Finding gold & the art of publishing with Brian Morrisey

Scot:  Why did you start and how long have you been publishing Poesy?

Brian:   I started Poesy after I found a magazine on my friend’s floor during my 8th grade summer in 1989. The magazine was called Factsheet Five and it was a ‘zine review. My friend showed me these ‘zines he bought after finding them through Factsheet Five and I was amazed at the ultimate form of creative expression within these mags. Being introduced to the world of the small press was really mind-blowing for me as a weird fourteen year-old kid growing up in New Hampshire. People were having a real voice and publishing whatever they wanted to. It was the ultimate vessel of free speech I longed for. I was writing poems at the time on a personal level and sending them out, but no one was taking them. I was tired of reading bland poetry publications and gathered some poems and art of my friends who were also writing poetry and decided to start Poesy. Oddly, I didn’t put any of my own poetry in the magazine. I found it so cool just to be the editor.

I found the word Poesy after fumbling through the dictionary looking for some type of word to express what was to be the basis of my magazine and found Poesy, by definition, the art of writing poems. I believe the word has amazing chi that has carried me through the years of internal struggles that were always hard to vocalize effectively. The first issue of Poesy was published in June 1990. There is a picture of Gumby riding a dinosaur on the cover.

Scot:  In reference to poetry during that time span, what has changed?

:  As far as submissions go, the biggest change I have seen over the years (which has been the basis for my acceptances) is I see more story-telling with a lack of intense feeling ignited by descriptive imagery. It is more common than it was 10-15 years ago. There is not much wordplay anymore or general interest in words alone. The focus tends to be the poem as a whole rather than focusing on word selection and tightening each line of poem to get to the meat of the image to achieve ultimate focus.

I have seen the slam movement get big and work its way into mainstream society. I have seen poetry leave the page and countless presses fold and poems revived on websites, myspace, Facebook, youtube, etc. But print will always be my focus and basis for the art of publishing.
I haven’t seen anything though… I am only 36 and still anticipate adapting to a lot of change until I am ready to throw in the towel. There are a lot of people who have had a lot more than my 22 years of experience (4 of which Poesy was a radio show and not in print). They have probably seen more drastic changes than I have, but yeah… it has been interesting and at the same time frustrating to adapt to the changes.

Scot:  When it comes to publishing–what keeps you motivated?

Brian:  When I read a poem that makes my head spin it is so good. To me it is like finding gold. It is so beautiful to find a great poem that speaks to me and gets my blood flowing again. The poem is an extreme art form that can evoke intense feeling. When it hits, it hits hard. I need to get these poems out into the world.

My main motivation is focused on American poetry, primarily, to prove the impact of poetry on our society can be moving and evoke intense feeling. It should be treasured in our culture and not ignored. I don’t want poets to gain the fame of Hollywood celebrities, but I would like this country to recognize the greatness of poetry in relation to everyday life. Poetry is not for just for bored MFA students reciting the wrong poetry. Some resort to exercise, yoga, the beach, etc. to relieve their daily reflections of the day. Poetry is also a healthy vice to reflect and react.

Scot:  What is Brian Morrisey doing on a Sunday afternoon?

:  I am outside usually surfing, running, hiking, gardening, anything but being inside. I work endless hours in an office and Sundays are my break-free time to cut loose and blow off some steam. Unless it is press time. Then you can find me at Café Pergolesi or Lulu Carpenter’s in downtown Santa Cruz sipping endless cups of coffee slinging endless pages of copy.

Scot:  Childhood hero?

Brian:  The Fall Guy (Lee Majors)… that guy was straight up 100% cool cat bad ass.


3 Responses to “Finding gold & the art of publishing with Brian Morrisey”

  1. I especially enjoyed this interview. Poesy has been one of my favorite journals and I hadn’t been sure about the status of its return after the earlier hiatus. It’s interesting to see what appeals in a poem, too.

  2. Linda Lerner Says:

    A good interview and I especially appreciate what you said about the kind of poetry frequently being submitted today that deals more with story-telling, and less on “intense feeling created by the imagery,” which goes with what you said later about looking for the kind of poem that makes (your) head split it is so good.” A lot of poems today that I hear at readings are also political rants, and rants about the ills of society.

  3. Thank you for the day you were born, Brian—
    You are a treasure indeed!

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