Special Edition, Mom Knees: Editor Marjorie Tesser and The Mom Egg with Nicelle Davis of The Bee’s Knees Blog
Marjorie Tesser is editor for Bowery Books, Bob Holman’s independent poetry press, and co-edited the Bowery anthologies Bowery Women: Poems and Estamos Aqui´: Poems by Migrant Farmworkers; she is also editor and publisher of The Mom Egg, a journal. Her poetry manuscript, The Important Thing Is… was the winner of the inaugural Firewheel Chapbook Award, and will be published by Firewheel/Sentence in 2009. She produced Bowery Women: Shoot the Poem!, a videopoetry festival, with assistance from the Center for Experimental Television, and has performed with the Harmattan Theater Company in NYC. She is on the board of trustees of Four Way Books.
How did you come up with the project The Mom Egg? What are some of the advantages / disadvantages of running a themed publication?
The Mom Egg was originally conceived by Joy Rose as part of the Mamapalooza Festival, an annual event celebrating the creativity of mother/artists. Alana Ruben Free was founding editor. I was asked to come on as co-editor, and did so with Alana for Mom Egg Vol. 4-6. This past year I received a grant to construct a website and expand the publication, now independent; Alana decided to focus on her playwriting, and no longer co-edits. So I inherited the theme of the publication, as well as the quirky name. There are challenges in editing a niche publication, but rewards as well. I believe that historically, and still today, women’s creative work has been in the general scheme of things overlooked and condescended to; that of mothers, even more so. So the publication’s mission of promoting mother artists and the subject matter of motherhood is still justified and necessary. Even though there are parameters for contributions (we publish work “by mothers about everything, and by everyone about mothers”) the work we receive is anything but monochromatic. We’ve had contributions from teen-aged moms and grandmothers, from mothers with diverse economic, ethnic, and social backgrounds. Mom Egg contributors come from all across the US and Canada, and from Europe and Asia. They bring their perceptions as mothers and artists to subject matter such as war, poverty, social injustice, illness, caring for the infirm and elderly, as well as to the miracles and demands of child-rearing, and the joys and requirements of the creative mandate.
What makes a poem really shine? How do you choose one poem over another in the selections process?
I look for work that goes beyond the what and the how to the why or the what if or the so what; work that gives me a fresh perspective on something I’ve experienced or gives me a portal to a different world. I like poems that occur at intersections of thoughts. I’m a sucker for a particularly adroit description or phrase, lyrical or blunt. I’m not too keen on sentimentality or preachiness; we also don’t publish “how to parent” kind of stuff—there are other publications with that focus. I like both modern, experimental poetry and traditional forms (I pay more attention to what’s in the box than the box, but a really coolly wrapped box is fun too). Assembling a journal issue is like building a stone wall; the pieces have to be individually beautiful but also to fit together in a way that’s solid.
What book are you reading now? What book(s) would you recommend?
I tend to read bits of lots of books at once. I’m a huge fan of Marie Ponsot’s and just got her new book, Easy. I’ve found the poems in Rachel McKibbens’ debut Pink Elephant (Cypher Books) memorable and sometimes disturbing. There are many small presses who put out wonderful books, among them Four Way Books and Coffee House Press and the press I edit for, Bowery Books. Fay Chiang’s book for Bowery, 7 Continents 9 Lives, will be out this winter. Fay has had work in The Mom Egg; I admire the power and honesty of her writing. I also read a lot of litmags, online and print. A few I like are Pif Magazine, A Gathering of the Tribes, Open City, and Drunken Boat, but there are many more. And of course, reading submissions for The Mom Egg 2010 (Vol. 8)!
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