First up is Rob Taylor, Poetry Editor and ultimate frisbee champion.
What do you do for PRISM international?
As the Poetry Editor, I curate the poetry content in each issue of PRISM. I work with an editorial board of devoted UBC MFA students to review submissions and select the best. I also take a lead role in ensuring that poetry and poetry books are discussed on the PRISM website, through interviews, reviews and ephemera. Most importantly, I am in charge of the office’s whiteboard markers, which come in a brilliant array of colours and are under constant threat of theft, loss or misuse.
What do you look for in submissions? What sort of things turn you off to a submission?
Simply enough, I look for great poems. For me that starts with poems which give some kind of pleasure immediately on first reading. It could be a line, a rhythm, a sharp word choice, or the whole lovely thing. And they don’t have to be warm, flowery poems – “pleasure” to me comes from engaging with skill and intellect, to whatever ends. But I need something right away, some twinkling that triggers my curiosity and signals me to reread.
On subsequent readings, the poem needs to prove layered and nuanced enough to consistently release new bits of pleasure and induce new bouts of curiosity, every reading encouraging another, accruing pleasure and good thought along the way. As Robert Frost put it, “A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom,” to which W.S. Merwin added “And it will never end in wisdom if it doesn’t begin in delight and continue in delight.” Both ring true to me.
As for what turns me off: not following the submission guidelines, and bad breath.
What is your favourite thing about working for PRISM?
Other than the whiteboard markers? I’m going to cheat and give two: working with my colleagues (they are a swell group), and having the opportunity to bring excellent poems and poets to our readers.
What do you write? What writing project are you working on now?
First and foremost, I’m a poet. My first collection of poems, The Other Side of Ourselves, was published by Cormorant Books in 2011. I’m currently working on a second book of poems and a first book of short stories.
Do you have any strange rituals/habits that help you with your writing process?
I write and read best in the far back corner seats of Vancouver’s city buses, and on a couple occasions have gone for bus rides solely to get some writing done. Also, not really strange, but I go for lots of walks and runs to build a rhythm in my body that matches the one I’m trying to build in my mind.
If you could have dinner with one writer, living or dead, who would it be?
A living one, for sure. Can you imagine the smell otherwise? Bad breath would be the least of my turn-offs.
I don’t believe there is a strong correlation between how delightful someone is in their writing and how delightful they are in person, so I’m happy to leave my love affairs with certain authors on the page. If forced, I think I’d pick a cookbook author so I’d be sure that at least the food would be good. Jamie Oliver seems pretty dreamy…
Rob Taylor lives in Vancouver with his wife, Marta. He is the author of the poetry collection The Other Side of Ourselves (Cormorant Books, 2011) and the chapbooks Smoothing the Holy Surfaces and Lyric (Alfred Gustav Press). His poems have appeared most recently in The Fiddlehead, Geist and Alive at the Center: Contemporary Poems from the Pacific Northwest. Rob is the co-founder of One Ghana, One Voice, Ghana’s first online poetry magazine, and one of the coordinators of Vancouver’s Dead Poets Reading Series.