By Deb A.
Duotrope is a writers' resource that simplifies the submission process, giving writers more time to focus on actually writing. Agave Magazine Editor-in-Chief and Founder Ariana Lyriotakis recently added her voice to Duotrope's Editor Interview feature, offering insight into the magazine and how to become a part of it. What follows is an excerpt from the interview; the full piece is available here.
Agave Magazine, in 25 characters or less: Contemporary narratives
Ariana's favourite writers: Mario Vargas Llosa, Lorrie Moore, Haruki Murakami, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen, Wallace Stevens, Derek Walcott...
What sets Agave apart: Agave Magazine is a print and online publication showcasing contemporary literature, art and photography from around the world. Mixing literary genres and incorporating fine art pieces creates a magazine in which various modes of expression intersect and diverge. The look and feel of the magazine is streamlined and sleek without being intimidating. There is a great deal of white space, and entire pages and centerfolds dedicated to giving the individual works room to breathe. All of the literature, art and photography is brought to the fore and presented in an accessible format that we feel is engaging for a modern readership. Many of the pieces are accompanied by insights from our contributors discussing creative process, how they seek inspiration for their work, and behind-the-scenes information on the actual creation of the pieces themselves.
The ideal submission: The ideal submission contains all the essentials -- no more, no less. Restraint. Quiet fortitude. Skillful turns of phrase that take you to another place...
We also look for a contemporary narrative: does the author or artist weave a story or show us a new take for a modern audience? Do they have something valuable to contribute to the discussion? We avoid works with overt symbols and ideologies, experimentalism for the sake of pushing the envelope and not investigating form or genre, or anything that we feel is geared mainly toward antagonism or angst.
How much of a submission gets read before a decision is made to accept or reject it: We accept all literary genres so we get quite a mix in terms of submissions. I read through the literary submissions along with our Editor-at-Large. In the case of poetry, we accept up to five poems and usually I will read every single one. This is especially relevant because style and form can vary so much from poem to poem. A poet is able to to showcase variations, depths and experimentation, or use their poetry submissions to provide a continuity of style. As for longer pieces, unless something is particularly glaring, I will generally read the piece in its entirety. Even if we have the general impression after a few paragraphs that something won't be for us, we try to be as diligent as possible. If the particular content is not for us but the writing style is strong, we will often ask the author to re-submit.
By Deb A.
Congratulations to the three winners of our poetry contest, held in honour of National Poetry Month; winning entries will be published in the upcoming Spring 2015 issue of Agave Magazine.
Haiku: Daniel Lassell
Daniel Lassell has been featured, or is forthcoming, in publications such as Reed Magazine, Steam Ticket Journal, Hawaii Pacific Review, The Citron Review, and Sixfold. His poems have also been anthologized, most recently in New Poetry from the Midwest 2014. He lives with his wife in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Sonnet: Michelle Matheny
Michelle Matheny graduated summa cum laude from the University of Minnesota with a B.A. in German. She stayed at home to raise and homeschool her three daughters for a number of years before returning back to school herself. Michelle has a certificate in secondary English education through Washington University in St. Louis and is pursuing her M.A. in English Studies through Southeast Missouri State University. She is currently writing her thesis on Shakespeare's history plays. Great books and classical education are her passions.
Free verse: Pavel Petr (translated from the Czech by Sylva Ficova)
Pavel Petr was born on January 3rd, 1969 in Zlin. He studied metal cutting as a fitter and workshop planner. In 1992 he joined the operations division of Zlin's Regional Art Gallery, where he still works; he is also an editor of the Prostor Zlin Review, which publishes contemporary Czech poets. Pavel is represented in many Czech and foreign anthologies of poetry; his poems have been translated into French, Russian, German, Polish, Slovenian, Italian, and Portuguese.
Honourable mentions go to Jacob Appel, Nancy Brewka-Clark, Mary Schmidt, and Ana Prundaru.
By Deb A.
It inspired leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Thomas Jefferson over the course of hundreds of years, and its legacy resonates throughout the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the United States Declaration of Independence. And yet the physical dimensions of the Magna Carta offer a surprising contrast to the breadth and depth of its impact: one of the world's most important symbols of liberty, it fits on a 38 cm x 51 cm parchment.
Magna Carta (An Embroidery), however, is nearly 13 metres long. Created to celebrate the document's 800th birthday, British artist Cornelia Parker's tapestry features the handiwork of 200 contributors, including activists, politicians, lawyers, musicians, and Ms. Parker herself, as well as nearly 40 prisoners, who stitched the bulk of the text.
It is, in a shift from analogue to digital and back again, a near-perfect replica of the Wikipedia entry on the Magna Carta.
"I wanted the embroidery to raise questions about where we are now with the principles laid down in the Magna Carta, and about the challenges to all kinds of freedoms that we face in the digital age," explained Ms. Parker.
With the aim of creating a "portrait of our age," she carefully selected the words for her more notable contributors to stitch: each individual embroidered a word or phrase that was significant to them (embroiderers handled the illustrations and other tricky bits). Edward Snowden tried his hand at "liberty", and "user's manual" came from Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's founder. Moazzam Begg added "held without charge" to reflect his time as a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay. The editor of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, provided "contemporary political relevance" as well as a few small blood stains after an unfortunate run-in with his needle. Philip Pullman got "Oxford". Ms. Parker gave "common people" to Jarvis Cocker, and chose "prerogative" for herself. Julian Assange and a former Director General of MI5 were not the only ones to stitch "freedom"--a host of prisoners also added it to the final piece.
Magna Carta (An Embroidery) is on display at the British Library until July 24th.
By Deb A.
The Venice Biennale has begun, this year running under the theme "All the World's Futures", which the event's Director, Okwui Enwezor, explains as "a fresh appraisal of the relationship of art and artists to the current state of things."
While Venice is now home to the works of over 50 Iranian artists, Iranians need not travel to Italy for a dose of art as social commentary; that very theme is being played out on the streets of Tehran, where 1500 billboards have turned the city into an open-air museum.
The "A Gallery As Big As a Town" project, headed by the mayor, Mohammed Baqer Ghalibaf, is geared toward encouraging people to visit museums and talk about art (unofficially, the potential boost to the ambitious two-time failed presidential candidate's popularity did not go unnoticed). The latter goal has most definitely been accomplished: Tehran's temporary transformation into a giant canvas has garnered positive attention from the city's inhabitants, as well as local and international media.
Thirty per cent of the images are highly recognizable to the Western world--Monsch's The Scream is here, as is Magritte's The Son of Man. But around 70% of the billboards feature Iranian artists, most of whom, whether they have woven rugs or painted canvasses, have at least one thing in common: they are dead.
Modern art is likely to run afoul of the country's censors. The majority of Iran's top artists live in exile, and Tehran's own Museum of Contemporary Art boasts a remarkable collection of modern art, all of which are languishing in its basement, some under classifications such as "pornographic", "un-Islamic", or even "too gay".
Tehran's citizens are right to be thrilled to find advertisements for dishwashers and banks replaced by Rothko's multiforms and Mahmoud Farshchian's miniatures. Hopefully the initiative will also spur them on to discussions about why there are so few living Iranian artists lining the streets in this town-sized gallery.
By Deb A.
After 23 years of dedicating his weekends to writing poetry, the immensely talented Larry D. Thomas became a full-time poet in 1998. A decade later, he was named the Poet Laureate of Texas, and in 2009 was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters. Sophisticated but accessible, his meticulously constructed poems are the best illustration of his belief that the poem "is a perfect vehicle for capturing the purest essence of something through the concise, artistic use of language." Larry's work has been with Agave Magazine from the very beginning: "Gingerbread and Coffee" was featured in Agave's inaugural issue, "Agave" appeared in Vol. 2 Issue 2, and "Ice and Fire" can be found in the most recent edition... so it was definitely time for a chat.
AGAVE MAGAZINE: Your poems can drop your readers into vast Texan landscapes just as effortlessly as they can slide us into urban art museums; while you address a wide range of themes in your work, do you find you have a predilection for any particular one?
LARRY D. THOMAS: One “trigger” which seems to keep inspiring my poetry is the borderlands region of the Great Chihuahuan Desert of far West Texas (I was raised in Midland). Although a harsh environment of dust, rock, thorns, stingers, fangs, claws, and precious little rain, it is also a place of haunting natural beauty. I find this juxtaposition intriguingly fascinating. The people who eke out a living in this desolate place are obdurate, resourceful, and highly self-reliant, and I have looked up to them my entire adult life.
Within a few sparse but perfectly worded lines, your poetry manages to be both beautifully rich and relentlessly honest; why do you tend toward this style rather than something more ornate?
I always attempt to write poems which are “ostensibly” accessible. I like to write poems which the average college-educated person can get something out of, yet poems which are intricately crafted with an artistry appreciated by the sophisticated literary establishment. It is much more difficult for me to write well-crafted free verse poems than poems in traditional form. I work without a blueprint and must achieve the elements of form through the use of internal rhymes, rhythmic structure, irregular line integrity, etc.
How do you write, and what balance do you strike between inspiration and perspiration?
I attempt to dedicate several hours each day (from three to five hours) in the composition of new poems. The elements of poetic composition are ruthlessly demanding, and necessitate an extremely high level of focus and concentration. My poetry is usually “muse-driven,” and I rarely know when I sit down to write a poem what it will be about that day. It often begins with a single image or phrase around which I start “building” the poem. Early in my writing process, I pay scant attention to “shaping” what I write. I let it flow as freely as possible so as not to stifle my creativity. And then the “perspiration” comes! I revise my work very extensively (through twenty or more revisions) until I end up with what I feel is a solid first draft of a poem. I will revisit the poem for several days after I have written the draft for final tweaking.
Although I feel that both inspiration and perspiration are central to the crafting of a poem, I sincerely believe that the perspiration is the more important of the two. A poem, as a work of art, should be crafted with consummate skill, and no poet, regardless of the level of her talent, can successfully complete a poem without the sweat of extensive revision.
When are you satisfied with a poem?
That is an excellent question which defies a simple response. In the interest of concision, I look carefully at each word, especially those in excess of two syllables, and eliminate them or substitute them with another word, unless I feel that the word is crucial to either the meaning of the poem or the poem’s musicality. I look especially carefully at modifiers (adjectives and adverbs) to see if the poem will work more effectively without them.
I can’t honestly say that I am ever truly satisfied with a poem, because I am an “imperfect” human being who strives to create a “perfect” work of art. After I have revised a poem as much as absolutely possible, I seem to know “in my gut” when it is time to lay it aside and begin another poem. That “gut” seems to improve with each additional year of my writing experience.
What has been the most challenging aspect of your career as a poet?
Not allowing myself to become disappointed with the size of my audience. Serious poetry has always enjoyed a relatively small audience, yet a most discerning and well read one! And the audience we enjoy is most loyal and supportive.
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