Friday, August 17, 2012

The Niteblade Blog Train: Poetry Central

File:Charles Gleyre - Lost Illusions - Walters 37184.jpg
Welcome to the Niteblade Blog Train. Hop on, hop on! In case you are really only getting on now, here's the previous post.

This blog train is a celebration of five years of Niteblade, so at the end of this post, there will be PRESENTS.

But first things first. What to write about? Right. I can start with a quick introduction.

Hi, I'm Alexa, the person who reads all the poetry slush for Niteblade and selects the five poems that we publish in each issue (aka the poetry editor). I also lend my eyes for first reader duties every now and then.

When it comes to poetry, our guidelines are not very specific in regards to what we want and what we don't want, and intentionally so. But hey, since y'all are here now let me tell you what I like and don't like to read in my slush.

1. Dir Sir or Madam.
Yup, that one I don't like. You can address your correspondence to the Poetry Editor, to Rhonda (the beloved boss editor), or of course to me (which will tell me that you took the time to firgure out who's actually gonna read your work.)

You can also just say Hi or add a simple note like "Please consider my poem ___ for publication."

It's all about first impressions I guess, and while I often read a poem before I look at the cover letter, a professional sounding cover letter can't hurt.

File:Lotz Muse 1890s.jpg2. Formal stuff.
That's something I really like, partly because these days free verse is the norm. I like villanelles (like this one) and sonnets in particular, but that doesn't mean I'm bored by sestinas or the odd couplet. Do sent me formal verse

BUT: don't just make stuff rhyme. Formal verse is more than just lines of words with matching meter put together in the shape of stanzas that come with rhyming words dashed in to spice things up, it's more than just the sum of its parts. There is a reason why we consider Shakespeare a Bard and not a writer of silly doggerel. Poetry (or any writing) conveys information, but also emotion. Why else would the reader care?

3. Cliches.
Especially in a horror venue you get these, a lot. That's not to say I don't enjoy zombie apocalypse tales or your average nocturnal bloodsucker with a European accent (cf. the vamp special poetry selection of our June Issue), but unless you can throw me off balance with something new or unusual, well. Know what you are writing about, but also be sure to write something no one has ever written before.

Yes, please. Do send me more of that. POC, too.

"This world is wide and wild
and full of wonders,"

says Seanan McGuire in her poem "Baba Yaga Said," and any work that reflects that will be warmly welcomed at Niteblade.

File:Odin rides to Hel.jpgOkay, I seem to be running out of things to put on my little list here, so perhaps just let me remind you that you should always go with the guidelines (remember what they say about guidelines in Pirates of the Caribbean? Won't fly in publishing.)

Also, if you have any questions, you can get in touch through the contact form on this blog, or drop me a line at

Niteblade Spec Poetry Ed
And before the blog train leaves, didn't I mention PRESENTS at the beginning of this post?? I did, but actually, they are more like prizes: two issues of the Niteblade Special Poetry Edition, one of them signed by both Rhonda and myself. The prizes will be drawn (from a real hat, if you must know) once the blog train has ended, that is Sep 2 (the last post goes live on Sep 1). All you have to do to enter is comment here (or if for some reason that doesn't work for you, drop me a line) and let me know of a poem you really liked, old or new, from Niteblade or elsewhere, doesn't matter (for example, "The Raven" by Poe would be a valid entry.) Comments will close on Sep 1, Midnight EST.

Okay, all that's left to say is Happy Birthday Niteblade, thanks to Rhonda for five fantastically scary years, thanks for allowing me to be a part of this, and man am I looking forward to the next five!

The Niteblade Blog Train. Next stop: Brenda Stokes Barron.

File:La barca de Caront, Josep Benlliure Gil, Museu de Belles Arts de València.jpg


  1. Thank you for participating in the blog train, Alexa, and more importantly for being a part of Niteblade. I think putting you at the helm of poetry is one of the wisest decisions I've made to date. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It wouldn't be the same without you.

    ~ Rhonda Parrish

    1. Wow, thanks Rhonda! I'm tearing up here. Just *HUGS.*

  2. Hi Fellow Blogtrainer Alexa, neat blog as well as introduction! What the heck, I'll put in a "really liked" vote for Rudyard Kipling's poem "The Vampire." Maybe some will think it corny in its Victorian way, but it brought Theda Bara to stardom in A FOOL THERE WAS as well as helping define the concept of the femme fatale as "vamp." And, for better or worse, "a rag and a bone and a hank of hair" still resonate. (Can I throw in a commercial too, for a story of mine, "La Fatale," to appear in the Winter issue of WHITE CAT MAGAZINE, probably about the first of Jan. 2013, which gives a mention to Kipling as well as his cousin, Philip Burne-Jones -- who painted the picture the poem illustrates? Also contemporary prose author Bram Stoker.)

    I'm also not so anonymous either, if the "preview" matched what ends up being actually published. I'm actually James S. Dorr at Ah, the joys of trying to find compatibility in competing blog services :-)

  3. Good for Blogspot, it gave my name after all!

  4. Hi Alexa! For me, horror is where you find it, and isn't necessarily supernatural. I actually read very little fantasy poetry. So my two cents' worth would include Bruce Guernsey's "The Lost Brigade," a tale of military service and resultant madness post-WW II. And I love Wendell Berry's "Questionnaire," the final stanza of which I shall dare to reproduce here:

    5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
    the energy sources, the kinds of security,
    for which you would kill a child.
    Name, please, the children whom
    you would be willing to kill.

    Now that's scary poetry.

    Roll on, blog train, roll on.

    Mark Rigney

  5. Hi, Alexa...great post!

    It's so hard to name just one poem that I really like but my offering is this: Grandfather's Death Mask by John Edward Lawson. Give it a read.

    Glad to learn more about the Poetey Gatekeeper. You put together wonderful collections.

    Cheers, Ash