What are the types of poems you would like to see in Volume 25?
Poems that feel like microcosms of something larger.
What is an ideal submission for you? What would set a submission apart from the others for you?
When you make chocolate chip cookies, the most important thing is that you are making them exactly the way you think a chocolate chip cookie should taste and feel in the mouth. Make the chocolate chip cookie you want to eat and can’t get anywhere else. Your dream cookie. So too with poems, except poems can be even gooier, if that’s your thing.
Who are some writers you admire?
Lately, I really admire the poets in Myanmar who protested the coup in that country this past year. Some lost their lives, some have been arrested for giving voice to the people’s frustration, anger, hurt, fear, and power. I don’t have a type of poem I love most, but I was reading and listening to some of the poems by these “street” poets in Myanmar, and the story they individually and collectively tell is so powerful and timeless. There were many different types of poems: devotional, satirical, avant garde, political, confessional, absurdist, etc. etc. Without romanticizing things, it seems to me that any poem that can get you jailed or killed is a poem that every single person still free in the world ought to read.
Is there a form of poetry/fiction/creative nonfiction that you find most rewarding to read?
No. Literature is a forest; the more diversity of forms and subject matters, the more beautiful and healthy and grand the symphony.
Name three books that could be used to define you as an editor?
On any given day, this would probably change. Today, it’d be: The Upanishads. Anything by Yuri Herrera. And, because it’ll be coming out with Rain Taxi Press in just a couple of weeks, Smiling in an Old Photograph: Poems by Kim Ki-taek, which I worked on as both a translator and editor.
What current journals or presses do you admire, and why?
Every single one of them. Everyone involved is doing it first and foremost out of a passion for books and literature. Also, just like how I like my coffee and vegetables and eggs, I really admire local journals and presses who put a lot of energy into working to make the social soil they exist in as rich and fertile as possible, then spanning outward from there. Coffee House Press, whom I know most intimately, is a stellar example.
What projects or pieces are you working on now?
I’m always writing poems toward a next book. Lately, I’m also working on what might be considered lyric essays. “Pandemic Love” coming out this month in a new anthology: We Are Meant to Rise: Voices for Justice from Minneapolis to the World. Again, I also co-translated and edited a chapbook of poems from the original Korean, which is due out in mid-October from Rain Taxi, as I mentioned above. And then there’s The Uncommon Speech of Paradise: Poems on the Art of Poetry, due out at the end of September. Some work of mine is in it. So I’ll be doing readings this October and November for those things.
Ed Bok Lee is the author most recently of Mitochondrial Night. Honors for his books include the American Book Award, Minnesota Book Award, Asian American Literary Award (Members’ Choice), and PEN/Open Book Award, among others. He attended kindergarten in Seoul, South Korea, and teaches Fine Arts at Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN. You can learn more about Ed and his work at his website.