Naomi Washer on Ghost Proposal
Tell me about the creation of Ghost Proposal. When and how and why was it conceived?
Ghost Proposal was conceived of in May 2012 by myself and poet Zachary Green. I'd been his editor for another journal, which sparked a longer correspondence between us. We shared our own work and discussed our ideas of contemporary writing and publishing (you can read more about GP's beginnings here). We finally met and began the conversation about creating a journal just days before we both made geographic changes in our lives. I think that movement we were experiencing had everything to do with the discovery of the journal's name—jetting out across borders, boldly, though we may not have known the reason behind the endeavor until we were inside it. Shortly after Zach settled in the Pioneer Valley, he went for a summer bike ride and the name came to him. He texted me "ghost proposal." No context, but of course I knew what he was referring to. I immediately liked that it not only made me think but made me consider the way that I think—not only what do I think a ghost proposal is? but why do I think this? It's that meta-awareness of where thought comes from, showing the process of it, that we're interested in with the work we publish.
We wanted to create a journal of poetry and essays because 1) there are few, if any, journals that are only those two genres, and 2) we felt that both poetry and essays accomplished this border-stretching and illustration of thought process in similar ways. We wanted to put the two genres side by side so others could see that. Six months after we decided to create a journal, we reunited for one day--in Connecticut of all places--to launch Issue 1. It was Thanksgiving Day: talk about something to be darn grateful for.
What makes Ghost Proposal different from other places to read poetry on the internet?
Mainly that we pair essays with the poems to illustrate the two genres doing similar work. We seek experimental, hybrid forms of poetry and essays, and we've published many pieces in both genres that could easily swap. We're interested in that interchangeability, which is why we're making a slight shift in our future issues—we'll continue to accept poetry and essays and everything that falls in between (lyric essays, videos, graphic or visual pieces) but we won't be labeling them as such. Ghost Proposal is a home for unclassifiable work, a space in which readers can engage with the writing itself separate from the discussion of labels.
We also present videos and other visual pieces without putting them in a special category. When you click through the whole issue, you move from a poem to a video to an essay; in this way, we put the various forms on par with each other—that's something you don't see done often in other journals, and obviously not in print.
What is something that you have recently published that really excited you, and why?
I'm madly in love with all the work in Issue 3, our most recent issue, but I'll name a few: Greyory Blake's poems include instructions on how to print them out, fold them up in interesting ways, and send them in the mail. I love this idea of taking the work off the Internet for something as "old-fashioned" as letters. Contrasting that vibe, we had both a poem-film and a video essay in this issue by Daniel Scott Parker and Robert Metrick. I was excited to have them in the same issue—view them side by side and you'll see where we got the idea to break down barriers of genre for future issues. It was also fantastic to have such multifaceted artists like Robert Metrick and Jill Magi represented in the issue—their interconnected views on art were, again, a big influence on our shift.
What should someone submitting work to Ghost Proposal know about the site?
That we're open for issue 4! Dust off your gems! Also this shift we're making to non-labeled genre. But this doesn't mean anything goes: we accept a wide range of styles for poetry and essays, but no matter the form, we're looking for work that exhibits yr brain circuitry. Think, "I'm learning how to open your face like a window"—Eszter Takacs, or "in the kitchen / what if I love / the wrong thing" —Sara Peck, both from Issue 3. We want to be grabbed by your beginning. We want to never never ever forget your lines. We want to experience your work as "a letter from a stranger that you can't bear to throw away--it haunts you, it strengthens you." (Mary Oliver). We think that's what both poems and essays are. Send us those letters. Be, for us, those letters. Too, we like the balance of old and new. We like presenting/exploring elements of contemporary culture paired with timeless qualities. Also, our emphasis on hybrid forms. For our purposes we define that as anything that falls between what would traditionally be called a poem or an essay. Think of the prose poems/flash pieces of Thomas Patrick Levy and Gregory Sherl in Issue 3, or Juliet Brewster's ekphrasis and the essayistic move to erasure by Brett Slezak in Issue 1.
What other literary sites and journals, online or print, are your go-tos?
We love the work of our friends at Phantom Limb and pinwheel as well as the online journals Sixth Finch and Birdfeast. We also can't get enough of the experimental focus of Diagram. Brevity is always a go-to. We have to give a shout-out to the online national undergraduate anthology plain china: they're fulfilling a great thing by bolstering possibilities for young writers. Ilk, Jellyfish, Coconut an Inter|rupture are beauties. Hotel Amerika is a really fantastic print journal for expanding the boundaries of genre. Triquarterly's new features on cinepoetry and video essays are really exciting. Evening Will Come from The Volta is a definite favorite. Essay Daily, Bending Genre and The Rumpus are part of our weekly reads. God, we love so many things! You should also get ready for some fabulous work coming out in 2014 from The Lettered Streets Press— you can find us sharing a table and an off-site reading with them at AWP 2014!