On August 30, Praxis Magazine Online published the first digital chapbook in the 2019/2020 Poetry Chapbook Series, edited by JK Anowe. If you haven’t seen it already, you don’t want to miss BOOK OF THE MISSING by Heidi Grunebaum.
And here, at the beginning of this series, I am reminiscing a little, and want to share a bit of the history. In 2015, Praxis Magazine‘s publisher Tee Jay Dan (Daniel John Tukura) asked me if I’d be open to coming on as an editor…and I was worried about the time commitment, worried about the amount of emotional and mental investment it takes to be on the team of an online literary and arts journal. I was already (and still am) on staff at Right Hand Pointing, where editor Dale Wisely gave me an opportunity to learn how to BE an editor…with integrity, discretion, and compassion. And I’d already learned that it takes a LOT of hard work, and that many of the people who submit to journals don’t realize how much work goes into it, how much of their own time editorial team members at online journals have to dedicate to bring other people’s works to publication. (I know I certainly didn’t have any concept of the time commitment involved while I was still submitting poems to journals, but not volunteering at a journal myself.) So I’d declined Tee Jay’s invitation initially, not feeling sure I was prepared to dedicate that kind of time.
Then JK Anowe, a friend of mine, shared a draft poetry chapbook manuscript with me, and he wanted to submit it to Praxis, and had done me the honor of asking me if I’d write a Foreword for it. I did that, and since I also knew Tee Jay didn’t have anyone on staff at the time to do formatting, I worked with JK on getting it formatted so that it would be presentation-ready, should Praxis decide to accept it. We received permission from Robert Rhodes to use a painting of his as the cover image. (Robert Rhodes is an amazing artist…and he’s provided images for a number of digital chapbooks at Praxis since, as well as the cover art for two of my own poetry books, Anchorhold and 19 Ghazal Street.) Praxis accepted the manuscript and published it in March of 2016: The Ikemefuna Tributaries, by JK Anowe.
After it was published, Tee Jay asked me…told me I needed to…come on staff at Praxis and curate a digital chapbook series. And I’d had so much fun with Anowe, I agreed. And, because Tee Jay gave me all manner of creative and editorial freedom and discretion, we also started the Around This Fire response chapbook series. The next manuscript we published was Romeo Oriogun’s Burnt Men…both Romeo’s brave self and his brave poems have gone on to receive international attention, recognition, and acclaim. And I remain deeply humbled to have had the opportunity to work with him on making his first chapbook of poetry available to an international community of readers.
Time under the bridge…three and a half years later, and now JK Anowe is Editor – Poetry Chapbooks, and I’m serving as Managing Editor, working with a whole team of amazing volunteers…from Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe…and contributors and readers from all around the world. (Part of why JK Anowe is an editor IS because I begged him to consider it…same way Tee Jay begged me…asking and wheedling shamelessly. I trust Anowe’s eye for poetry, and for how a manuscript collection forms a cohesive, coherent whole. And frankly, I did resort to this one day: You and your Ikemefuna Tributaries got me into this. So you need to come in too, because I need you. And when he was finished laughing at me, he also joined the team.)
Some days, when I’m tired, I wonder if maybe I should reach out to Tee Jay and let him know I just can’t…can’t keep making the time commitment, can’t keep going through the heartbreak of having to send 1000 decline emails for every 20 acceptances…and then JK sends a manuscript for a poetry chapbook he’s selected and edited to be published at Praxis… and I read the poems…THE POEMS… and am re-energized and excited to be a part of it in any way all over again. Heidi Grunebaum’s chapbook brought the tide of enthusiasm back in again for me… so if you haven’t already, do read it.