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Letters to the Editor


In your guidelines [mission statement] you warn that “archaisms” are unacceptable.

I think it is very important to be cautious about branding a word or a trick of syntax as an archaism.  . . . I know my English grammar and usage, and refuse to be dictated to by dogmatists who know it no better (and no worse) than I do.  . . . No, I would argue that a lot of modern ideas on what is acceptable or unacceptable in poetry merely stultify the art.

Murray Alfredson


kbb replies:

The ellipses in Mr. Alfredson´s letter contained such interesting material that we invited him to expand on his views for a ContraVerse column, which we include in this issue of Umbrella.

Your editor pleads guilty to having the most detailed and perhaps most intimidating Mission Statement in existence; preferences and especially pet peeves are clearly laid out.  One reason is simply pragmatic:  just one staffer (yours truly) reads all submissions and so it is desirable to keep volume low.  The other derives from my own experience as a submitting poet, who wishes she could understand more fully the preferences of particular editors.  Familiarity with a publication gives one a fairly good idea of what type of poems get chosen, but not necessarily the criteria for what constitutes instant rejection.  I´ve always hoped that my being forthcoming this way would serve as a corrective.  Admittedly, it is also intended to get poets thinking about certain entrenched habits of style that keep their work from being as fresh and surprising as it could be. You might say . . . I´m on a mission.  

The statement is in a constant state of revision as well.  I would hope that even poets who have published with us before would revisit it; based on what´s been coming to the in box, they have not.  The ratio of visits to the submissions pages vs. the mission page is 5:1even though submitters are firmly asked to check it out.

At any rate, the Mission Statement does not necessarily result in pique or quailing. At least one poet, Karen Greenbaum-Maya, got such a kick out of it she composed the following “found poem” based on its contents. Enjoy. I did!

Found Poem based on Umbrella’s Mission Statement (all words except “head” can be found there)

One would call the poet
a pet     a     zero a strange short dark umbrella
or anachronistic socks, fussier than gossamer.

Husbandry has joys and even frights;
to submit is key to desirable capital,
though seldom to a cone-head academic career.

There are too many birds
(call it experience),
and the frilly old socks are tired.

Cold odd art isawkward.
Love provides focus in strange puddles.
The shadow shelters imaginative malice,
fashioned from generic fairies.

Who’s there?
Moses who?
Moses us can be bores. Tut-tut.

For philosophy is a strange parasol,
and we do not often turn to consider circumstances.
O please, I so do not bore Jesus.


Letters to the Editor:  umbrellajournal at gmail dot com