Interview with Eve Hanninen Editor of The Centrifugal Eye

Eve Hanninen the Editor and Publisher of the poetry magazine The Centrifugal Eye has kindly given her time to be interviewed.

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Hello Eve, I am very pleased you have given your time to answer some questions. We’ve never met but through the magic of social media I feel we have! I know you as the Editor of The Centrifugal Eye can you tell me something about the magazine and its origins.

Tim, thanks for being interested and for asking me about The Centrifugal Eye.  TCE came about amidst a shift in professional directions — really a return to an earlier career — after the events subsequent to the September 11th (2001) tragic plane crashes in New York took its toll on my small business, like so many others’ across the US;  my successful, 8-yr-old, custom-building hobbies shop and art gallery was dying painfully, and I took stock of what I wanted to create for my future.  I’d always wanted to edit and publish a magazine — poetry was a longtime, literary passion, and online publishing seemed the logical, progressive move.       

You are also a poet and artist, what are your main themes?

I’m not sure I’ve ever thought to classify either my poetry or artistic styles into themes.  I was so prolific in my early-to-mid-writing years that I tried just about every style and subject I could exhaust, before realizing I was about done exploring both my autobiographical inspirations, and style or format alternatives.  I’d say that in the past 5-7 years I’ve gone back to enjoying “exercises” that allow me to push beyond the micro-personal, to be more inventive of subject and details.   

I still try many styles, but okay, I do presently prefer a longer line, an emphasis on assonance, and the artful practice of studied, intentional line breaks.  I also enjoy creating poetic vignettes about people (either totally manufactured or inspired by real-life acquaintances) that I call “slices,” often dark moments of universal relationships or solitary behavioral spotlights.

Does the work publishing get in your way as a creative person or do you see it as part of your creativity?

Editorial life has made writing my own poems an erratic and rather rare event.  And I have to carefully schedule in periods for my own artwork and freelance projects.  But yes, because I’m also the layout artist, art director, and fill-in illustrator for TCE, I get heaps of creative satisfaction during the publishing process.  There’s also the enriching experience of studying the poetry I receive in submissions, of discussing the works with talented, educated staff members, and collaborating with TCE’s contributors to develop the sharpest versions of their work for publication.  Does it get in the way of personal pursuits and goals?  Absolutely;  it’s a work-laden responsibility.  Can I do it indefinitely?  That’s doubtful.  But in the meantime, I’m still riding the creative flow as long as it nurtures me.          

You recently moved to Saskatchewan from the Pacific Northwest. That is a huge change of environment, how has it effected your creative work and have you had any difficulty adapting to the harsh climates in both summer and winter?

Despite the dramatic climatic and environmental changes, I’m presently thriving in the prairies.  The last place I lived, while a picturesque jewel of the far-northwestern Canadian coast, was so cold and rainy nearly year-round that my health suffered somewhat after a few years without much sun.   I had a hard time writing about the “North Coast” — as the locals called the area encompassing Haida Gwaii and the adjacent mainland — despite the plethora of cultural stimulus available, until about the time I was getting ready to leave the area.  In contrast, I was influenced by and able to start writing about the desert-like prairie of Saskatchewan within a few months of arriving and exploring the terrain.

Having hailed originally from Washington State’s twin oceanic/mountainous region, though, I still think of myself as a “rainforest” gal;  I do miss the moderate humidity of Seattle, its pervasive and abundant greens, the proliferation of small to massive bodies of water everywhere you go.  Yes, I miss the Northwest’s gift of clean, abundant, drinkable water and the inexpensive energy it affords. 

But almost surprisingly, I am less bothered by the long, cold wintry months in SK than I expected to be (one adapts, if one’s open to it).  The cold is drier here than in the Northwest, so more tolerable.  Even some of the coldest days on the prairies, below -30C, may have sunny skies.  And during the short summer, the dry heat is preferable to the heavy-hanging and oppressive air of some highly-humid, southern climes.

Perhaps, too, the environment in SK feels more foreign to me than the North Coast did, and so it inspires me creatively by opening my eyes to its astonishing contrasts. 

I have noticed on FB that you are a gamer. It is probably my age but I have never ‘got into’ that. Do you see it like watching a film or reading a book, but you participate in the ‘action’?

Ah, age.  My advantage is that I started game-playing avidly as an adolescent and never gave it up.  Such play has always been a therapy for me, because otherwise I find it hard to relax.  I’m seldom a “do-nothing” person and become irritable when forced to “slow down.” 

There are some activities that I find especially immersive, such as reading, writing, painting and drawing.  These turn an imaginative switch on inside me, and I enter a dream-almost-fugue-like state-of-being until interrupted.  Game-playing, whether of a roleplaying or other interactive nature, helps me enter a similar, creative state.  Immersive play keeps my mind stimulated and usually also relaxes my body even if the type of play requires motion.  Games that involve a form of creation — be that through world-building, crafting, character and prop design or customization — are especially attractive to me.  Film and TV, while visually stimulating and experienced on a screen like computer and console games, don’t draw me in quite as deeply as personal acts of creation.  That might be because the actors remove my ability/necessity to participate.  I find it hard to be fully engaged when mostly observing.  That might explain why I’ve always enjoyed driving a stick-shift more than an automatic.  I like “being one with the vehicle.”    

As an editor what are you looking for?

That’s a really tricky question with numerous pat answers available.  While some editors assuage writers by telling them what they want is subjective — and of course it is, to a degree — I’d like to someday find a way to give poets and authors a list of specifics they’d understand all the nuances of.  That’s the hard thing to get across to those who query about my editorial needs:  Nuances.  It’s too abstract to say, “Give me your best writing.”  What the hell do I mean by best, right?  What I mean by that is that I want practiced writing.  And yes, by practiced poets.  No, it’s not unfair to novices.  Novices should practice, too.  I’m looking for quality of craft, and if a writer doesn’t know what that means, she’s not ready for TCE. 

I want poetry that finds a way to meet the themes I cook up for each issue, but it isn’t just the subject or appropriate words that will unlock one of the limited spaces in the journal.  The poem must not be lazy; it must work to intrigue and entertain.  From the title to the ultimate line.  It must use one or more poetic device.  It must charm.  It must consider itself all along the journey and it must be willing to rethink itself for both art and clarity’s sake.  It is never a prima dona.  Line breaks will have reasons!  They will breathe or hint or act or describe; they will seldom dangle uselessly.  A poem will say something.  Or sing something.  It will tantalize or repel.  Sadden or gladden.  It will present something unlike how others present it, but it will not kick about just to kick.  Your best poems will make me see what they say, in a way that I don’t expect — or at least haven’t seen several times before.  They will care that I understand enough of their meaning to want to feel what’s implied so I’ll read them more than once.

I want so much more, of course.

I was attracted to send my work to The Centrifugal Eye because the writing is of high quality and being included gave me the satisfaction of knowing my work was in esteemed company. What is the editorial process?

 Even though TCE has had a revolving staff over the past 7 years, I still remain the “final selection” editor.  My assistant editors, being published poets themselves, are invaluable for their thoughtful, educated input, and all of my current staff members have earned their ability to sometimes influence my decisions.  Nonetheless, I have a grounded sense of what I want, what makes TCE the kind of journal it is.  And I’m highly discriminating for all sorts of reasons.

I’m more likely to say NO to a poem than any of my reading editors, but sometimes I think I’m a little more empathetic toward our contributors:  I nearly always take the stance that each writer/poet is going for a particular effect and I try to preserve that as much as possible, while also trying to keep an eye on craft issues that may need attention.  Still, TCE’s staff readers have diverse tastes (like our reading audience) and fine editing skills of their own, so I listen carefully to their opinions; it makes sense to me, because the staff readers represent percentages of the rest of our readers.     

Anyway, typically, an editorial trimester overlaps with the production period of the former issue on one end of the calendar schedule, and with the new reading period for the future issue on the other end.  It lends an occasionally harried-but-flowing atmosphere to our jobs. 

During the trimester, I filter all the submissions as they come in into “batches” of approximately 25 poems each.  Then I assign the batches to the reading team and solicit comments and recommendations from the editors.  (Sometimes, when there’s time, everyone reads and shares comments.  When we’re stressed for time, there’s more one-on-one discussion between each editor and me, rather than group input.)  After I read and review the poems and corresponding editorial comments, I rate the works based on a variable standard (that’s a private scale developed on nuances such as the ones mentioned in my previous response).  Then I weigh each work against my editorial needs for the current theme, as well as how much potential revision might be involved.   Obviously, there’s a lot of sorting going on.  Then works are either released to their authors without acceptance, or I contact the poets about making revisions. 

We do very little accepting without revision, by the way;  there are often housestyle consistencies we prefer to maintain in our journal, and when one publishes collective works, the only way to achieve editorial consistency is to require minor changes from nearly everyone.  Poets are notoriously non-conformist, after all.  Fortunately for us, our contributors believe they benefit from editorial collaboration.  And we love them for it!           

Who do you see as the main audience for TCE and how much time do you spend on marketing to develop that audience?

Collective reader-response and media data has shown me over our years that the majority of TCE’s audience is made up of professors, teachers, English Lit and Poetry students, journalists, and the poets themselves.  There are also lovers of poetry, too, who don’t write.  But I’d say the latter are a sheer minority.

“The time [I] spend on marketing” to TCE’s audience is a paradoxical notion:  “Practically none” is accurate if you mean in the traditional, physical realm of marketing;  add that I rely nearly 100% on word-of-mouth marketing, and you see that it’s others who market TCE. 

The real paradox, however, is that the other half of my answer to how much time I spend on it is “almost all of it.”  Word-of-mouth advertising has to be generated by positive interactions.  I spend my working hours not only orchestrating harmonious intellectual and artistic creations, but also developing both working and personal relationships with TCE’s valued contributors.  I make huge efforts to show our contributors and readers that I care about what they care about.  That’s how I’ve always developed TCE’s audience.

To finish off, have you any recommendations in books, music, films, games?

Well, books —  if we’re talking about writing poetry, I’d say get yourself copies of Creating Poetry by John Drury, and The Art and Craft of Poetry by Michael J. Bugeja;  they’re terrific references for your personal library.  For understanding how to edit and revise your own works, there’s little better than the classic Getting the Words Right:  How to Revise, Edit & Rewrite, by Theodore A. Rees Cheney.

Music?  That’s pretty subjective.  I can only tell you what I like:  almost everything, but especially industrial and symphonic metal bands, such as Nine Inch Nails, Tool, and Apocalyptica, and also hip hop, beat, and old-school funk and soul, including Blee, Romero Shaw, and The Stylistics. 

I’m only a casual film watcher, so I just recommend you explore whatever entertains you.  I do like remakes of classic historical novels, many for their settings and period furnishings.  Plus, I’ve always enjoyed a kick-ass martial arts movie.

And oh, games!  Currently I’m playing the MMORPG (multiply-massive online roleplaying game) TERA, which has recently gone “free-to-play” and no longer requires a paid subscription.  You might want to try it.  Free is always good.  I still subscribe, as I dig the privileges of “elite” status.   If the superhero MMO, City of Heroes, was still in existence (it shut down its game servers after more than 8 years online in November 2012), I’d surely have recommended that as one of the best multiple-player games in MMO history to date that I’ve played.  There are other fun games out there to try, but there’s only so much time to be away from writing.

Is there anything else you would like say?

Sure.  Coming from the editor’s point of view, randomly — what’s one of the common reasons, besides poor writing, that I’ll send a poem back home without acceptance?  One of the most common is the obvious poem. That’s a poem that usually proceeds in a straight line to tell readers things they already know, in a way that they’ve thought of themselves, using images they’d expect.  Language that doesn’t surprise. 

So, here’s a technique to jog yourself out of writing the obvious poem:  write down your basic concept when it comes to you, including the first couple of images that jump to mind.  Then set those aside and consider different images.  Write out at least 4-6 different images (ones that you wouldn’t put in the same poem) to describe the setting or event or idea of your poem’s concept, then select the last one or two conceptual images to use as a base for your poem.  This exercise forces you to discard the most obvious thoughts that first come to mind and gets your brain in gear to entertain less-than-usual images and concepts.  This also increases odds that your finished poem will build off of an unusual slant.  After purposely using this exercise to create new poems, you’ll find you begin to subconsciously throw away your initial and obvious ideas and eagerly reach for fresh imagery and language. 

Thank you Eve.

The new issue of The Centrifugal Eye is published very soon and can be found with back issues at http://home.earthlink.net/~tinyviolet/thecentrifugaleyepoetryjournal/index.html

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