Brian Spears

Poet, Editor, Teacher, Blogger.

Good cover letter advice

My old friend Chet (Alan to pretty much everyone else) is an editor at Relief, and he just posted some advice on cover letters. Some of it is specific to their journal, since it’s a Christian journal, like this piece.

Do not tell us that God wants us to publish you.

Lots of people tell us we should accept a story because God told them to write it. Some imply—or even say—that if we don’t accept a story we’re going against His wishes. Now, we certainly believe that the Spirit can move in people when they write, and that God’s hand, especially when requested, is capable of guiding creativity. This fact alone, however, is not a free pass to publication. And telling an editor up front that they’re sinning if they don’t publish you is a really good way to bias your reading.

I will freely admit, however, that the reason they published me was because I threatened to infect them with my atheist cooties unless they gave in.

P.S. The rest of the advice really is top-notch as well, no matter who you’re submitting to.

September 10, 2008 Posted by | Alan Ackmann, Relief | Leave a comment

Just waiting for my copy to get here

My much anticipated copy of Relief should be on the way sometime soon. As I’ve mentioned before, this publication means a lot to me in large part because it’s the first time Amy and I will be published in the same journal at the same time. But it’s also a pretty big deal to me because of the size of the poem they took. It was ten sections long, which translated into 7 pages in the galleys they sent me. (Beautiful, by the way. Molto bene!)

That’s a lot of space for any journal to give to one poet, unless you’re the Missouri Review, and that’s just what you do. As I understand it, this is not standard procedure for Relief, and it means a lot to me that they were willing to accept the poem without asking me to cut any of the sections. That they made it the Editor’s Choice for poetry was just icing on the cake.

I’ll have some bigger publication news in the near future.

August 22, 2008 Posted by | Relief | Leave a comment

Well that was fun

A little redesign, a little movement, a little redirecting of the blog to where it now comes up on my own domain name, which was going largely unused and sitting dormant, and here we are. Note to blogger–if you can get it so we can publish via ftp using the new xml layouts, that would be incredibly awesome. The only drawback to this move was that I had to go back to a classic template, and there’s not a lot to choose from out there, classically-speaking.

And I am re-devoting myself to writing about poetry, so this will be updated more regularly in the coming months. I get so wrapped up in politics and pop culture over at Incertus that I tend to let this go sometimes, but I’ve been reading a lot of poetry–some I’ve enjoyed and some not so much–and I plan to express that on here a bit more in the future.

Plus, I have a new long poem coming out soon–in the next issue of Relief–and what’s more, it will be the first time Amy and I will be featured in the same issue of the same journal. We’re both excited about that.

And special thanks to Ron Silliman for linking to my post about Poem of a Life. I’ve never had so much traffic here.

August 2, 2008 Posted by | Amy Letter, Incertus, Relief, updates | Leave a comment

Publishing news

Got word late last night that Relief A Christian Quarterly Expression has accepted a (very) long poem of mine for publication. I don’t have all the details yet, but if they took it all, then wow, because it’s ten sections long, practically a chapbook. It would be my most substantial publication to date, at least in volume. It’s also an interesting place for me to publish, for the same reasons Amy mentioned here.

Most of the poem tells the story of what Jehovah’s Witnesses called a “quick-build Kingdom Hall,” a project where hundreds of volunteers would get together and build, from the ground up, a church that would be about 95% complete in 96 hours. (They used to do them in 48, but there were too many accidents and aggravated neighbors.) And most of the poem comes from the point of view of the believer, which is why I sent it to Relief–it’s a poem that didn’t get any traction with traditional journals.

But this is the surprising thing. They took it even though it has this poem as the closing section.

That house may stand a hundred years,
may outlive me for all I know.
We built it strong enough to stand
the Devil’s breath.
But now

I don’t believe the Devil breathes,
don’t count on paradise, don’t live
for future possibility,
don’t think that I will be revived

to walk with elephants and lions.
Paul said that when I was a child,
I spake as one, and thought as one.

Who knew that I’d consider my

disruption from the faith as my
commencement, graduation to
a fuller life. I’m proud of that
building, although I’ll never go

through its doors again. At times
I catch myself whistling the psalms
we sang: This house we built for you
Oh Lord, this house we built for you.

In the end, the poem is about a person who has lost his faith, but who can’t quite bring himself to hate what he once believed, even though his move away from faith cost him dearly. That a Christian journal would publish voices who openly question belief is an odd idea, but it’s one I hope persists.

May 15, 2008 Posted by | "Hall Raising", publications, Relief | Leave a comment