A conversation with Editor Karen Head about upcoming changes at the Atlanta Review

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Most people don’t associate the Georgia Institute of Technology with iambic pentameter, but, starting this summer, the engineering school will become the new headquarters for Atlanta Review, one of the country’s top-selling journals of poetry known for its international scope. The publication’s longtime editor Dan Veach is retiring after 22 years but will serve as editor emeritus while Karen Head, a professor in the university’s College of Liberal Arts, will assume the post of editor. ArtsATL touched base with Head to discuss what forthcoming changes readers of Atlanta Review can anticipate, and how the publication’s new home will influence its content. 

Karen Head
Karen Head

ArtsATL: Do you find engineers and other techie types to be receptive to reading and writing poetry?

Karen Head: I know the stereotype of the Tech student is the math geek with the pocket protector, but our students are astonishingly creative in all of the art forms, much more so than they get credit for! I’m always amazed at their affinity for poetry, especially within the traditional forms. For example, a sestina, which would scare a lot of readers and writers, appeals to some engineers, who can see the mathematics at work in the structures — the Aristotelian aspect of that construction. However, our poetry roots run deeper here than most people imagine. Tech is home to Erato, the longest continually published student journal in the country, and our Poetry at Tech has brought some of our most eminent poets to campus for readings.

ArtsATL: You yourself have melded poetry and technology in surprising and often cosmopolitan ways, exploring the connections between traditional text-based poetry and digitally enhanced poetry. Your digital poetry exhibit Poetic Rub, was featured at the E-Poetry 2007 festival in Paris. Your 2009 collaborative digital poem, “Monumental” was written with 12 other poets via Twitter and directed from atop the Fourth Plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square. Can we expect more bold experimental projects like that for Atlanta Review?

Head: Absolutely! First of all, I intend to do a great deal of digitally archiving materials and artifacts associated with the work, so we will greatly enhance the online companion to the printed journal. Digital poetry requires technology to be manifest with a self-generated computer code. So it’s a much more interactive experience for the reader. Our goal is to create a more multifaceted experience with the actualization of the work through technology. You might be required to touch a screen, in other words, to experience a poem fully. The print run for the most recent issue was 700. Circulation is more difficult to pin down because the journal is held in many libraries and has an online presence. That number is in the thousands, with plans to keep growing.

ArtsATL: Will you continue to prioritize poetry from around the globe?

Head: Yes. For our next issue, we will feature work from poets in Cuba, New Zealand and Poland.

ArtsATL: Do you anticipate that more students will submit their work now that you’re based on campus?

Head: I assume they probably will. We do a blind review of the work we publish, so we don’t just publish someone because he or she is a Pulitzer Prize winner. That way, a student poem, or someone getting published for the first time, could end up alongside a laureate. Everyone has a chance, but it all depends on the quality of the work, not the name recognition of the poet.

ArtsATL: Any other plans for future issues?

Head: Well, we’re coming up soon on our 25th anniversary, so you can expect a big celebration with a lot of poetry readings and events at Tech.

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