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.
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 5:1—even 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
Letters to the Editor: umbrellajournal at gmail dot com