An Interview with the lovely editors of Octopus

HEY. It's April 20th. Have you submitted to the 1913 first book prize yet? You have ten more days, ladies & gents, poets & poetesses, novelists & novellaistas. GET ON IT.

TURNS OUT, our friends over at Octopus Books ALSO have an April-only open reading period. April is a good month for small-press loving, manuscript-sending writers! Details on their reading period here. Also, they have this lovely option to get an Octopus book for $6 w/ your submission fee. Good deal! Send to them, send to us, get that hot manuscript out of yr hands & into ours!

Without further ado, 13 questions with the editors of Octopus Books/Octopus magazine, Zachary Schomburg, Mathias Svalina, and managing editor Alisa Heinzman. Thanks so much guys!

1) Octopus, like 1913, publishes a journal & full length books. How do you think about the relationship between Octopus the journal & Octopus Books?

They're like cousins, I guess. When they're at the same house, they're kinda expected to take out the garbage, even though they don't really live there. What I am talking about? I have no idea. They share some of the same authors, they like the same poems, and they have the same image, the same style and voice. And they have the same editors: Mathias, Alisa, and myself. But other than that, they have their own lives--one doesn't necessarily inform the other. We have to think about Octopus Books, in part, as a business--there is a benefit to its promotion, a chance to sustain itself, to keep printing books. The online journal doesn't come with that pressure. Its pressure lies only in its poetry. They are both fun to make. I am proud of them both.

2) What's a recent book cover that you love?

I like how those new Otis/Seismicity Editions book look. And the Letter Machine Editions books. I like the idea of creating a catalog through a repeating design element. For the most part, poetry makes pretty unattractive books. Fiction books are, in general, cooler looking.

3) How do you feel about the song "Eight Days a Week"? How about "Sweet Little Sixteen"? Maybe Octopus should release a mix-tape.

They're ok songs. I like the number 8, but those songs are just ok. If we made a mix-tape, it would just be 45 minutes of drone metal. It would have one song on it. It wouldn't really be a mix. You would only be able to listen to it once. It would jam up your tape players.

4) If Octopus had a land-bound-creature best friend to snuggle up to & hold its hand, what would it be?

A mammoth. Or a land-bound whale.

5) Octopus "is named after a sea creature that is intelligent, lives in dens, and uses ink as a defense mechanism." What is your most trusty defense mechanism?

Pretty much just punching in the face.

6) Reading periods in April seem to give new hope to manuscript-submitting poets in the great tradition of Spring. What are your favorite spring-y, spring-ful, spring-ish poems?

I'm going to have to say "Fat" by Dorothea Lasky, which doesn't necessarily strike me as "hopeful", but I have been thinking about it this Spring, and in the rain. It ends:

And no one kisses this paper
And in the end no one will protect
This paper from the rain

7) By organizing your issues around factors & multiples of 8 you seem to be honoring (or at least respecting) constraint. What is your relationship to constraint as a reader/writer/human?

I don't know. I don't know if constraint is the exact right word for what we're doing with 8s. We started using 8s primarily as a way to be less arbitrary about our structure. We needed a way to organize. In issue 10, we had 88 poets, which feel like the total breakdown of constraint. So, I guess I could talk about the illusion of constraint. I feel, as a human, unconstrained, and at times, in search of constraint, but I want to seem as though I've mastered it, that constraint. I feel constrained by my body, by my job, by the size of the earth, by the heavy elements, by the shape of the roads, but its all an illusion. Sometimes, for about 1 minute every 24 hours, another constraint, I remember that there is really no such thing.

8) ALSO, speaking of factors & multiples & numbers, how do you feel about math?

I'm for it.

9) What would Octopus' drink be?

I like milk with ice in it, sometimes, and diet cola. Mathias likes the purple stuff. Alisa has never had anything to drink.

10) 1913 is the year it became illegal to send children through the mail. Weirdest/most surprising/most pleasant thing you guys have received or sent through the mail/email?

When we used to receive more manuscripts by mail, I loved it when people would use barrettes as binder clips, especially sparkly barrettes.

11) What's a word that you really love?

12) 1913 is the year the first crossword puzzle was printed. What are your favorite GAMES?

Alisa, likes SET, the card game. I hate monopoly, but I like chess. Mathias has never before played a game. Though he did write a chapbook outlining a bunch of rules for games. It is called Play.

13) Make up a title of a manuscript you would love to read/jump up & down & up if you saw in your submissions pile.

The uncollected short poems of Anne Carson

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