What We’re Looking For: Poetry, Lumina XIII

Poetry Editor Julia Weiss on the astonishing, groundbreaking, heart-wrenching poetry submissions of her dreams.


I once asked New York State Poet Laureate Marie Howe in a conference what she aims to create. Though she has many aspirations, most of which she’s humbly already met, the one that stuck out to me was her wish to create poetry that is timeless. I once told myself that I aim to create work that is on par with Marie Howe’s. We all have dreams, I suppose. So here, if you will, is a LUMINA Poetry “Howe-To”:

What am I looking for? I’m looking for words that come together to create a deeper meaning. A manifesto of why you think we’re all on this earth. A personal experience you’ve had with death. I’m looking for what has compelled you to write in the first place: passion. After passion, I’m looking for originality (for example, rhyming “together” with “forever” is not a mind blowing new concept) but not to the point of craziness. Don’t get weird for the sake of being weird. We aren’t looking for superheroes, folks, just superb writers. Putting one word that means the same thing all over the page and somehow shaping it to form a tree isn’t going to cut it. I want to read prose, persona poems, and anything so imaginative that I’m pissed off that I didn’t write it myself. I want to read about a new world you created. I want to read about human experiences. I want to see that you gave your word choice unrelenting thought and that you took your editing process seriously. I don’t care if I don’t agree with your views (although this is not an invitation to get all Tony Hoagland on us) as long as they’re well thought out and well crafted. Basically, I want my heart to be fluttering when I see your work because I am so blown away by your words. Try and nix all cliches and thoughts that seem familiar. Please use punctuation! Show me that you have been reading other poets and are constantly taking notes. Play around with line breaks. Get all Sylvia Plath on me if you want. Just make sure your poems will affect others. Yes, we’ve all been through break-ups and heartache, but if you’ve said it better than anyone else, we want to read it (again, rhyming “heart” and “broken apart” most likely won’t make the journal)!

Lastly, and most importantly, congratulations on being brave and submitting your work if you choose to do so. I know the writing process is a difficult one, and the hardest part is letting go and entrusting your work to someone else. I consider it an honor to be the Poetry Editor of LUMINA staff and I will treat your work with great respect. Rest assured, like AllState, you will be in good hands.

Good luck!

Happy Submitting!