Poetry Month, Day Three: Nick McRae Recommends Birmingham Poetry Review

April 3, 2013

When David asked me if there were any journals, presses, reading series, or other such venues for poetry that I might want to praise and share with our readers here on the 32 Poems blog, I had to do a lot of hard thinking.

For about half a second. Maximum.

For me, maybe the most exciting time of the year is that day in early spring when I open my mailbox and find, nestled among the Ohio Democratic Party leaflets and coupon booklets addressed to CURRENT RESIDENT, the newest issue of Birmingham Poetry Review. Don’t let my jokey tone obscure the fact that I really mean that. BPR was one of the first journals I ever submitted my work to, and it was the first journal ever to return work to me with an honest-to-God handwritten note penciled in the margins. That was huge for me. It put a human face (well, hand, but you know what I mean) on the world of literary publishing that felt, at the time, like somewhere a scared kid like me couldn’t possibly be welcome. It was the first time anyone outside of my very small undergraduate writing community at the University of West Georgia had ever seen enough value in my poems to reach out and tell me they thought I was onto something.

Though BPR’s look and masthead have changed a lot in the years since then, that personal touch has remained. Adam Vines, the current editor, always takes the time to build relationships with his contributors and to encourage good poetry wherever he sees it. Anyone who has had the pleasure to meet him in person knows that he’s a kind and caring man with a palpable love for writers and writing, and that love absolutely shows on the pages of BPR. In the latest issue, #40, you can feel an exciting sense of community in the way the poems speak to one another. Community, but not homogeneity. For example, anyone who knows my work very well knows that I have a deep love for the sonnet, and there are plenty of sonnets in BPR #40, but there are also prose poems, sprawling free-verse lines, translations, playful sound games, and a whole lot of other stuff. And so far, just about every poem has knocked me flat.

When I first discovered Birmingham Poetry Review, it was a great little journal, humble and somewhat old-fashioned in appearance—which I loved—and bursting at the seams with the kind of poems I wished I could write, and over the years I have watched that little journal transform from my pet favorite into a slick, professional, world-class poetry venue. There’s no journal I would recommend more highly. Well, there’s 32 Poems. But you’re already reading 32 Poems, aren’t you? That’s what I thought. Go subscribe to BPR. It’s $5.00 a year. Yes, you read that right. Now go do it.

Nick McRae

*Throughout Poetry Month 32 Poems would like to use this space to praise the presses, journals, and readings series that bring  poetry to us in a special way. Our hope is that we can point new fans in their direction and publicly thank editors and curators for their work. Check in with us again tomorrow for another poet’s recommendation.

Nick McRae is the author of The Name Museum and the chapbooks Mountain Redemption and Moravia. He is the editor of Gathered: Contemporary Quaker Poets. His poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry ReviewMeasureThe Southern Review, and elsewhere. This summer Nick will join the staff of the Sewanee Writers’ Conference.

Previous post:

Next post: