnick and Proscott share selection and editorial responsibilities, reading every submission several times, discussing the merits of each before responding. “We try for a rapid response, aiming for under a month,” Karetnick explains, “although occasionally we’ll keep something that we’re on the fence about for a little while longer. We will suggest editorial changes if we believe that it will make the poem stronger.”
This strength is what readers can expect when they visit the website, Twitter/Facebook, or sign up for email delivery. These are “well-crafted poems that speak to everyday hurdles that women face and overcome—or still stare down day after day,” Karetnick tells me. “We publish all schools—everything from confessional poetry to prosody—so one day you might find a piece about sex and misogyny with a lot of curse words and the next day, a villanelle espousing nature. We love humor in poetry, which is so hard to pull off, but if you make us laugh, we’re yours forever. One of our favorite poems was about a bikini wax. But we’re also passionate about social justice, so we’ve had poems about gun violence, immigration, and human trafficking. We’ve had a lot of raw and real poems about parenthood, mental and chronic illness, aging and the death of parents, youth and the beginnings (and endings) of relationships.
“We are also very proud to feature women-identifying poets of all ages in SWWIM Every Day. We’ve had some terrific undergrad poets and some poets who have been published for the first time ever right up against award-winning writers who have reached the age of retirement—if women ever actually retire, that is.”
Some recently featured poets include Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, Alyse Bensel, Denise Duhamel, Hannah Edwards, Sarah Freligh, Lola Haskins, Arminé Iknadossian, Vicki Iorio, Rae Hoffman Jager, Allison Joseph, Siham Karami, Jennifer L . Knox, Ada Limón, Mia Ayumi Malhotra, Mary Meriam, Jenny Molberg, Sanjana Nair, Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers, Maureen Seaton, Annie Stenzel and Julie Marie Wade, and Sara Moore Wagner.
For all the work it takes to produce this ambitious daily publication, Karetnick says they do appreciate the joy they find in the small yet meaningful act of readers who retweet, “like” or share on Instagram. “It’s a victory for every female-identifying poet when that happens.”
Prescott and Karetnick say they “will continue to publish as many women as we can find who will trust as with their work,” with plans this summer to incorporate as a nonprofit, which will allow for fundraising to remove the $2 Submittable reading fee. “Although,” Karetnick says, “we often run fee-free weeks [watch on Twitter/Facebook @SWWIMmiami for the next one]. We want to diversify further, so we’d love to see more work by WOC, marginalized voices, those who are underrepresented.”