Over the past few weeks, my fellow editors and I have been working on a journal project. We selected two literary journals, one of mine being Asinine Poetry, did some research and presented on them. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to have an interview with the editor of Asinine Poetry via e-mail. Here is our conversation:
EC: How did Asinine Poetry get its start?
ST: Asinine Poetry started as a print zine done by some friends in the 1990s. Typical zine publishing–designed, printed, copied, and stapled at somebody’s job after everyone else left for the day. These were short themed issues, very much like mini-chapbooks, and were produced out of order: issue #3 was the first one finished, then issue #5, because the editors wanted to make sure they knew what they were doing before they actually did an issue #1! Asinine Poetry remained a very obscure zine until one of the contributors helped us bring it to the Internet, about 1999 or 2000. And so then we made a website and have been trolling along ever since.
EC: How did you come up with the unique concept for the journal?
ST: I think, to be honest, in the beginning Asinine Poetry was just a juvenile reaction to a bunch of us being constantly (and in most cases, rightfully) rejected by bigwig literary magazines. “Oh yeah, Kenyon Review? Take that, Ploughshares! Take that!” The name Asinine Poetry was both an accusation against those super-serious, pretentious citadels of literature and a declaration of our own intent. “Literature is ridiculous! Let’s be ridiculous!” So we wrote absurd limericks and rhymey, punny throwaways–and early on, it really was just a few of us doing all the writing, sort of like Mad Magazine–and then for some reason people from all over the world began to contribute. Eventually, over the years, AP evolved into an outlet for humorous poetry that is trying to say something underneath, on top of, or just to the left of the jokes. Not just stupid sonnets and silly haiku (although we still enjoy those), but poetry that uses humor and satire as a way to better understand the human condition. Think a whole issue of Billy Collins and Denise Duhamel-type poetry. Which kind of makes us sound pretentious. Dang. What one hates, one must inevitably become!
EC: How do you guys get most of your funding?
ST: Funding?! What funding? Have you seen our offices? Like many lit magazines, we run on coffee and booze. All our editors are volunteer, we (sadly) do not pay contributors, and we have a friend who runs a server, so we don’t have to pay to keep the site up. We do make a small amount of money selling compilations, like Asinine Love Poetry, or chapbooks like Asinine/11. Just recently we jumped on the erotica bandwagon and published two asinine erotic poetry anthologies, Shiny Avocado of Lust and 50 Shades of Avocado, edited by our lovely friend and frequent contributor Kate Showalter.
EC: What are your circulation numbers?
ST: Oh my. I’m not entirely sure. We used to be really into getting circ numbers, and we used to do a lot more promotionto push that along. But we’re all very busy with other projects now, so we put the issues together and send it out there, and whoever reads it, reads it, and we’re very grateful to them. At our height, we were getting about 500 readers a month. Now it’s probably about 100, tops.
You should all check out this small but one of a kind magazine! http://www.asininepoetry.com/