The Ledge Poetry & Fiction Magazine

Poetry and Perception: Publishing
The Ledge Poetry & Fiction Magazine
Tim Monaghan

Quick Note about this issue: This Editor’s Issue of The Café Review is different from our normal published reviews. We have asked 14 editors of poetry journals from across the United States two complex question: Why do some poems stand out from others? And what is he state of poetry in America today? Their answers will surprise you. We hope this issue will give poets a better sense of what editors look for in poems. You will get the inside scoop about why different journals accept different types of poems. For teachers, this issue will answer questions students have about the dos and don’ts in submitting poems as well as the perennial question of why poetry matter.

The Ledge Poetry & Fiction Magazine, www.theledgemagazine.com, is published annually and receives approximately 75 poems each week during our reading period, April to October. I’ve been the editorinchief and publisher of The Ledge for over two decades now, and I am always impressed and amazed at the sheer number of submissions we receive from such a diverse group of poets and writers, both here and abroad. Most of the submissions we receive are from more established poets and writers, but we are always open to new work by emerging authors, too.

I take my role as editor very seriously and thoughtfully consider each group of poems or story submitted for publication to the magazine. We have a very small, allvolunteer editorial staff, but much of the initial screening of submissions is done by me. As editor, I can usually gauge the promise of a poem within the first few lines. Weaker poems are often “fatally flawed” from the start, and quickly rejected as a result. These poems usually lack dramatic tension or a sense of craft and purpose and more resemble prose broken into lines and stanzas. And while the shape of a poem on the page has little significance to us, the form of the poem is a crucial aspect in its construction. Line breaks in poems should be meaningful and not just arbitrary. We also dislike intentional ambiguity in poems, and socalled universal truths, clichés, or similar pedantic devices that heavyhandedly convey a certain “message” from the poet.

Instead, we seek passionate poems that that utilize language and imagery in a fresh, original fashion. We favor poems that speak to the human experience; wellcrafted verse and captivating poems that will resonate with our readers on a visceral level. We especially enjoy imaginative poems, uncommon poems that don’t just recycle the same old story lines and themes for poetic topics. We feel that the best poems employ a sense of dramatic tension that captivates the reader from beginning to end, and we are seeking work that aspires to that level. While we favor accessible poetry, we dislike facile poems or contrived poems with “punch line” endings. We firmly believe in the craft of writing poetry and consider poetry no different from any other artistic discipline. The power of emotion is only effective if the poet is able to temper his or her expression with an objective detachment that is painfully absent from most undisciplined poems. For sheer emotion to be most effective in a poem, the poet must channel that energy before it consumes him or her.

Understatement is often overlooked as an effective means to illustrate a point or purpose. Too often, subtlety is eschewed for shock value. More challenging for the poet is to affect the reader by insinuation and metaphor. The resulting poems will ultimately resonate with the reader in a far less superficial fashion. We also believe that successful poems engage the reader by challenging his or her perceptions on a given topic or truth. The most powerful poems only slightly (if not significantly) alter or affect that perception in the process. I am always craving the goosepimpling effect that accompanies the reading of such exceptional poems.

The Ledge is open to all styles and schools of writing. We have no biases or axes to grind, and consider excellence to be the only criterion. We enjoy putting together an issue with a wide and eclectic range of poems and stories, as we intend to offer a forum for poets and writers of all backgrounds and persuasions. We believe that such work appeals to a wider audience than most literary journals endeavor to reach, and consider The Ledge a truly democratic publication in that regard.

I’ve been editing and publishing The Ledge for more than 20 years now, and still derive just as much pleasure and enjoyment out of the publication process as I did the year I founded the magazine on a shoestring budget. Our first issue was Xeroxed at the local copy shop and crudely stapled along the spine. These days, The Ledge is perfectbound with a glossy cover and features over 200 pages of work by both emerging and established poets and writers. Throughout our growth, we have maintained our independence, and I relish the artistic aspect and the literary freedom that accompanies the role of an editorinchief and publisher of a literary magazine. I am also grateful to my coeditors, George Held and Kim Monaghan, and to the thousands of poets and writers who have chosen The Ledge as a venue to submit their work.

The following poem by Melody Lacina of Berkeley, California, My Aunt’s Horse winner of The Ledge 2006 Poetry Award effectively captures the qualities that we are looking for in a poem: dramatic tension, meaningful line breaks, vivid and imaginative description, and the employment of an ordinary scene to reveal a higher sensibility of loss and the realization of our own mortality.

     When he died, she had him cremated,
     his ashes delivered to her apartment.
     Sixty pounds. She didn’t have the heart
     or the nerve to tell the UPS driver
     what he was carrying up the stairs.
     Nor did she admit to my father,
     her brother, she had done it.
     Not because no bone in his body
     is sentimental, but because she guessed
     he’d draw the line at such an expense.
     I bet she’s right. Though who can say for certain
     how grief will affect us.
     She keeps the horse’s ashes in a closet,
     her younger son’s name marked on the box.
     If I die before I get them scattered,
     he’s promised to take care of them
     the way I’d want. Which means at the stable,
     along the ridgeline, beside the trails she rode
     over and over through the years.
     Sixty pounds of memory.
     We humans come down to so little,
     barely enough to fill a shoebox.
     My love and his sister and brother
     scattered their father’s ashes at night
     after the other mourners had gone.
     One by one, dipping their hands in.     

     Some of the ashes rough, the rest fine.
     And when they were done, the dust of him
     clung stubbornly: grit under their fingernails,
     pale shadows they couldn’t brush clean from their coats.