Thursday, February 14, 2008

Guest in Progress: Kim Roberts

I never fail to be impressed by the scope of poet Kim Roberts. She seems to know everyone, read everywhere, set up readings for others everywhere, organize and sponsor all sorts of poetry-related and literary events (see yesterday’s post for a sample). I consider her an expert in Walt Whitman, with a focus on Whitman’s days spent in DC. She’s been to zillions of arts colonies. She’s the creator and editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly (whose website also offers a comprehensive and up-to-date resource list of area poetry readings and arts colonies). Her new book of poetry came out in 2007, and her first book, The Wishbone Galaxy, is one of my favorite books of poetry.

I suspect I’m leaving out several other accomplishments and interests.

Luckily, she’s also a wonderful, funny, down-to-earth person…otherwise, you know, she might make me feel sort of unmotivated. Which, actually, is how I felt after reading this charming piece about her approach to setting publication “goals”:

I have been published in literary journals beginning with every letter of the alphabet.

When I first started publishing in journals, I made a game out of it. A goal of full alphabetic coverage made the whole enterprise seem more approachable somehow. Because let's face it, sending submissions to journals can be a slog. The cover letter, the photocopies, the self-addressed stamped envelopes. Now many journals allow electronic submissions, which helps--but it's still work. I wanted something fun, a challenge to keep me engaged in the process.

Other writer friends sometimes cringe when I tell them. Twice, well-meaning writers have actually taken me aside to lecture me about my lack of seriousness, how this "alphabet thing" is not a good criterion to use to select potential publishers. So I have heard the arguments already, thank you.

To them I say, stop being snobbish! I know they think I was selling myself short by sending poems to smaller magazines simply based on the letters I was missing. But I think a healthy range of publication credits (small, midsize, and large) is worth cultivating.

More importantly, I think writers need more fun. Poets tend to be a deadly serious lot, especially those who (like me) come out of academic backgrounds. Seriousness can too easily turn into self-importance, which can too easily lead to pompousness.

So now that I've conquered the alphabet, I am trying for full American geographic coverage: publications in all 50 states. I only have five to go!

This might take some doing, though. I know of only one journal in North Dakota, for instance, and they've rejected me six times. Unless someone else starts publishing in that state, I'm probably doomed. My other missing states are Iowa, Montana, New Mexico, and Vermont. There are a lot of journals in Vermont! Believe me, I've tried all of them. Vermont may be like the letter "D." I had many of the weirder letters--E, I, U, even X and Z--long before I got my D.

So, sports fans, here are my current stats. They are not unimpressive, I think:
21 A's, 13 B's, 12 C's, 4 D's (once I finally broke the D barrier), 5 E's, 8 F's, 7 G's, 4 H's (for you farm boys and girls), 5 I's, one lonely J, 2 K's, 3 L's, 5 M's, 5 N's, 6 O's, 14 P's, one Q (also late in coming), 4 R's, 18 S's, 6 T's, 2 U's, 2 V's, 8 W's, and one each X, Y, and Z. ~~Kim Roberts

NOTE: Kim reports that she’s eager to learn of journals in Iowa, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Vermont: “Maybe I've missed some who actually WOULD publish me! I am open to all suggestions.” You can contact her directly through her web site.

About: Kim Roberts is a poet and freelance writer whose most recent book is The Kimnama (Vrzhu Press, 2007, She edits the acclaimed online journal Beltway Poetry Quarterly , which The Washington Post calls "a tasty verse morsel, just a mouse click away" and White Crane Journal calls "the repository of the brain of DC poetic history." With four others, she also edits the newer online journal Delaware Poetry Review ( She has been a writer-in-residence at eleven artist colonies and published in literary journals in the US, Canada, Ireland, France, and Brazil. Her web site can be found here.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.