Water~Stone Review is a collaborative project of students, faculty, and staff at Hamline University Creative Writing Programs. In addition to working with our faculty, and to fulfill a larger initiative of providing a place for new/emerging and underrepresented voices at Water~Stone Review, we now have rotating contributing editor positions. 

This is a wonderful opportunity for our graduate student assistant editors to collaborate with renown writers in order to expand our reach and  further innovation. Past Contributing Editors include Sun Yung Shin, Keith Lesmeister, Sean Hill, Carolyn Holbrook, Mona Power, Kao Kalia Yang, and Ed Bok Lee. 

In this post we introduce Vol. 26 Contributing Poetry Editor, January Gill O’Neil.

What do you hope to achieve through your work as a contributing editor in Volume 26?

Put simply, I want to create a solid collection of poems to complement the solid collection of poems that Water~Stone creates with each issue. I’m looking forward to seeing the range of subjects that bubble up. What are we concerned with as a society? What are our obsessions? 

What makes a poem exceptional? 

Poems that make me feel like after I read them, I wish I wrote them. Poetry can be improvisational in a way, so I’m looking to see how poets navigate their universes. I’m interested in the constellations they create from one moment to the next. What does that look like on the page? That’s a tough question to answer, but I know it when I see it.

I’m also excited to work with Water~Stone’s exceptional staff!

Are there particular poetic themes or forms that particularly interest you?

No. I’d rather see what themes emerge. I think poems are indicators of where we are as a society, so I’m curious about the passions and preoccupations of poets at this current moment. How do they make the ordinary extraordinary?  

What do you envision for the poetry contributions as a whole?

I want this issue to be inclusive and wide-ranging. I’m hoping the collection will tell some larger truth. The possibilities are endless.    

How do you handle rejection and acceptance with your own work?

I roll with it. I grumble to a few close poetry friends and move on. That’s the value of having a community rooting for you. And if you’ve been rejected enough times, you know it’s part of the publication process.  I don’t take it personally.

What are some presses and/or journals you admire, and why? 

Besides Water-Stone Review, I’ve long been an admirer of The American Poetry Review (APR), Ploughshares, Ecotone, and 32 Poems—too many to count, really. I like them because they publish a broad spectrum of poets with each issue. There is wonder in the pages of these mags. I learn something new about myself and the world in each issue.  

What projects are you currently working on?  

I’m working on new poetry that leans toward the environment, as well as a new collection, Glitter Road, coming out in February ’22. I continue to work on projects related to the legacy of Emmett Till, Which is featured in Glitter Road. But I also leave a lot of space for curiosity and wonder. I like to say I am writing toward what I don’t know.

JANUARY GILL O’NEIL is an associate professor at Salem State University, and the author of Rewilding (2018), Misery Islands (2014), and Underlife (2009), all published by CavanKerry Press. From 2012-2018, she served as the executive director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival, and currently serves on the boards of AWP and Montserrat College of Art. Her poems and articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day series, American Poetry Review, Green Mountains Review, Poetry, and Sierra magazine, among others. Her poem, “At the Rededication of the Emmett Till Memorial,” was a co-winner of the 2022 Allen Ginsberg Poetry award from the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College. The recipient of fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Cave Canem, and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, O’Neil was the 2019-2020 John and Renée Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi, Oxford. O’Neil is one of five judges for the 2022 National Book Award in poetry. She lives with her two children in Beverly, MA. 


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