Jeremy Hammack reads poetry as C.T. Salazar and Thomas Richardson listen at Books and Boards in Columbus Friday afternoon. The three are editors of “Dirty Paws Poetry Review,” an online poetry magazine, which Salazar started. The first issue went online Wednesday Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff
December 26, 2017 10:26:01 AM
When C.T. Salazar saw the dirty paw prints left on the steps to his apartment from his landlord's cat, Humus, inspiration struck.
"Dirty Paws Poetry Review." That would be the name of the online poetry magazine he planned to start.
A published poet himself, Salazar was interested in starting a magazine that featured the type of poetry he likes.
"We want poetry that is unashamed of facing the truth, unapologetic about having hope," Salazar said.
He thought the term "dirty paws" described that kind of poem.
"A name like 'Dirty Paws Poetry Review' doesn't exactly invite the overly flowery, everything-is-wonderful kind of poetry," Salazar said.
Last week, that inspiration became reality when Dirty Paws' first edition went live, featuring 26 poems by 20 poets from all over the country -- some of them with their own books of poetry already in bookstores and others who had never before been published.
Assembling the project
Salazar began writing poetry seriously about two years ago, when he started as a graduate student at Mississippi University for Women's creative writing program. He's been featured in more than a half-dozen publications, and earlier this year placed in a national poetry competition held by the Association of Writers and Writer's Programs' Intro Journal Project.
But when he came up with the idea for the magazine eight months ago, it was the first time he'd ever been on the editing side of poetry.
He began reaching out to friends who he thought would be interested in helping edit and publish the works.
"(Salazar and I) started the MFA program at the W at the same time," said contributing editor Thomas Richardson, a local teacher who is in MUW's creative writing program with Salazar. "... We read each other's stuff for the last few years, and I have a lot of respect for him and his writing."
Salazar also reached out to Jeremy Hammack, an employee at the downtown bookstore Books and Boards who Salazar knew through arranging spoken word nights at the store.
In September, once he had an editorial staff, Salazar began the call for submissions on Twitter and writers' websites like DuoTrope and NewPages. By Nov. 15, the day Salazar closed submissions, he had a pile of 700.
With Books and Boards as a makeshift home base, Salazar, Hammack and another MUW graduate student, Exodus Brownlow, began reading. Salazar read all of them -- the "slush pile," as he called it -- and sent the better half to Hammack and Brownlow who further narrowed it down.
"He would come with this stack of submissions, and I would just help kind of weed through it," Hammack said.
After some back and forth, the staff had 40 poems they were considering. From there, Salazar used his mission statement -- unashamed of truth and unapologetic of hope -- to pick the final 26.
Hammack and Richardson both said they were impressed with the quality of poetry the magazine got for its first issue.
"(We were) expecting to have that conversation of, 'Oh, it's going to get better,'" Hammack said. "And (we're) not having to do that."
"I've seen some first issues of other journals, and I think we're doing better than expected," he said. "...This issue stands on its own."
With his friend Alex Pieschel, who designed the magazine's website, Salazar published the first edition and posted the link to Twitter and other social media Wednesday. Within an hour, more than 1,000 people had visited the site.
"It jumped," Salazar said. "It grew really well."
Salazar said Dirty Paws is part of a growing trend of online poetry magazines and literary journals. That, in addition to poems in well-established publications like "Poetry" magazine and "The Paris Review," have helped make poetry more popular in the last few years.
"I think the internet has really helped poetry," he said. "A poem fits so well on a mobile device too. On your phone, you can scroll and read one because they're little boxes of space."
Still, he said it's the age and history that he likes best about poetry.
"If you consider the age of poetry ... it goes back to as long as people were talking to each other," he said. "The original intended audience for poetry was the gods. People were writing hymns and psalms ... the gods were perfect, but our poems were the only thing (they) couldn't get without going through us first.
"So I think even though now it's this contemporary thing, and it's full of irony, and it's usually irreverent and funny, I think it still kind of holds on to that really old, awesome reverent past," he added.
As for Dirty Paws, Salazar plans to have two issues per year, with every other issue having some sort of theme. He plans to start accepting submissions for the next edition in the spring.
To read the first edition, go to https://dirtypawspoetry.com/issues.
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