Making Poetry Intimate, Accessible, and Very Personal
"The Lune" literary journal showcases just one poet a month, aiming to keep the reading experience visceral and intimate
You could read Anne Waldman's new poem in “The Lune" in just 11 minutes, zooming through her travelogue of Morocco, briefly tasting the camel burgers and feeling the swirl of spinning Sufis, fearing the terror of attacks on the market place.
Or you could read it for a lifetime, breathing between every carefully chosen word, rethinking the de-punctuated sentences and line breaks, contemplating the references to Greek gods and Allen Ginsberg and deciphering her meditations on motherhood.
Waldman is perfect for “The Lune," and it for her. She writes purposeful poetry and the monthly literary magazine exists to showcase such talents, concentrating each issue on just one writer with the goal of providing readers an easy, focused way to consume their works.
“The Lune" is like a lot of tiny, poetry journals — earnest, simple, overly precious. But the magazine, now on its tenth issue, is better curated than most, limiting itself in size while presenting some of the most readable poets around, like Jack Collom, Reed Bye, Laura Cesarco Eglin and other writers whose legends are more than local.
“The idea is essentially to give over a small space (to) a single poet's vision," says editor Joseph Braun. “And because it's 30 pages or less, people tend to just sit and read it through. It's really an intimate time with a given poet."
“The Lune" publishes poems of every variety, but takes its name from the “lune" form, an Americanized version of the haiku developed by Robert Kelly. Lunes extend for just three lines and follow a five syllable/three syllable/five syllable formula.
The intent is to make poems approachable while not diminishing their ability to be experimental. The magazine's first four issues, which began coming out in 2014, consisted of all lunes, written by various poets.
Building on the idea of accessibility, they were sold as unbound pages, packaged in a pre-stamped envelope set on the counter of the Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Cafe in Boulder, a center of the city's literary scene and a supporter of the magazine. The notion was that buyers could consume the poems in short order, seal the flap and then send them off to the next reader hassle-free.
Since then, the magazine has evolved, editing itself down to single contributor each time and opening up to various poetic structures. Most readers subscribe and receive the magazine via the mail. It's available bound or unbound now, though both versions remain packaged in usable envelopes.
“It's almost a nostalgic thing, a return to utility," said Braun. “Even though e-mails even are more functional for correspondence, there's something indescribable about putting a thing in mail with your hands."
The magazine is now open to any form, and Braun — who raises the money that keeps his small press publishing — works closely with contributors, altering the exact look of the magazine to suit their words. The issue devoted to Collom was a series of 16 separate poems. Waldman's 18-page effort, titled “Dream Book of Fez," is a single piece that alternates between something close to short verse and something more like a rambling stream of consciousness. It's evocative, exotic and personal.
Fez the uncontestable spin
Fez the instinct, the labyrinth
Fez the imaginary seraglio
Fez the somber duty
Fez a balm, an excess
Fez a walking
a thirst, a delirium
a way to hold on
Future issues will expand the framework. One will rely on short stories, another on illustrations and shorter bits of text. Linking the work together, in the editor's view, is a grounding in “the poetics of delight." The work is roundly challenging, but consumable.
And the magazine has humble aspirations. It doesn't really market itself to mass audiences and it isn't necessarily hungry to grow. It welcomes new subscribers, no doubt, but it remains focused on putting the poets first and keeping the encounters with readers as intimate as possible.
“For us , the vote of confidence is really when people choose to get a subscription," said Braun. “Otherwise, we're not really thinking too hard about selling things."
Ray Mark Rinaldi: 303-954-1540, firstname.lastname@example.org or @rayrinaldi