Without question, Drunk In A Midnight Choir would not have grown like we have over the past year if it wasn’t for the strong support of our friends & family in the literary community. To return that support, we’ve started a new series where William James sits down with one or more editors from independent lit journals we love and asks them about where they came from, where they’re at, and where they’re going. This week, we’re chatting with Jordan Jamison, Ally Mahbobi, and Bailey Hardt from JAB Magazine.
WJ: JAB is pretty wet-behind-the-ears as far as lit journals go; you’re a young journal, and you have a pretty young editorial staff as well. What is JAB bringing to the table that “the old dinosaur magazines & poets” don’t?
We’re really just kids fucking around on bikes at your local Walmart. We just know a little bit about poetry. We don’t care as much about “image” as those magazines. We just want to publish great poetry, for now. We’re actively working, however, on expanding through the use of extra-curriculars, whatever that may mean. New ideas are brought to the table, and we want to realize them. JAB is ultimately more of an idea than anything else, really. We don’t want to just be a literary magazine. That’s just the medium we’re choosing to use (for now).
We aren’t saying those “dinosaur magazines and poets” are bad. That’s not it at all. On the contrary, we love a lot of them. We won’t name drop specific magazines and poets, but most of them have lasted this long because they publish (or write) great poetry. We can think of more than a few of our favorite contemporary poets who we discovered in the pages of those journals.
We like to think that we’re doing things differently because we haven’t been exposed to the complexities of the “poetry world”. We’re complete outsiders on that whole process…we just know what we like. We don’t care about a poet’s “brand” or whether someone’s been published in Ploughshares 80 times or whether they’ve been published in their high school literary magazine once.
We’re just messing around and having fun doing it. We aren’t obsessed with being the best literary magazine in the world. We’re kids. This is fun for us, and we’re learning a lot.
WJ: You changed your publishing schedule from bi-weekly to quarterly after only seven poems. What spurred that change?
JAB: We cooked up a pretty good cover on the site, but now that we’ve got the consumer on the hook we can tell the truth;
It was unsustainable. We weren’t getting enough submissions at the time, but we still had to churn out two poems a week. That’s not anything against the poems we published at the time; if we didn’t want to publish them, we wouldn’t have.
The clever free jazz and Eliot references seem to have worked, though.
WJ: What’s the process look like for putting together an issue of JAB? Take us through the life of a poem, from SUBMITTED to PUBLISHED.
JAB: We consult tarot cards and form pentagrams around the JAB family heirloom: a framed portrait of Emily Dickinson making love with William Carlos Williams.
In all honesty, though, the process usually involves a bit of procrastination. We’re all in schools with radically different schedules, so part of that’s just naturally poor timing. We still manage to respond to 90% of submissions within 3 days, whereas the majority of literary journals take at least a few months, which (as submitters), we fucking despise.
When it’s time to work, we work.
WJ: What is an ‘ideal’ submission for you? What voices are you trying to bring to the spotlight?
JAB: The ideal submission is 3-5 poems, no identifying information, using standard manuscript format, with no grammar mistakes or misspellings.
Other than that, we look for highly lyrical, inventive, and even strange work. We want submissions that make us jealous we didn’t write them ourselves. They can even be sophomoric, as long as they give us something we haven’t ever quite heard/seen before.
We publish poems by and for the everyman. By publishing poems by previously unknown poets, we’re trying to say something stupidly idealistic. Great poetry can, on occasion, come from anywhere (even high-schoolers).
WJ: In your mission statement, you call out a specific poem by a specific poet, saying “we’d rather publish a good poem by a 3-year-old than this shit.” Have you faced any backlash from that? What other challenges have you come across since forming JAB?
JAB: We haven’t faced much backlash against that, although we expect to now. Thanks.
Kidding. It was a bad poem by a (mostly) good poet. How can the same dude who wrote Some Trees and Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror write that shit? Even more troubling is the fact that Poetry is notoriously selective, accepting roughly 1 out of 500 submissions. We’re sure that a great poem by a more deserving poet was rejected to make space for Ashbery’s “brand”. It’s funny, we recently read another poem by him, this one in The New Yorker, called “Breezeway”. Somehow, it was even worse than “Alms”. We’ll probably still buy his new collection coming out in the spring, though. Love him or hate him, everything Ashbery drops is an event.
We aren’t really interested in talking about problems within JAB, except to say that in the beginning (when we created the Heavens and the Earth), we were fighting a lot, to the point that it almost destroyed our friendships…we thought more than once about just quitting. We’ve mellowed out, though, and we’re happy to say that we’re still best friends. With new employees and readers, we’re starting to realize that JAB is real, actually real, and that our ego clashes aren’t worth it, because we fucking love this magazine. We’ve just decided on the old “don’t bring your personal life to work…” thing, and it’s definitely working. JAB won’t die anytime soon…we don’t know which will go first, Christianity or JAB. But we think it’ll be Christianity.
WJ: Suppose I’m about to submit my own work – what kind of last minute advice would you have for me before I click “SEND” on my Submittable form?
JAB: Write a great poem is our best advice. What that means is what it means. We get a lot of good submissions. We don’t get a lot of great submissions. If you haven’t read poems we’ve previously published, do so before you click Submit.
Roughly one out of every four or five submissions contains identifying information, whether in the file name (somewhat forgivable) or as the header of every page, which is not forgivable. We have a specific rejection for this called “666EgoDeath666”. It’s very mean, and gets worse with every revision.
We sent out 5 Ego Deaths in one day last week. A few days ago, somebody sent us a submission with identifying information. We rejected that immediately. The next day, we got the exact same submission, still including identifying information. We’re going to start handing out lifetime bans.
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The editors of Jab met in high school, and didn’t like each other very much. They still don’t, but they do love writing, and that’s apparently good enough.
Jordan and Ally are now college freshmen in Flagstaff, Arizona, trying to get by on as few many cigarettes as possible.
Bailey is currently performing humanitarian work in the war-torn carcass of Phoenix, corresponding when he can, at increasingly sporadic intervals, on all matters poetry visual art fiction. (He does something around here, we swear.)
William James writes poems and listens to punk rock – not always in that order. He’s an editor at Drunk In A Midnight Choir whose poems have appeared or are forthcoming in SOFTBLOW, Atticus Review, Emerson Review, The Rain, Party & Disaster Society, NightBlock, Split Lip Magazine, and similar:peaks::, among others. His first full length collection “rebel hearts & restless ghosts” is forthcoming in 2015 from Timber Mouse Publishing.