Regal House Publishing is proud to announce Zack Rogow as the 2019 judge for the Terry J. Cox Poetry Award.
Zack Rogow is the author, editor, or translator of twenty books and plays. He has taught poetry in a number of master of fine arts programs in creative writing, including at California College of the Arts, the University of San Francisco, and the University of Alaska Anchorage. He was the sole judge of the first Catamaran Poetry Prize, and edited an anthology of U.S. poetry, The Face of Poetry, published by University of California Press. Rogows serves as a contributing editor of Catamaran Literary Reader. He is currently compiling an anthology of international poetry. www.zackrogow.com
What makes a book of poems stand out for you?
ZR: I’m interested in the project that a poet invents, develops, and carries out in a book. If the project itself is exciting, and if the poet fulfills the promise of the project, I feel satisfied by a book. I also look for what Emily Dickinson defined as great poetry: “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” I admire writing that is so surprising and so true that it makes me shake my head in wonder.
What qualities are you looking for in a manuscript?
I’m looking for a book that surprises and delights me from the very first poem. I like a manuscript that opens my eyes to something that I might have unconsciously suspected but never saw articulated the way the poet has done. I think there are many forms of excellence in poetry, from humor to imagery to the music of language to the emotional and intellectual heft and wisdom of a book. There’s not one single way that a poetry manuscript can be terrific. The poet defines the project, and then the trick is to complete the work in the best possible way.
Do you have any advice to offer novice poets?
If you love the art of poetry, if you read widely, you will nourish yourself as an artist and keep growing. Hear many poets read their work, absorb what you can from their whole presentation as a writer and as a human. Read the work you love over and over until you understand how it does what it does to you. Learn what you can from every writer, including the ones you don’t like. The thing you are rebelling against, the world you are turning away from, leave it behind. But also know that it has a claim on you that may be powerful to combine with the new outlook that you are embracing. Find what it is that only you can write, based on your personal history, taste, and strengths.
Do you see a divide between academic and popular poetry?
Yes and no. Academic poetry emphasizes more the experience of the reader as the person who internally voices a text while looking at a page, while popular poetry stresses the experience of the reader who is reciting out loud to an audience. Ideally, great poetry works both ways, on the page, and before an audience. Some of the greatest poets were also popular artists—William Shakespeare, Anna Akhmatova, Nazim Hikmet, Langston Hughes, Pablo Neruda. But that doesn’t mean all great poetry is popular. Some is quite difficult, and is intended more for serious aficionados.
Please submit your poetry collection for the Terry J. Cox Poetry Award on our Submittable platform.
The winner of the Terry J. Cox Poetry Award will be announced on March, 30, 2019.