Bruce Covey on Coconut Poetry
Tell me about the creation of Coconut Poetry. When and how and why was it conceived?
I started Coconut magazine in 2003; back then, we were one of the first web-based poetry magazines (Shampoo and Jacket were two that preceded us, along with a few others). At the time, most of the exciting writers I knew were having trouble placing their work, which didn't feel right—I started out thinking I'd just add another venue for poets, and that I'd publish the work of poets I really liked. I taught myself html and got a web host and solicited a bunch of work. I didn't expect it to be successful or to last for this long.
I came up with the name Coconut as an homage to NY School magazines and presses of the 70s and 80s—places with regular noun names like Toothpaste and Telephone. So I wrote down a list of like 80 possible names and after a few months of deliberation, Coconut stuck.
I started to publish free, downloadable chapbooks around 2004 or 2005, followed by full-length books in 2007. Again, it just seemed there were a lot of books that really needed to be in print. We started out producing two titles per year, but now we're doing about 14.
How would you describe the relationship between Coconut Poetry and Coconut Books?
The two have intersecting lives, for sure. I used to run both the press and magazine just by myself and frequently found potential book authors through magazine submissions. A couple of years ago, however, turned the magazine over to Gina Myers, who edited a few excellent issues, and then recently we added Morgan Parker, Carrie Lorig, Nathan Hauke, Khadijah Queen, and Marisa Crawford, plus a host of other really brilliant assistant editors. With the books, I'm still the only editor, but I've received some amazing help from a few proofreaders, typesetters, and designers. I guess I consider the magazine and the press to be two different rooms within the same house. Each year the house gets a little more full.
What makes Coconut different from other places to encounter poetry on the internet?
Gosh, I like to think that there's a "Coconut aesthetic," even though that aesthetic incorporates elements of different styles or traditions—NY School, new surrealism, post-post lang-po, concept-based work, etc. I think our design is distinctive—we try to lay out the poems like broadsides—and I think the work we publish is always surprising and weird and wonderful. We've also published more women than men in every single issue.
Why do you publish the work you publish? What excites you, and why?
I love being surprised. I love poems that shock me, that make me wonder whether the author really just did what she did and whether she can really get away with it. Things I've never seen before—that had never even occurred to me before—never occurred to me that poetry was capable of being or producing. That's what excites me! There are so many amazing poets today!
What should someone submitting work to Coconut Poetry know about the site?
We receive a LOT of submissions—both for the publishing house and the magazine—but we read and consider everything. We're always looking for new poets, but like every journal we're biased toward a particular range of aesthetics. Read the magazine—if you like what you read, send us some work! But please be patient with us. & if we return your work, keep trying us.
What other literary sites, journals, or broadcasts, online or print, are your faves?
There are SO many—if I just focus on book and chapbook publishers, here are a few I love: Noemi; Bloof; Horse Less; Action, Yes; Big Lucks; Everyday Genius; Alice Blue; Spork; Magic Helicopter; 1913; Switchback; Wave; Octopus; Ahsahta; Ugly Duckling; Letter Machine; Trembling Pillow; 421 Atlanta; Coffee House; Spooky Girlfriend; H_NGM_N; Les Figues; Futurepoem; co.im.press—and bunches and bunches of others. Apologies to the many awesome ones I've failed to list here!