Moveable Type: Birmingham Poetry Review
January 6, 2016
A conversation with Adam Vines, Editor in Chief
How did Birmingham Poetry Review begin? Bob Collins and Randy Blythe started the journal in 1987. For many years, it was a fifty-or-so page, side-stapled journal that they published two or three times per year. I worked on the journal as a staff member then an assistant editor then a coeditor with Bob from 1997–2004. In 2011, I took over as editor in chief and completely redesigned BPR. I moved the publication to an annual schedule and lengthened it to 200 pages. I increased the number of book reviews for each issue. I also started soliciting cover art from artists I admire. I have used Nicola Mason’s and Debora Greger’s collages for the past five covers. Along with Greg Fraser, the features editor, I started a featured poet section and a featured essay section. The featured poet section includes an interview with a renowned poet, a review of the poet’s collection or collections, and a selection of new poems by the poet. David Bottoms, Andrew Hudgins, Claudia Emerson, Allison Joseph, and Barbara Ras have been our first five featured poets. Greg and I started the featured essay last issue. Susannah Mintz, a professor and scholar at Skidmore College, provided the first essay, which discusses the challenges and rewards of teaching poetry to undergraduates. The essay in the upcoming issue, written by Kieran Quinlan, a scholar and professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, concerns the life and poetry of Seamus Heaney.
Describe your decision-making process for selecting work to appear in the magazine. I have a staff of five or six who read all of the submissions. I read over almost all of the submissions, too. When two or more of us find a poem we are taken with, I will take a look at the poem again and make the final decision. Greg and I solicit the featured poet and the scholars/poets who write the featured essays and conduct the interviews. I solicit the ten or so writers for the poetry reviews and the visual artists for the cover art. At times, Greg and I solicit poems for consideration from poets we admire.
If your magazine has an ethos, what is it? I lean toward formal poems—or at least poems that have a strong awareness of content and form relationships. However, I publish all kinds of verse. I would like to think that I have a diverse aesthetic.
After Birmingham Poetry Review, what’s your favorite writing venue? Don Share and the staff at Poetry have published an impressive range of voices and sensibilities in the past few years. The New Criterion and Parnassus are two journals I always go to for strong poetry and fantastic criticism. I am also impressed with Measure, the Cincinnati Review, Crazyhorse, Kenyon Review, the Hopkins Review, the Literary Review, and Southern Humanities Review.
What is your plan for the future of the magazine? I hope to include more prose in the future—perhaps an essay devoted to craft in every issue.