The Editors on Radar
Tell me about the creation of Radar. When and how and why was it conceived?
Radar was born over a bottle of Prosecco and an order of General Tso's tofu in Princeton, New Jersey in the summer of 2013. At the dining room table, we began to map the project by instinct, acting on our own wish lists as readers of journals and on our shared vision as editors and poets. (We are fortunate that Rachel is a freelance web designer and could take on the technical aspects of the work.) We started from scratch, without referencing other journals or websites.
What makes Radar different from other places to encounter poetry (and literature) on the internet?
First, we are one of few journals that publishes both men and women regularly, but offers a women-only prize. One of the first tasks we undertook after launching Radar was to pursue endowment of an annual contest. We wanted to support female poets in a meaningful way and also to recognize a writer with a body of consistently remarkable work, not just one great poem. (The Coniston Prize celebrates an outstanding group of poems.) We were lucky enough to secure the prize money, thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor.
We also work very hard to pair poetry with visual media in ways that enhance the experience of the poet, the artist, and the reader. We seek out artwork that interprets, reimagines, or responds to the poem with which it appears. We want this process to evolve organically, so we don't limit ourselves to a particular artist or group of artists, instead allowing visual artists to find us through our poets as well as through an open submission process.
What should someone submitting work to Radar know about the site?
A writer-friend of ours once said, "Great poems make everyone sick." We believe the most successful poems keep you up at night and follow you all day. They might even feel unsettling or unnerving. That's because great poems make you question everything you thought you knew. We are looking for work that has that effect on us.
We assume all editors feel this way, but suppose it's worth stating: We're looking for the best poetry being written today. The truth is that we read submissions blind. We don't need to know who you are when we first read your work, because it has no bearing on our approach to the poems.
As poets who send work out ourselves, we appreciate every submission we receive and understand what it takes to be a working poet. For that reason, we make sure that both editors independently review every submission before we make a joint decision. There have been no fistfights to date, but we have had "discussions" that last days or even weeks over a single poem.
What is something that you have recently published that really excited you, and why?
Picking our favorite poem feels a bit like picking our favorite child. It goes without saying that we're excited about every poem we publish. But that's a boring answer, so here's a better one.
William Kelley Woolfitt's poem "H.D. at Point Pleasant Beach" appeared in our first issue, and it was a piece that immediately drew us both to it.
In the poem, Woolfitt recreates a little-known incident from H.D.'s early biography. Despite the historical and literary weight of its subject, Woolfitt's poem has an almost ethereal quality. His lush language is full of sonic repetition and internal rhyme. Like H.D. in the sea, the reader finds herself lost in the poem's hypnotic rhythms.
What we admire most about this poem is its sincerity. Woolfitt's language is elevated, but it isn't affected. Somehow, this manages to be a language poem and a narrative poem in the same short breath. And while doing all this, it moves with a quiet but meticulous attention to pacing and the poetic line.
One sure sign you love a poem is that you feel insanely jealous that you didn't write it yourself. We feel this way about this and all the poems we publish!
What other literary sites, journals, or broadcasts, online or print, are your go-to?
We need to be honest here: we love eye-candy. We're drawn to the most visually appealing websites and journals, and our list of go-tos is constantly changing. We are excited by venues that express a point-of-view not only through their content choices, but through their design choices. That's the kind of journal we want Radar to be. Every issue is an opportunity for us to improve on what we've already done. It's a welcome challenge and one we undertake with gratitude.