Founded in 2014 by MFA alumni Sam O’Hana, Alexandra Franklin and Taylor Lannamann, Poet’s Country is a forthcoming journal of poetry and fiction founded in Brooklyn, New York. The Journal is slated to span a limited 100 biannual physical issues through 2066 and will celebrate the launch of its first journal on January 15, 2017. Earlier this month, MFA student Kelly Stewart chatted with O’Hana, Managing Editor of Poet's Country, about the journal.
Here's a look at what he had to say:
Kelly Stewart: How did you come about the idea of Poet’s Country?
Sam O'Hana: Arriving in New York from the UK in 2014 to start The New School’s graduate writing program, it was clear that there was little conversation between students in MFA programs throughout the city. With George Kovalenko, who was in NYU’s program, I started the (admittedly tongue-in-cheek) Poet’s Country Club, a quarterly house party-meets-reading series at various locations that invited students from across the institutional gamut to share their work. We held readings in Bed-Stuy basements, Williamsburg rooftops and at Bushwick’s McKibbin Lofts before we found a home in the Lower East Side at the Bowery Poetry Club. The journal, Poet’s Country, was designed to give the project life regardless of where each of us might be living in the future.
KS: Do you think your time at The New School helped prepare you for creating/running Poet’s Country?
SO: Yes. Activism, organizing, and community projects belong to the founding spirit of The New School, an institution whose history begins with teachers or alumni like Hannah Arendt, continues with Ai Weiwei, and includes more recently Laura Poitras—the director of the Edward Snowden documentary, Citizenfour. Since current teachers at The New School’s MFA program have their own projects -- Prof. David Lehman’s Best American Poetry series, for example, or Hettie Jones’ teaching work at the Lower East Side Girls Club—we were looking for a territory of our own that we could work within, a territory in which the impact of our work was brought to bear on the environment of our everyday lives.
KS: How has the response to your upcoming journal been so far?
SO: Staggering. The grassroots response came from across the US and UK at a time when social and cultural life in these countries is being radically redrawn, with enormous opportunities for citizen-led initiatives. We built Poet’s Country as a nomadic communitarian artsharing space for graduate students, and now we are raising public questions about the role of intellectuals and poetry in wider society, with institutional backing from Bowery Arts + Science, the nonprofit that runs the Bowery Poetry Club. Throughout, the response from our readers and audience has often been one of gratitude and discovery. We’ve been quite motivated by that.
KS: What is your main goal with the Poet’s Country journal?
SO: The journal was designed to accommodate the post-MFA conditions of our daily life. In spring 2016, none of us knew if we would be living in the same city, country, or continent in the months and years to come. The idea of a biannual, 100-issue, variating-format journal gave us the longevity to continue the work which had received so much support, but operating in a way that accommodated a lot of travelling, dislocation and uncertainty. In the end, we decided to stay in New York City for the time being, but this may change, and we expect the project to develop under new constraints and opportunities.
KS: What do you want people to know about Poet’s Country?
SO: We have a website, a constitution and a continued commitment to illuminate everyday life at discursive and geographic fringes. We assembled to propose potential landscapes of humane existence, and we are at the very beginning of this project. Right now we are reaching out to as many people as possible to get a reading of the cultural needs and interests of people around us. While we began as a reading series and continued as a journal, we may develop further into educational and curatorial spaces as well.
We will launch the Poet’s Country inaugural issue at the Bowery Poetry Club on January 15th at 6 p.m., to which all are welcome. Copies will be on sale at the event. We’re very proud of the content we’ve assembled.
KE: Who can get involved with/submit to the journal?
SO: We’re closed for submissions for our first issue, due for release on January 15th, but we’ll continue to consider all work that comes in, including submissions to read at the reading series. Anyone wishing to contribute to Poet’s Country as a project should send their resumé and any proposals to email@example.com, and should expect to hear from us. Currently we are all volunteers, and we are working towards paying contributors. All our crowdfunding proceeds currently go into the journal’s production.
For those interested in learning more about Poet's Country, check out MFA student Hillary Ferguson's piece Poet's Country: A Home for Literary Nomads on Huffington Post. Or, you can visit the Poet's Country website.