Interviewed by Brittany Witters
Deborah Ager is the founding editor of 32 Poems Magazine. Many poems first appearing in 32 Poems have been honored in the Best American Poetry and Best New Poets anthologies and on Verse Daily and Poetry Daily. Her poems have appearred in Best of the Tigertail Anthologies, Best New Poets 2006, The Bloomsbury Review, New England Review, The Georgia Review, Quarterly West, and elsewhere. She’s received fellowships from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She was a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Midnight Voices is her first book.
Q: Though relatively new to the publishing world, 32 Poems has already become a respected source for talented poets. How do you and your editors select the poems for each issue?
A: Thank you. John Poch is our main poetry editor, and he handles most of our submissions. Sometimes we review and select poems independently; sometimes we ask for each other’s opinion.
Q: From the 32 Poems blog, it is easy to see your love and enthusiasm for writing and for positively contributing to the writing world. What is it about writing, or poetry specifically, that captured your interest so intensely?
A: I was given a children’s poetry book by Christina Rossetti as a gift when I was young. I have written ever since. I love words as sounds, as tools, as pieces, as things. I enjoy turning sound into sense.
Q: 32 Poems features an eclectic range of poetry, from formal sonnets to prose poems. Does this reflect you as a poet?
A: Not entirely. I mostly write in free verse. I start with a notebook with lined paper and some kind of a pen—preferably a Uniball. The current notebook cover is filled with Dali-like melting blue flowers.
Q: Being both a publisher and a poet, which role do you feel fulfills you most and why?
A: I wear both hats; it makes me happy. Whether it’s at blog.32poems or through a prize or anthology nomination, I promote the work we publish because I love the poems. It pleases me when they show up again somewhere else, or when they’re talked about. I’m happy when they come out, nestled in their books. Lucky poems have more lives than cats.
Q: Has 32 Poems been instrumental in launching any poets’ careers since its inception, and if so, whom?
A: A little journal like ours can do many things, but launching careers is someone else’s job. We offer immortality, but you’ve got to go get a gig your own self.
Q: These last questions are meant to be random and fun. Feel free to answer in one word or a few sentences. Name a writer who is currently making you jealous.
A: I can’t give you a writer, but I can think of a few animals who make me jealous. Otters. And mockingbirds.
Q: What kind of child were you?
A: The reading kind.
Q: What is your relationship with rejection like?
A: I broke up with rejection. It wasn’t him. It was me.
Q: What book did you suffer for the most, and why?
A: I’m not sure I could call it suffering. However, Jane Eyre was rather upsetting.
Q: What was the greatest surprise for you in your most recent writing?
Q: What writerly habit would you most like to break?
A: Drinking hard tea.
Q: Lastly…what did you have for lunch today?
A: Yogurt with raisins.