Part 1 of My Interview with Poet Arlene Ang

I first saw Arlene Ang’s poetry in Pedestal Magazine, and then I saw that she became a guest editor of the magazine. I started reading her blog–Journal Writing and Other Ways to Talk to Myself–soon after, lurking about backstage and reading.

I also discovered she has her own Website where she posts some of her poetry, and offers links to her recent publications. Check out Agoraphobia published in The Chimera and The Itch on My Scalp Means published by Poetry Ireland. These are two of my favorites.

Suffice to say, Arlene and I have been chatting over email for some time and exchanging flowers on Facebook, having a grand old time. I figured since I was reviewing books, why not her chapbook, “Secret Love Poems,” and her new joint book with Valerie Fox “Bundles of Letters Including A, V, and Epsilon.” Arlene was kind enough to send me both books for review. Stay tuned for those reviews.

That brings me to today’s post, a partial interview with Arlene about her chapbook “Secret Love Poems” and her editorial position at Pedestal Magazine. Without further ado, I welcome Arlene to Savvy Verse & Wit.

1. I just love the cover of “Secret Love Poems.” Did you have a hand in selecting the cover and if so, what speaks to you about it or how does it fit the poems inside the volume?
When the publishers asked me if I had any cover image I’d like to use, I immediately started going through the deviantART galleries until I found Oana Cambrea‘s work. When I saw “Black Milk,” I just knew it was the right one. I love how the image itself is open to interpretation. One can see it as a woman lying in bed, a heart nestled in her hair. Or the woman is upside-down, hence head-over-heels, her hair turned into legs with her heart between them. But what I love best is how the white background could be seen as a tooth and the woman’s hair as caries-in many ways the secret love in these poems is like that, something that eats one up by its very nature of having to remain secret.
2. “Secret Love Poems” is a slim volume compared to some other releases I’ve seen. Is this considered a book or chapbook of poetry? Please describe the differences between the two and whether the publication process is different for each type.

“Secret Love Poems” is a chapbook because it’s under 50 pages. A full-length poetry book is at least 70 pages probably because any thinner than that and it would be impossible to bind it. Chapbooks are usually saddle-stapled while books are perfect-bound. It’s trickier to publish a chapbook, I think, since the pages have to be numbered differently because the pages are basically letter-size paper folded in half. With a laser printer, you can make chapbooks at home.
3. You are a poetry editor of Pedestal Magazine, how did you come to this position? What does your position as an editor entail? Are there any submission tricks you’d like to share with readers?

I guest-edited an issue for Pedestal Magazine in 2006. Early 2007, Pedestal editor-in-chief, John Amen asked me if I wanted to become a permanent member of the staff and I said yes. Prior to that, I was something of a regular contributor… though not without my share of rejections. Funnily enough, my first letter from Pedestal Magazine was a rejection.
As staff editor, I’m asked to read for two issues a year. It’s quite smart actually to keep a rotating staff of editors. For every issue, we get something like two thousand poems and to have to do that all year long on your own would certainly be quite overwhelming. When I’m off-duty, I just answer questions anyone might drop in my mailbox.
Submission tricks. Personally, I like to read a group of poems as opposed to just one poem. Because we’ve got different editors for each issue, it would be a good idea to send different genres. You never know who’s behind the purple door. What else? Don’t give up; you may be the next staff editor.

Thanks Arlene. We’re going to have a great time getting to know you and your work. Thanks for taking time out of your busy, busy schedule to answer questions for Savvy Verse & Wit. Stay tuned dear readers, there is more of Arlene to come.