Our Interview with Michael Rothenberg
Michael Rothenberg is the editor of the long-running and outstanding publication Big Bridge(www.bigbridge.org) and has been published in many online and print publications. He has also published several books of poetry. He is the co-editor of Jack Magazine. You can learn more about his dedication to writers and the craft of writing at http://www.bigbridge.org/bioroth.htm.
EWR: What was your goal in creating Big Bridge, and do you feel you have met that goal over the past years?
Rothenberg: What I tried to do with Big Bridge is to loosen up the boundaries of poetry and art and create a more expressionistic realm for publication. I felt the internet allowed for an expansiveness of ideas and associations that wasn’t happening in print magazines, or happening rarely. With the internet I could use all kinds of images without worrying about color reproduction costs. Also, I wanted to see an expansion of editorial policy toward a less academic and more ecstatic field of creative inquiry.
EWR: What are some of the difficulties you’ve run into in operating Big Bridge? Do you received a lot of submissions, and are they generally hard to keep up with?
Rothenberg: The most difficult part of Big Bridge is actually maintaining the site. I think people underestimate the work involved with keeping things going. It takes consistency and perseverance. I have trimmed back my goal of putting out two or three issues a year. I feel I’m doing enough to get one issue up. And these single Big Bridge issues are huge so if people are really interested in reading a poetry mag and not just getting published in one there are plenty of things to read in a single issue of Big Bridge. I receive a lot of submissions but it is not too hard to deal with them. I welcome them.
EWR: Big Bridge has published many outstanding authors, and it truly has place among some of the best publications. Did you know what you would be able to accomplish with the journal when it began over 9 years ago?
Rothenberg: Big Bridge has evolved and allowed for a lot more than I ever imagined. It represents a much broader community of approaches than I ever knew existed. I learn from each issue. That makes it work for me.
EWR: What are you looking for when you are reading submissions to the journal? What do you hope to publish?
Rothenberg: really don’t know what I am looking for. I never have. The answer to life?
EWR: You have been published in many prestigious literary journals. Do you feel being the editor of Big Bridge gives you insight into getting your own work published?
Rothenberg: As editor of Big Bridge I stay connected to the publication scene and that makes it easier for me to get a sense of who is publishing what and when they might be interested in seeing my efforts. I try to read other journals and more than anything to become familiar with editorial concerns of other magazines. It makes it easier to focus your submissions. Prior to the internet I published very little work and so the internet gave me a lot more confidence about submission. As editor of Big Bridge I can also be more sympathetic toward other publishers about whether they use my work or not. It is often not as simple as “they don’t like me.” Sometimes editors just don’t have enough space or the direction of an issue isn’t going a way that matches the work you want to publish with them.
EWR: What are some of your favorite literary magazines or zines? Other than Big Bridge are there publications you like to read on a regular basis?
Rothenberg: This is a tough question. There are way too many magazines to limit myself to a few. And my taste changes, sometimes I read one and then I am more interested in another. A quick but in no way thorough possibility for readers might include, 2River View, 88: A Journal of Contemporary American Poetry, First Intensity, Fish Drum, Fulcrum, Golden Handcuffs Review, House Organ, Lungfull!, milk, One Less, Otolith, Shuffle Boil, Vanitas; Versal, Whord For/ Word, 5_Trope, Archipelago Del Sol Review, Frank’s Place, Jacket, Madhatter’s Review, and Unlikely Stories.
EWR: Do you have any advice for someone thinking of starting a literary publication?
Rothenberg: Do it.
EWR: What type of submissions are you looking for at Big Bridge Press? Is there anything you’ve been hoping to publish but haven’t seen in a submission?
Rothenberg: Like I said, I have no idea what I am looking for. And once I do know what I am looking for I will probably take Big Bridge offline and run screaming into the dark!
EWR: What will your next book be about, and when can we expect it?
Rothenberg: I am thinking about a couple of manuscripts these days. One that interests me a lot isElementals which reflects on a couple of years of fire, death and political chaos. I haven’t found a publisher for it yet.
EWR: Do you have any advice for new writers or editors or anything else you would like to add?
Rothenberg: Never be afraid to write what you want to write. You are on your own as a writer and though community is important it should never dictate your voice as writer or your choices as an editor, for that matter. In fact, if it is a real community it will encourage and support diversity at every opportunity, rather than cater to an established monotony.