The Editors on Fou
Tell me about the creation of Fou. When and how and why was it conceived?
David: MFA programs are, by nature, fertile grounds for ideas and behavior of a dubious and self-satisfying nature—thus slithered Fou out of the fetid swamp of workshops and after-class drinks some stiff night 2008. Although there was and is no shortage of journals online and in print bedazzling the poetry demimonde with their own peculiar shades of sparkle, we, like so many dyspeptic dictators and mental ward inhabitants before us, believed it should be our particular voice ringing out loud from the rostrum, its speaker all bedecked in ridiculous martial costume, making unwholesome gesticulations with its extremities and wearing a smeared rictus of delight on its face. Although we love print journals (notwithstanding our love of live, standing trees), the online option required no fundraising and promised wide dissemination, constant availability, immediacy, and all the other things websites allow that the traditional modes do not. We (the generative party consisted of the three current members plus Hayley Heaton, who has since moved on to other things, such as Utah) sought to include a strong visual element in the site and to use the online space in a way that did not simply recapitulate the print-journal experience in a pixilated medium. Print journals include a table of contents and paper pages bound together, numbered and in order, because that is the most logical and most affordably produced and easily disseminated form available. But the same does not hold true for websites. Unfortunately, few poetry websites have made any real attempt to integrate the poems and their presentation in a manner that leverages the web's capabilities to deliver a more rewarding and satisfying reading experience—this is what we have attempted to do.
Cate: At first we called it 'Albatross' and for a year or so talked about making a print journal. This was sometime in 2006, I think, when we were at The New School getting our MFA's and drinking lots of wine. The idea was simply to make something cool with a sense of humor that had exciting, strange work in it. A happy place for weirdness. We were initially resistant to the idea of having an online magazine, but once we came around to it (and its free-ness) things fell into place. And David had a dream with a fox in it, which led to changing the name to Fou (meaning "crazy" in French). David and I edited the first issue with our amazing and talented friend, Hayley Heaton, and Brad did the art. It came out on April Fool's day, 2008.
David: Although I'd love to dream of foxes, I don't think I ever have. The name Fou did arrive from a dream, etched into my frontal lobe when I awoke. The foxes were Brad's addition.
What makes Fou different from other places to read poetry on the internet?
Brad: People may feel caught off guard when they visit Fou. I prefer to think of the magazine as a little world that readers visit. We have our own set of rules that take the place of traditional navigation, and hopefully once you learn those rules you can find your way around easily enough. I see this approach as a way of honoring the poetry in the best way we can. It provides a unique environment for the work. The magazine completely changes shape each time, with the only consistency being the existence of a little fox, if you can find it. The experience may not be suited for a quick visit. Our hope is that readers enjoy this aspect, and see each issue as an exciting and new place to visit. As the designer of the site I am lucky because I get to try new things and stretch the limits or what a website like this can be.
What is something that you have recently published that really excited you, and why?
Cate: I'm still really excited about our most recent issue that came out in March—the whole thing: poems, images, the fact that it exists at all. After making the first three issues, we were in a dead zone for a couple of years and didn't know if we'd even make another issue after the 3rd one. We'd accepted really great work from people and then lots of life-events were happening for all of us (moving around the globe, marriage, babies, ultra-marathons) and Fou hit a wall. It takes a lot of collaboration of schedules and work to get an issue together; I'm ever in awe of editors who are on top of it. And there are a lot of them out there, so perhaps there's hope for us.
We had the 4th issue about 80% completed 2 years ago and then scrapped it because the design didn't feel right and we were scattered about the globe physically and mentally. We thought Fou was a goner and we weren't quite sure how to handle that, so we sat on it. But I think, for me at least, we weren't ready to really say die yet…and clearly we weren't because we managed to rally. We're all back in the same city, even the same borough, and in places in our lives where it's possible to coordinate and collaborate again. The 4th issue, after taking so long, came about quickly and it was/ is exhilarating. I'm excited that all the poets stuck with us and wanted to be part of the issue in spite of the delay. And now I'm also really excited to be putting the 5th issue together, soliciting work from poets we've heard read or been wanting to get work from, and combing through our submissions back-log (sorry!) for new work. It's exciting that people want to be a part of what we're doing.
What should someone submitting new work to Fou know about the site?
Cate: We're slow humans! Also, we aren't currently open for submission due to our aforementioned back-log, so we're reading through what's been sent to us in the last year or so and soliciting work. It's hard to say what exactly we look for—I'd suggest the old chestnut: "Just read our previous issues." Generally, David and I have overlap in our poetic taste, but we go for different things. I look for work that creates its own odd world, whatever that may be.
David: In addition to being lethargic in a general sense, we have careers, marathoning habits, expensive bicycles that beg to be ridden far into the countryside, writing and artistic endeavors of our own….and Brad has a baby. So patience and understanding, which the poets we've published have provided in spades, is greatly appreciated.
What other literary journals, online or print, are your favorites?
Cate: I'm really into the goings on at Poor Claudia/ Octopus, their mix of print and online projects is really cool. When trolling the internet for poems, I like to check out Sixth Finch, iO, Ilk, Typo, and Paperbag, too. There are a lot of new places popping up all the time. In print, Jubilat, Denver Quarterly, Fence, and Conduit always have exciting things in them and I love, love, love Forklift, Ohio. Always and forever. And you can't go wrong with an old back-issue of the Paris Review; the interviews are the best. Also online, there's Coldfront, which is great to read just to keep up with what's being published and what's going on out in Po-landia at large.