The Colonial Complex in Literary Submissions

Owning a culture is problematic. That is one of the fundamental flaws of white power. Many of the authors we read as editors believe witnessing, visiting and experiencing implies ownership. For example, because I was there for the birth of my child does not mean I can speak for – or rather, own – the female experience of childbirth. Likewise, just because someone watches Disney’s Coco and takes a trip to Cancun does not certify them as Mexican. That is to say, when a white author speaks with a voice of ownership as it pertains to another culture and then filters that ideal through the lens of power, that text inherently becomes whitewashed. As readers of a prominent literary journal, in a white majority slush pile, we are forced to endure countless assimilationist submissions.

We enter whitewashed universes that promote the constant fetishization of Asian culture via the “spiritual” white experience of yoga. How can an entire story base itself around yoga and not include one minority character? We wander across western plazas with characters whose described appearances could only be explained as caricatures of Native American culture. Likewise – like a broken record – the white, middle-class, high-school character arc seems to be the most common basis of plot. Perhaps, these high-brow narratives have stepped away from the brown boyfriends being hyper-masculinized and the black boyfriends toxically sexualized. However, exoticizing a minority student to give the white, middle-class, high school character the identity they so desperately crave is arguably just as toxic.

White authors, can you please stop going on vacation! Editors cannot take the magic of your inherently white experience in these places. Unless you are writing commentary about characters at Burning Man or Coachella, take a pass on appropriating someone else’s culture and romantically writing about your inauthentic, mixed tribe, pseudo-Native head dress and howlite (fake turquoise) jewelry. Remember, just because you went to a Native American casino does not classify you to be the voice of Andrew Jackson’s Trail of Tears.

This does not mean you should include a simple disclaimer – I AM A WHITE MALE or FEMALE OF PRIVILEDGE AND AM ABOUT TO SPEAK FOR MEXICAN FEMINITY – that is immediately abandoned; rather, write with the awareness that the culture you are writing about is something that is shared with you. You do not own it. You cannot manipulate it. And you will never sell it as purely authentic. Acknowledge that your experience is true, only for you, not for the collective culture. Therefore, if you ever visit Jamaica you do not become the owner of the Rastafari voice and you do not have to come back smoking weed, wearing beanies, and growing out your dreads. Be authentic to yourself and I will not forget after I visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in California that I did not attend Hogwarts and I am not of English descent.

The real issue seems to be fear. Minority authors are afraid they will be avidly rejected because of the last names on their submissions, and often that still happens. However, as it comes to journals you would actually be proud to have your work in, editors welcome authors’ voices that are not inherently cursed with the colonial complex. On the other spectrum, most white authors believe that without a minority culture they wouldn’t have a culture of their own. Yet, too often this fetishization and exoticization leads to unconscious assimilation. Minority authors, it is time to lose your fear and just PRESS SEND. Save future readers and editors from insurmountable submissions filled with cultural appropriation and let us hear your voices instead.

Blue Mesa Review: 30 Years and Counting

rudolfo anaya

Rudolfo Anaya

Blue Mesa Review was founded by Rudolfo Anaya in 1989. Anaya, a Creative Writing instructor at the time, wanted a space for New Mexican and Southwestern writers to publish their work while helping creative writing students gain experience in the publishing industry. With this goal in mind, Anaya approached the Dean, and said out of the clear blue sky, “Can you give me $5,000 and we’ll do a literary magazine everyone will be proud of? It’s a logical outgrowth of our Creative Writing program.” This magazine would be a way to develop not only writers in the program, but also writers in the reading and writing communities that surrounded the university.

The Dean said yes, and we’ve been going ever since.

These 30 years have been ones of learning. Reading submissions, copy editing, contacting authors—all of these duties and more are handled by the Blue Mesa staff, which includes graduate editors, a faculty advisor, and our team of graduate and undergraduate readers. But they have also been years of storytelling and connecting, both through the development of our own work and craft, and the work we as editors select for the magazine. The tradition of sharing and exchanging through voice, tradition, and craft is what has made Blue Mesa Review the literary platform it is today.

Blue Mesa Review Issue 5

Blue Mesa Review Issue 5

From faculty editors, including David Johnson, Marisa P. Clark, and Julie Shigekuni, to student editors, like Steve Howe and Hayley Peterson (our last two EICs), Blue Mesa Review’s baton has been passed down through UNM’s Creative Writing ranks for 30 years. And in our 30 years and soon-to-be 40 issues, our contributors have included Jimmy Santiago Baca, Sandra Cisneros, Joy Harjo, Sherwin Bitsui, and other top-notch writers. Blue Mesa Review’s history of publication has boasted strong and diverse line-ups, and those voices have brought their identities, cultures, and creativity to an international arena through BMR. Whatever role we have played in Blue Mesa Review—editor, author, reader—each of us has contributed to a tradition of storytelling, cultural identity, and craft.

As a landscape of intersectionality and diversity, the Southwest is the perfect place for beautiful intersectional art to grow, and we are here to help tend those roots in our community and beyond, into the global cultural and literary community. At Blue Mesa Review, we will continue to support and publish voices of the Southwest and the world at large, and foster connections between our academic circle and the rich literary traditions of Albuquerque and New Mexico. Here’s to another 30 years.


Blue Mesa Review Staff

Would you like to be featured in the 30th Anniversary Issue (Issue 40) of Blue Mesa Review? There’s still time to submit to the 2019 Summer Contest! For full information, please check out our Submittable:

Summer Reads with Blue Mesa Review

Classes are back in full swing at the University of New Mexico, but we’re not quite ready to let summer go. Keep reading to find out what each of our editors recommends you pick up from their summer reading list!

Tori Cárdenas – Editor in Chief

This summer, I’ve been reading Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark to prepare for my comprehensive exams. I first heard about the Golden State Killer on my favorite podcast’s very first episode, My Favorite Murder. It’s the first true crime book I’ve read front to back—partly because true crime has always frightened me, but also because McNamara’s style of writing is so compelling (Karen and Georgia are also the funniest ladies on the planet, so that helped too).

McNamara employs these immersive POV shifts that connected me emotionally with the action, but still let me keep a detective’s objective distance when it got to be too much; she echoes these chilling metaphors and images throughout the text, creating tension and a nagging paranoia. This book is helping to give a depth and substance to my dissertation that I couldn’t have developed on my own, and I’m glad I overcame my fear of true crime enough to read it. I also recently moved into a new house and am currently suspicious of everyone.

Check out I’ll be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara here:

Mario Montoya – Fiction Editor

Recently, a good friend (and BMR Associate Editor) Mitch Marty, gifted me a book that I can’t set down. Anybody who grew up bumping rap in the nineties will feel the same. It’s called Go Ahead in the Rain by Hanif Abdurraqib, his third, and it focuses on exactly what it says on the cover: “It is a love letter to a group, a sound and an era.”

The group is A Tribe Called Quest, the highly influential rap collective from Queens, New York, that changed the sound of rap forever, introducing a hip-hop, jazz fusion. For rap fans who experienced “The Golden Era” of rap, ATCQ’s music is considered a soundtrack to that time, a blueprint of sorts. And Abdurraqib takes us through his own fandom, from childhood to young adulthood, alongside the rise and sudden fall of one of rap’s most iconic groups.

Check out Go Ahead in the Rain by Hanif Abdurraqib here:

Michelle Gurule – Nonfiction Editor

The first book I jumped into off my summer reading list was Danzy Senna’s, New People. The novel is set in Brooklyn and follows soon to be married interracial couple, Maria and Khalil, on a bit of a downward spiral. Senna tackles race, identity, stereotypes, lust, and—what I perceived as the sort of existential restlessness of being a 27-year-old woman—through wickedly smart characters and hilarious subplots, which are both true to life and occasionally so outlandish (and yet, totally plausible) that I couldn’t be pulled away. New People is equal parts comedy and wit, which, as a humor writer, I find to be a challenging balance to bring to the page. I loved this novel for its premise and craft. There is so much to learn from Danzy Senna.

Check out New People by Danzy Senna here:

Darren Donate – Poetry Editor

The books that stood out to me the most over the course of my summer-reading were Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous and Maurice Manning’s One Man’s Dark. I believe that Vuong’s work pushes the language of the contemporary novel to its absolute edge—it’s impactful, but not ornamentary. There are no dull moments in On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous and I hope to be able to teach it in the classroom one day.

One Man’s Dark is a testament to Manning’s vision of Kentucky. Reading Manning’s poetry had me reflect on hyper-regionalism (and its representation) in contemporary poetics. Manning is able to capture his roots with poise, empathy, and humor—something that I wish to capture in my own writing. And now that I have One Man’s Dark in my hands, I have a model I can endlessly learn from.

Check out On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong here:
Check out One Man’s Dark by Maurice Manning here:

Seth Garcia – Poetry Editor

This summer (read: my whole life) I’ve been coping with my anxiety by reading poetry. I finally picked up Leaves of Grass in honor of Whitman’s bicentennial birthday. Forrest Gander’s Be With was also a sad and memorable collection.

And yet, one of the most impressive standouts has been Shane McCrae’s The Gilded Auction Block. Apart from being a poetry-producing machine (this guy churns out a book every other year like clockwork) McCrae writes some of the most syntactically interesting work today.

In stuttering language which masterfully mimics both the Trumpian rhetorical style and the distressed mind of one who has to put up with it, McCrae pays homage (read: brilliant critique) to the present moment. Whether in poems examining his past experiences with his neo-Nazi grandmother, or fantasizing about what death would look like if God turned out to be aligned with our dogmatic administration, McCrae proves (like all other great poets) that the personal is political.

Check out Leaves of Grass here:
Check out Be With by Forrest Gander here:
Check out The Gilded Auction Block by Shane McCrae here:

Ari McGuirk – Managing Editor

I read twelve books this summer to prepare for my comprehensive exams and for a seminar I’m taking this fall. Memoirs, essay collections, novels, and even a comic—they begged me to reconsider the limitations I’d placed on my own project. But one stood out to me above all others: Tommy Orange’s There, There.

This novel weaves over a dozen character arcs together with stunning precision. Each line drips with voice while juggling numerous points of view. Orange’s characters are flawed, winning, fully fleshed, human. More importantly, they’re all native peoples. As the book points out, too often people have antiquated notions, based in stereotypes, of what it means to live as a native person in this country. Orange banishes those colonialist ideas into oblivion, writing his characters and their struggles as they exist in modernity, all the while reminding his readers of the history of native peoples on this continent.

Check out There, There by Tommy Orange here:

Mitch Marty – Associate Editor

Love, death, and taxidermy. Or Mostly Dead Things. If I left it at just the title, the vibrant green cover with its stark pink flamingo would be enough to entice a fair number of people, but Kristen Arnett packs worlds into this novel set in a central Florida town that feels on the edge of ruin. The narrator, a queer taxidermist named Jessa-Lynn, finds her father splayed out in the back of their family shop with a suicide note that tasks her with keeping her family together. The broken family dynamic, the haze of cheap beer, and the dilapidated state of the town not only reminded me of life in the rural Midwest, but about how place becomes a character in its own right and drives a compelling thread of this story that borders on leaving, staying, a sense of obligation, and an inability to escape from yourself and your choices.

Grief, history, and death cling to these pages like the thick humidity of Florida’s summer. They could be as suffocating as the smell of roadkill once the sun breaks over the asphalt, but Arnett creates such a fantastic web through the narrative of these chapters as they bounce between the present and the past that I kept wanting to see what fresh kill might be stuffed next in the back of the family shop, what new hybrid display of sex and taxidermy crafted by Jessa’s mother might appear in the gallery across town, and how the burden of family might be rectified.

Check out Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett here:

Lastly, don’t forget to submit your work! We only have eleven days left of our Summer Contest judged by Jake Skeets, Lesley Arimah, and Francisco Cantú. To get an idea of what we’ve published previously and what we might be looking for, make sure to read over the editor blogs that we’ve been publishing since June first and check out our most recent publications on our website.


Mitch Marty Editor Photo

Mitch Marty, Associate Editor

Over the last couple months of blogs, a few of the new editors have hit on the recurring theme of looking back at the roots of Blue Mesa Review with our founder Rudolfo Anaya’s original vision for the magazines in mind. I’ve been thinking about how to pull in a renewed focus on the Southwest while transitioning from Managing Editor to Associate Editor. I’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about home. What that looks like. What it feels like. The types of stories that represent the feeling of a place more as a character than as a backdrop.

For me, the heart of the heart of the country is the open road. It’s most vivid in low elevations with high humidity, rolling hills with expansive dreams misplaced in the burgeoning farmlands of the Midwest. It’s where I was born and raised, but I know it doesn’t look the same to everyone. I see it everywhere I go: in the high desert of Albuquerque as a roadrunner plucks a lizard from the side of a house and darts across Ridgecrest; in the reservoir streaked with sunlight along the Willamette National Forest at dawn in Oregon; in the closed maw of an alligator patiently waiting for a visitor at the Alachua Sink in Florida. In the Southwest, home is in the Sandia sunsets, golden hour clipped with hues of orange and pink like scoops of sherbet in a Tupperware bowl, flecked with watermelon seeds of trees all across the mountains. No matter where you’re from, where you’re going, you can see it, feel it, smell it, if you slow down to let it wash over you. And that’s what I want to read in your work, whether poetry, nonfiction, or fiction. Work whose electric breath radiates a new pulse through my fingertips as my hands rest on the keyboard while I read your submission. Work that tells your story with specificity, like what it means to hear your neighbor blast ”Jumper” by Third Eye Blind at 7:00 am every Sunday morning, stories that speak multitudes. Honest work that balances the dark and light parts of who you are and what you’ve experienced.

As the new Associate Editor, I take care of a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes at Blue Mesa Review. Like last year, I’ll design the new issues of the magazine and create other flyers and promotional material (for the Works in Progress Reading Series in Albuquerque and our table at AWP San Antonio this Spring). I’ll manage and maintain the website, and alongside Ari McGuirk, curate blogs that speak to the Southwest, Literature, Politics, and the landscape where all of these intersect. I’ll read the work you submit as I think about how to best design an issue that reflects the nuances of the work we’ll publish.

I’m also drumming up new ideas for the 30th Anniversary of Blue Mesa Review. If you’ve been following our social media accounts, you’ll already know that we’ve been touring some of the Little Free Libraries around Albuquerque, dropping off back issues of the magazine. And this week, while on a trek back to my homeland in the Midwest to kick up memories for my creative work, I’ve brought a little piece of the Southwest with me. If you can’t make it to Albuquerque to catch the sun set off the Sandias and grab a back issue, you may still be in luck, because I’ll be dropping some off in Little Free Libraries along the way (as far East as Lafayette, Indiana, and as far North as Richland Center, Wisconsin). Make sure you’re following us on Instagram, Twitter, and/or Facebook to see if you might be able to pick up a copy of Blue Mesa Review in your own town.

Lastly, don’t forget to submit your work! We only have a few weeks left of our Summer Contest judged by Jake Skeets, Lesley Arimah, and Francisco Cantú. To get an idea of what we’ve published previously and what we might be looking for, make sure to read over the editor blogs that we’ve been publishing since June first, pick up a back issue from a Little Free Library near you, or check out our most recent publications on our website.

Manage This

Ari McGuirk, Managing Editor

I’m entering my final year of UNM’s MFA program as Blue Mesa Review’s Managing Editor. My editorial responsibilities probably aren’t interesting to someone curious about what to submit to our magazine. Not that I wouldn’t be happy to walk you through my process for complex decisions like “bold or italics?” in meeting minutes. But I think, as a submitter, you’ll likely encounter me as a reader. If I like your submission, I can drop your manuscript in the Genre Editor’s inbox for immediate consideration. And since I write prose, that’s usually what I read from our contest submissions and from the slush pile in the spring (sorry poets).

Like other editors have written, we’re looking for Southwestern voices – what we mean is that we do not want underrepresented writers from this part of the country to feel discouraged from submitting to us. We are Blue Mesa Review, and if you’ve read our EIC Tori’s blog, you’ll know we aim not only to be an Albuquerque-based magazine, but to represent New Mexico nationally and internationally. But if you’re not from here, don’t sweat it – we want to read your work and hear your voice, too. I’m a transplant who has called more than a dozen places home in my not-yet-thirty-years, and I’ve learned that if you show this land the respect it deserves, it will teach you a new beauty.

If you haven’t read Michelle’s thoughts about voice or Mario’s hunger for singularity, for the unique story that only you can tell, you should. And not just because I agree with them. By allowing us to read the individual encounter that you have with reality, either through short story, memoir, flash, or personal essay, you’re generously allowing me to learn more about the world.

I’m not the most complicated reader: I like pieces with high stakes. I like urgency, specificity, sharp dialogue, and lyric conciseness. I like figuring out why the narrator is telling me their story. And if for some reason the piece is not doing what I usually like, I like figuring out why I don’t understand it, and how it’s successful beyond my traditional sensibilities. Show me structure that veers away from the plot pyramid. If you’re using the plot pyramid, great—but make sure to populate it with rich descriptions and interesting characters with intriguing conflicts. Above all, be fearlessly loyal to your vision. Even if we can’t publish your piece this issue, we still admire a genuine voice with a compelling story, and there’s always the next issue.

I’m humbled to be the Managing Editor for the 40th issue of the literary magazine Rudolfo Anaya started thirty years ago. It’s a privilege to read the submissions you share. Your writing and reading make this magazine possible. You probably have a million things to do and a million more after that, yet you took the time to write a piece and send it to us. I think that’s rare and beautiful and I thank you for it, very much.

A Birthday Interview with Jake Skeets

Jake Skeets, Poetry Judge 2019

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish Jake, Nelson Mandela, and myself a Very Happy Birthday. Jake, thanks for being our Poetry Judge, and for doing our BMR Birthday Interview. We’ll do 9 questions, what with 1+8 being 9 and all. Let’s get started.

What is your favorite thing to do on your birthday, and do you get to do that this year?

Happy Birthday! Don’t forget Vin Diesel. We need to wish him a happy birthday as well. I really don’t have any traditions. In undergrad at UNM, I took advantage of free birthday meals. I would have breakfast at Denny’s on Central and then grab a free burger from Red Robin.

The best recent birthday I think was a few years ago when my parents bought me Little Caesers Pizza and a cake. I love Little Caesers. I think the last big birthday celebration was my 21st birthday, which was an absolute blast. I don’t think anything can top that.

I’m spending this birthday in Crownpoint, NM at the Emerging Diné Writers’ Institute. I’m teaching poetry to Diné students and it is quite the honor and a tremendous gift.

How many other people have you met that you share a birthday with? I think my count’s up to four now.

You are the only person I have met and remain in contact with so far. I remember meeting another person at a party once but I don’t remember their name. I feel Cancer season is when we all thrive. I have this sense of freedom for a few weeks around this time. Summer is my favorite season. The best time is when it’s close to 9 at night and you can still see the sun glow at the horizon.

I know we’re not all that old, but is there a slang or trend that makes you feel old?

It’s hard to believe that the huge things for us are now distant pasts. I bring up things like Myspace or 3OH3! to my younger sister and she is like “Wow, you are old.” I mean she knows what I am talking about but there’s a distance.  I would call my past self “almost emo” because I had the hair and I was obsessed with The Postal Service, Paramore, and Death Cab for Cutie.

There are a lot of titles we take on with work and school and everything else, but do you describe yourself/identify as a poet primarily?

I thought hard about this for a long time. In the beginning, I didn’t feel like a poet. Today, however, I know that I am a poet. It wouldn’t be fair to my years of revision and training to call myself anything else first.

I still do feel hesitation, especially being back on the reservation. I feel like the title of “poet” doesn’t have the same meaning as “engineer” or “lawyer.” However, I feel it important to say I am a poet and I am Diné so that perhaps another Diné out there can see themselves represented in poetry. My life changed when I read Luci Tapahonso in high school and we had the amazing opportunity to work with her in undergrad.

If/has a child asked you to describe what you do, how would/did you explain it to them?

I would tell them I’m a poet and that I write poetry. I mean children’s books and nursery rhymes are filled with rhyme, meter, and image so I feel like children would understand poetry.

I know June’s over, but that doesn’t mean Pride is. What’s on your Pride playlist?

I mean there are the classics like “Finally” by CeCe Penniston, “100% Pure Love” by Crystal Waters, and “I Think We’re Alone Now” by Tiffany. Then, there are songs like “Scuse Me” by Lizzo, “Tempo” by Lizzo, “Cebuana” by Karencitta, and “Higher Love” by Kygo featuring Whitney Houston. It also includes the more emotional songs like “Slip Away” by Perfume Genius, “Shine” by Years and Years, “Holy Water” by Sakima, “Play by Play” by Autre Ne Veut, “Lay by Me” by Ruben, and “Warning Intruders” by Rostam. Of course, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, and Beyonce are all mixed in there as well.

How about favorite Fab 5 member?

Jonathan is my favorite. We were given the famous quote “Can you believe?” in the very first episode. Jonathan is the type of energy I wish I had in me.

Congratulations on the book! I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy, and now that I think about it, I need to change the address on my pre-order. Aside from all of the craziness surrounding the release, do you have any personal goals (for self-care, growth, more houseplants, etc.) in the next year?

Thank you. Composing the book was a tremendous labor and I feel like the upcoming release and touring will be an even larger labor. I haven’t thought of any personal goals as I have been wrapped up with everything else but this is a good reminder, so thank you.

This is such a refreshing question. I definitely would like to devote more time to food. I feel like my relationship with food has been tremendously altered. In undergrad, it was extremely limited so I ate whatever I could find. Today, the stress of everything has me falling on comfort foods that are definitely not good for me. So I hope to relearn a healthier and more holistic relationship with food. Other things on the list: drink more water, get more tattoos, try to take more selfies.

Are you as obsessed with Megan Rapinoe as I am?

Such great hair and such great talent. You and my partner would get along just fine. He is obsessed with sports and I don’t mean just football or basketball. I am talking about soccer, lacrosse, gymnastics, professional bowling, college volleyball and so many other sports that only broadcast early in the morning. I am now semi-interested in college basketball but I fell in love with the WNBA. I feel like women’s sports are not given the light of day and that needs to change. We also need to pay them more.

Make It Feel Human

Mario Montoya, Fiction Editor

Storytelling is more than human tradition. It’s instinct. From oral creation stories of Native Americans, to cave-carvings of Egypt and Mesopotamia, to holy books and classic novels we’ve produced, even now with our digital media—laptops, phones, tablets—we can’t help but tell each other stories. It’s our nature. People tell stories while commuting on the train or bus. They get told daily in locker rooms. In line at Whole Foods, you’re bound to hear a juicy laugher. Gossipy teenagers devise compelling storylines, using common literary tricks, like character development and rising action. Want a riveting plot? Talk with a jailbird or ex-con. And it’s almost indisputable knowledge that homeless men and women have the best stories out there.

In New Mexico, storytelling is a way of life. It pulsates through our blood. The Puebloan, Apache, and Diné people here have carried on their histories and traditions orally for centuries, passing down memorized narratives to their children. Mejicano-americanos do this too, embedding memories, morals, and life lessons into our songs (our corridos) and our folktales. Not just as a source of entertainment, but as a way to exist. Our stories make claim to who we are, who we once were, and who we aspire to be. These claims are a part of the on-going plot that documents our experience and has since way before the written word or printing press.

Thus is the reason I am so proud, and honored, to be this year’s Fiction Editor for Blue Mesa Review: a publication created with a mission to amplify often marginalized voices. Founded in 1989 by New Mexico literary giant Rudolfo Anaya, Blue Mesa Review has regularly showcased what would be considered nontraditional talent, publishing work by many exceptional writers from the Southwest. In the Editor’s Note for Volume One, Anaya explains his intentions for BMR, writing that Blue Mesa Review is “a new literary magazine designed to serve the writers of our region.” Since then, BMR has featured many of the great Southwestern writers as editors and contributors. Ana Castillo, Joy Harjo, Leslie Marmon Silko, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Juan Morales, Denise Chavez, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Luis Urrea, the list goes on. Who’s next?

Yet, Blue Mesa Review is not a publication just for Southwestern readers and writers, as Anaya emphasized in the same volume. “Our focus is the Southwest,” he writes, “but we publish writers from any area.” And we’ve done just that. BMR reaches every corner of the continent and further, with an international readership. We’ve published the words of great writers like Robert Creeley, John Nichols, and Bobby Byrd. We prize that one thing that ties all storytellers together: a hunger to explore our humanity.

So, what makes us all human? That’s certainly one tough question with too many answers to list here. But, with that question in mind, no matter who you are or how you identify, if you’ve got a good story, please tell it to us. We want to give it an honest read. If you’re a woman, a member of the LBGTQ community, African American, Native, Asian, Caucasian, please, send them in. If you’re Latinx or Middle Eastern or use a medical device for transport, we want to hear what you got to say. If you’re tall, big, small, left-handed, own six cats, love Ellen and CBD products like we do, please send us your work. If you’re terminally-ill, have been enslaved, entrapped, manipulated, appropriated, accused, abused, we want to give you a voice. If you need a place to scream, to cry, to laugh, we’d love to provide you one. But, whatever you write, make it feel human. Whatever you do, make it you.

Burning Down the Canon

Seth Garcia, Poetry Editor

To be honest, poetry doesn’t make much sense to me. Every time I think I’ve figured it out, cracked the atavistic code, some poet comes along and rearranges all my previously held conceptions of what poetry can look or feel like. The poetry that stays with me has always been something innovative, interesting.

The ‘rules’ implemented on poetry come from stuffy control freaks. Don’t be like them, confined to left-margin blocks that float entitled without any sense of risk or vitality. Break the standard notions. Remind us that even we as editors need to be on your terms.

This can be done formally, as well as through content. Hell, give us both. I still remember the first time I read “All Men Die” by Fatimah Asghar. I had never seen, felt, experienced that kind of poem before in my life. It put me in my place; it humbled, exposed, bereft me in inexplicable tides. Do that: remind me that I am wrong to ever think my opinions are secure. Send us something new. Send us something which redefines, which penetrates our shell of normalcy.

Poetry has a remarkable ability to strip away the pretensions we’ve spent our lives accumulating. I’m tired of left-blocked poems. Burn the canon down in front of us. Take away our sense of our selves. Tell us we’ve been living in an insecure bubble our whole lives, that we needed, more than anything, to hear your voice, your perspective, and that it was ours all along. We all need that precious excavation that reminds us of our interconnectivity, our gravity, our unbrokenness.

Poetry, if nothing else, is experience at its most unalloyed. Share with us your reality, and let it redefine our own.

Finding the Heart’s Balance

Darren Donate Editor Photo

Darren Donate, Poetry Editor

Beauty is important in poetry, but it isn’t everything. Oftentimes, I tell students that are working on their own projects—whether it is poetry, fiction, or nonfiction—to write something that is true to themselves. I think often of what Ron Padgett said about writing poetry that would have inspired his teenage self—-the person living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. That ideal is communicable to me; while it may be easy to get wrapped up in theory and experimentation, I think that it is incredibly important to find the heart’s balance. As the incoming Poetry Editor at Blue Mesa Review, I want to read submissions that get to the center of an experience and leave me with a sense of longing.

The best works that I have read were maybe unsharpened or rough around the edges, but they were able to encapsulate the humanness that first attracts readers to poetry. I am seeking work that wants to break new ground through its use of language, and while form is something that I am deeply interested in—I feel that content and execution should be valued over all else.

I am greedy. I want to leave a piece of poetry and feel like my soul has eaten a cheesecake.

But in all seriousness, I want poets to continue questioning themselves and their work. Is what I am writing about really getting to the truth? Does this sort of experience have value other than being ornamental? Am I farming my heart for poetry? I want to know who you are and feel through your writing a motivation and passion for your work.

Poets, let’s come together and share these truths, pitfalls, beauties, and experiences together. I am excited to read your submissions!

If you’d like to submit to our summer contest, please check out our submittable.

What’s Our Incoming Nonfiction Editor Looking For?

Michelle Gurule, Nonfiction Editor

I am thrilled to take on the role of Blue Mesa Review’s new Nonfiction Editor during such a special time. If you didn’t already know, 2019 marks the 30th year of our literary magazine. What an accomplishment! This year, our staff wants to reconnect with our roots and celebrate what it means to distribute art from the Southwest.

This isn’t a disclaimer that says I’m looking only for Southwestern writers—BMR is fortunate to reach an audience far and wide—but I do want to encourage my local artists to submit, too!

I’ve spent the last year as a Graduate Reader and had the honor of falling in love with the Nonfiction contest winners straight out of the submission queue. I have such fondness for this genre because it is so personal. I know that all genres leave room for exposing some part of our inner-selves, even if it’s hidden in a fiction text as a monster under the bed, or the color of the sky in a poem, but how cool is it to read about someone’s real life experiences in their own voice?

Speaking of voice—I’m obsessed with it! A great way to pull me into a piece is by giving me a good narrator right off the bat. I love humor. I really like it when the speaker is playful, but I’m also a fan of dark, mysterious, intellectual, somber, etc.  I’m pretty open, just as long as you write honestly. If I trust you as my narrator, then I am in for the ride.

I have to admit I’m a fan of narrative, plot-driven pieces. I love when a nonfiction submission reads so story-like that I have to go back to the Submittable page and double-check the genre. I want something to be happening. I want to be engaged with your piece. I want to feel connected to our narrator and other characters through the events taking place on page.

Also, here’s the most overstated writing tip that I can give you: show, don’t tell. If you’ve taken any creative writing class, I can presume that you’ve heard it before, and yet I will tell you once more, but this time nicely, please show rather than tell. I should be doing a little bit of work when I’m reading your submission. I want to be reliant on the information you’ve included in your essay to gauge the specifics of how you felt about it all. Make every line in your writing do the heavy-lifting for you.

Everything I’ve mentioned here focuses on my personal preferences, but that doesn’t mean I’m opposed to work that falls outside of that framework. The Nonfiction pieces that will sing to me will remind me of how human we all are. They will make me laugh, or cry, or spend the next three weeks in my head wondering about what it means to be a person in this world.

I am so excited to dive into all of the submissions! To all the writers, thank you for sharing your work with Blue Mesa Review. I am honored to read these pages from your life stories.

PS—Fun fact! I have terrible eyes, so please be considerate of the way you submit your work. Times New Roman, 12 pt, double-spaced submissions are the easiest to read, which allows me to focus solely on the quality of your work. Follow our submission guidelines.