John Deming on Coldfront
Tell me about the creation of Coldfront. When and how and why was it conceived?
Coldfront actually started as a poem-a-day blog with some friends when we were working on MFA's at the New School. In January 2006, Melinda Wilson, Graeme Bezanson and I talked about making it into a sort of news magazine for poetry, or a poetry magazine that didn't actually publish poems…I came from a newspaper background, and we thought it would be productive to try to "cover" poetry in a way that it was not being covered. At first, we only published reviews, because it was really all we had the time and infrastructure for. That lasted a couple years. Then we expanded to interviews, news, etc. At the time, it seemed like there wasn't a lot of media coverage of poetry at all, not that there's much more now. We liked the idea of a magazine slanted towards poetry the way other online magazines are slanted towards music, fashion, etc. Then Jackie Clark came along with Poets Off Poetry, and that section took off right away.
What makes Coldfront different from other places to read poetry, reviews, and poetry-news on the internet?
There are many great places to read poetry news, criticism, etc on the web these days. From the beginning, part of our goal was to give equal weight to 'mainstream' books–books from major publishers, etc–and books from much smaller presses, start-ups, etc. We didn't want an aesthetic where the figurative "size" of the publication, large or small, was a determining factor. In the reviews at our site, you can always expect a deeply considered take on something. Also, I think Poets Off Poetry–where poets write about music and supply an original poem to correspond with the essay–is very unique. Our video archives are full of some treasures, including the whole of DJ Dolack's "Tourist Trap" series, where he filmed poets from outside New York City when they came through town–each read a poem at a sort of NYC 'tourist trap' of their choice. As far as news, well, we're hoping to expand this year to cover more local markets. This will correspond with a redesign of the site, scheduled for the end of February; we are paying for the redesign with money raised in a fundraiser this past winter, and we are still so grateful to everyone who contributed. We also have a lot of great interviews and essays, things like that, and we're planning to produce all of this at a steadier clip once our format is more conducive to this.
What is something that you have recently published that really excited you, and why?
I was excited to see that Thurston Moore wrote a "Song of the Week" entry. I also was very enthusiastic about all of the reviews that we published this year. James Kimbrell's piece on Frank Bidart was great. I thought Mark Gurarie's piece about Sampson Starkweather's book was really inventive. But really all the reviews. Also, we also have been working emphatically on our Year In Review stuff…we do a fun sort of "top 40" each year, and this year I also made the "disqualified list," which included our four editors who published books this year: Jackie Clark, DJ Dolack, Steven Karl, Nick Sturm. That will be the last thing we publish on the "old version" of our site before the relaunch at the end of February. I enjoyed working on that. I also published interviews with Paul Muldoon and Rae Armantrout last year; I enjoyed both immensely.
What should someone submitting work to Coldfront know about the site?
We are looking for reviews, interviews, and essays that reflect serious engagement with the work being considered. I also would encourage people send photos, videos, etc of poetry events/readings in their region. But if you are submitting essays or criticism, please bear in mind that we prefer works that attempt to convince with ideas rather than with tone; a lot of criticism online seems more emotion-driven than idea driven—I'm worked up, on way or the other, so I must be right, etc—instead of idea driven. We hope to publish works containing a strong balance of the two and that don't let a perceived sense of anger or enthusiasm do all the work.
What other literary sites and journals, online or print, are your go-to?
For online magazines, I really like the stuff they publish at The Volta, Fou, The Awl, Sink Review, Sixth Finch, Omniverse, AGNI online, H-ngm-n, and a ton more. For print magazines, Fence, Boston Review, A Public Space, Gulf Coast, Hanging Loose, regular AGNI, and again, a ton more. I love what magazines like Forklift and Agriculture Reader do – each issue is carefully designed and collectible…I also subscribe to Poetry and read the print magazine, but I also really like that the editors have started publishing some of the poems from the new issues online. I like a good blend of print and online.