BPRfixed

We here at the Clog love student organizations. So, as part of a new series, we will be spotlighting a number of them in hopes of exposing them to potential members.

The first in our series will be the Berkeley Poetry Review — which, if you haven’t heard, is a lovely publication edited by students who are passionate about poetry. Founded in 1974, the magazine has published well-known poets such as Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Czesław Miłosz, Robert Hass, Robert Pinsky and Thom Gunn. If you are interested in poetry and in working in an editorial capacity on a literary magazine, we would like to encourage you to join!

We had the opportunity to speak with Andrew David King, the editor in chief of the Berkeley Poetry Review. He was punctual and professional in our interview. With previous issues in hand, we met over a hot coffee at the Free Speech Movement Café.

A junior originally from Hayward and a double major in philosophy and English, Andrew joined the publication through happenstance. After speaking with Cecil Giscombe, who was able to put him in contact with one of last year’s managing editors, Andrew joined the publication.

“It was a relatively small group last year, and it will probably be a small group this year,” he said. “To my knowledge, it’s always been a tight-knit organization.”

The friendly, tight-knit publication highly encourages new people to join; the only requirement is an affiliation with the university. Prospective members should email [email protected] Meetings are biweekly and involve a discussion of submitted poems. Fresh recruits, or noobs, would likely start as readers, but all members — editors included — share this duty. It is a love of reading poetry that brings members of this publication together, after all.

“Reading is the bread and butter of the journal,” Andrew explained. “Being part of the editorial review process, actually reading the work: It’s the foundational tenet of a literary journal’s functioning … anybody who comes to the club will have the chance to participate in that directly. Hopefully, it’s in the service of making a really cool thing.” We at the Clog can vouch for the fact that the Review is really damn cool.BPR2fixed

Or perhaps you would rather submit your poetry for publication? While some work is solicited, most of it is not. It takes a lot of time to get a full, cohesive issue, which is why it is an annual publication, so submissions are quite welcome. It is competitive, however: The acceptance rate is 5 to 10 percent. Don’t let that deter you, though.

“We’re looking for more cross-genre works and hybrid works; we need more of those. Or longer things, such as serial works … or anything adventurous,” Andrew said.

The process of selection is a work of creativity in itself.

“We work toward our own particular aesthetic vision for each issue, I think, so it takes a long time to find all of the pieces to put it together,” Andrew said. When asked what he means by aesthetic vision, he responded, “It’s not something I can really put my finger on until we get the body of work, but the thing is that it’s particular … the more time you spend working with other readers and working on what becomes a more cohesive body of work, you get an idea of what the issue is looking like as a whole. So we call ourselves a review — a sort of journal — but what we really produce are books of poetry that in some sense cohere … a lot of that isn’t up to us: It’s up to chance — what people want to send in … but we have some scope within which we can deliberate and make something out of it.”

As for Andrew’s personal tastes, he takes the charitable, patient approach. He said that his favorite poem “tends to be the one that I’m currently reading,” even if the aesthetics differ greatly from his own — a good attitude to have as an editor, we think. But if he had to be more specific, there is a rather unique piece that he would pick.

“It’s called A Humument,” said Andrew. “It’s a work by Tom Phillips, who took an obscure Victorian era book called A Human Document and painted over every page, leaving some words visible.” It created a “material engagement with a pre-existing text that took on a really interesting character.”

Poetry also has an appeal to Andrew distinct from other forms of literature, such as prose.

“When you reduce the size of the textual playing field, you get to look more closely and for a longer period of time at the more atomic workings of language. Things like sound,” Andrew said. “I think poetry allows a greater attention to the material of language, which can be a really odd thing. I think on the level of larger works, it can really be taken for granted, the ways different meanings can be made beyond the linear sense of the prose line.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

The website for the publication is currently undergoing maintenance, but it should be up soon. Meetings will likely start soon as well. This student publication, with its history of involvement with renowned poets and its intelligent, friendly editor in chief Andrew David King, is one that any fan of poetry cannot miss. Either by reading poems or submitting them yourself, we at the Clog encourage you to take part in this one-of-a-kind literary experience.

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