About

Third-Person Bio Editors Expect Me to Include in Cover Letters

Robert Manaster’s poetry has appeared in numerous journals including Rosebud, Birmingham Poetry Review, Image, Maine Review, and Spillway. His co-translation of Ronny Someck’s The Milk Underground was awarded the Cliff Becker Book Prize in Translation. He’s also published poetry book reviews in such publications as Rattle, Colorado Review, and Massachusetts Review.

Closest I’ve Come to an Artistic Statement Summing up My Life’s Work in Poetry

My poems interrogate and encircle experience. While the individual poem may explore a particular experience, the collective poem, the compilation of multiple perspectives— multiple, individual poems— grasps experience and expands awareness of it. How do we connect with each other and our surroundings?

I learn from the encircled experience— actually, I unlearn. After initial getting-to-know spurts of writing, I chisel my way in and sculpt a poem’s way out. It is a challenge to convey the learning and unlearning throughout this collective-poem-making. It is a challenge that these individual poems work well when separated from the whole.

As the individual poem makes its way into words, I spend a good deal of effort listening to its more formal qualities (word choice, sound, syntax, meter, rhythm, rhyme, etc.). I work to foreground the poem’s voice so as to allow its phrasing to flourish, letting the poem be, aspiring to what Harold Bloom refers to as the “inevitability” of poetry.

An Application Letter Giving You a Sense of My Approach to Literary Communities

I love contributing to various poetry communities. Throughout the years, I’ve volunteered as an organizer, reader, presenter, workshop participant, reviewer, editor, and co-translator. What I’ve done, though, is less important to me than how I’ve done it.

Some years ago I was invited to lead the Rhino Poetry Forum Workshop & Peer Exchange. After I presented on how might poetry books work as collections, “Do You Swear by This Book, This Whole Book, and Nothing but This Book… of Poetry?” we started to workshop poems. I was looked upon to give the final word on each poem. It felt way too definitive and authoritative to me. I value multiple perspectives amid the give and take of consensus. For each poem, I gauged as best I could the skill level of the poet and where the poem seemed to be on the continuum of drafts — from “new” to “polished.” In any case, I listened and played off of what had been said about a poem, expressed the strengths of it, and sometimes made suggestions on how it could work even better — all in an honest response so the poet could grow at her or his own pace. Isn’t this growth a main, underlying purpose of a workshop? I remember one poet there who wrote a list poem. I pointed out some of its valid strengths. Some of the participants, though, took issue with this poet, complaining he always brought a list poem. I took this complaint as an opportunity to talk about receiving a poem on its own terms, which is how I respond to poems, whether or not I like (or agree with) those terms. What works and doesn’t work in general for a poem on its own terms and what for me in particular?

I’d love to bring this cooperative approach of consensus with me to your publication, if I receive the fellowship. I also bring enthusiasm along with a fair amount of evaluative experience beyond workshopping. I’ve published reviews of poetry books that have touched me and that I feel deserve a wider readership — the last two reviews being books written by women in marginalized communities. I’m also an Assistant Poetry Editor at Fifth Wednesday Journal, recently helping put together our Special Immigrant issue. In these two activities, and others, I marvel at the virtually unlimited kinds of poetry I read (and experience). I learn a lot about poetry, others’ experiences, and myself — all of which undoubtedly inform my own writing. I appreciate efforts a poet puts into her or his piece, and I want to share honestly with a poet and others what I sense works well. I also like listening to other responses as well. In this open and curious approach to poetry, I feel that I am just one of many contributors and that my responses—with more at stake in the poem and poet’s experiences rather than myself — can be in a more honest and encouraging way.

A Few Interviews

A More Personal Bio

While I’ve been writing in some form for most of my life, I’ve also been involved with a cacophony of other activities. I’ve worked on the E5 line of a factory making and bottling Suave shampoo. I was a starting pitcher on the freshman baseball team. I worked for a large corporate entity in IT. I graduated from the UIUC College of Engineering with a BS degree in Computer Science. I have a Masters degree in English. I once took first place in the state Chess Championships for second board players. I am a reader-editor for Cider Press Review. I worked for University’s Library System. I played street hockey galore as a goalie. I once was the only one who beat the World US Chess Champion Arthur Bisguier– ok, he was playing fifteen players simultaneously. For my very first assignment in my first creative writing (poetry) class, the first and only somewhat positive statement was from a student who said, “Well, it is a sonnet” before the teacher spent the rest of the class tearing into it, the same teacher who somewhat apologized to me sometime after class when he must have seen me wrecked inside. I loved yo-yos as a kid and practiced rocking-the-cradle forever for a few days. I played basketball weekly as a young adult. I’m a member of the Glass Room Poets. I learned to juggle three balls in college. I once had a profound religious experience– come to think of it, what religious experience is not profound? So, scratch the profound above.