Rachel Nix: I’m gonna be honest, Kelly—I giggled the first time I heard of Menacing Hedge, where you’re the poetry editor. Just how did that name happen, and who came up with it? It’s easier to say than cahoodaloodaling, which slurs outta most mouths, so I imagine whoever dreamed up Menacing Hedge was sober-ish. You can nod in an unclear manner if you like.
Kelly Boyker: Menacing Hedge was meant to have an Edward Gorey-esque feel to it, like Gorey’s The Unstrung Harp, The Glorious Nosebleed, and The Listing Attic. You must get the picture. That’s why we use Gorey’s Font. It’s meant to be silly, but also, I suppose, menacing. The actual name came about from the graveyard crows we used to feed in front of our old house. The crows were terrified of a small bush. We never figured out why they were afraid of this one particular little bush. We started calling it the menacing hedge and it became the name of the journal once we became serious about starting a literary journal. True fact: Menacing Hedge was almost called “Abandoned Sandwich”. We still own the domain name and you can find it here. I guess you could call Abandoned Sandwich the Scary Bush of Menacing Hedge. We are also “connected” to Morning Wood Review.
RN: Further, what’s so menacing about this publication? What are y’all about or trying to present to your readers?
KB: Poetry-wise we curate dark and visceral pieces. We avoid confessional poetry, stream of conscious, and political poetry. Our main drive is persona poetry: A dramatic character, distinguished from the poet, who is the speaker of a poem. In Menacing Hedge, the dramatic character is often a marginalized person or a mythological creature. We also strive towards magical realism. We seek poetry that inserts the reader into new landscapes or slams them into new world views. The same is true for the fiction side of Menacing Hedge. Dark and visceral. We are just now having a second fiction editor join our team. The fiction side borders a bit on the horror genre. Fiction editors are Craig Wallwork and now also, Amanda Gowin. Poetry editors are myself and Kiara McMorris. Our audio, technical, design and webmaster is Gio Guillemette.
RN: Tell us what you’re itching to see in upcoming submissions. We do themed issues and often get what we want, but I wonder how other editors get their fixes.
KB: We don’t do themes, but somehow themes seem to spontaneously emerge. It is as if everyone submitting has picked up some sort of psychic undercurrent. We had one issue which was filled with historically based witchcraft poems, another in which many of the poems were about children, and another which was filled with mythological poems. It just seems to happen.
RN: What’s been your absolute favorite poem you’ve published?
KB: There are so many poems which I love, it’s really really hard to choose. I am not being evasive here. Picking poems for our annual print edition and for the various prizes for which we nominate is agonizing. I could list my top 100 favorite poems, but that would be tedious.
RN: Obviously, we’re curious about your scary bush. The feature, I mean. It’s almost as if y’all are trying to say, “Hey, not everyone writes perfectly from the get-go.” Is it encouragement or free entertainment for the staff?
KB: Scary Bush is the juvenile version of Menacing Hedge. The idea is to present early writings and to exploit our younger selves for entertainment. Not everyone gets it and not everyone is able to take themselves less seriously. We get a lot of stuff where it’s pretty clear it’s just a crappy poem they wrote last year and can’t get published. The stuff that brings us joy is unadulterated early efforts that are filled with middle-school or upper school angst. Illustrated early poems are a bonus. Women seem to get the idea more than men. It’s very interesting. Are women more able to be self-evasive? Do they have a better sense of humor about their writing? At any rate, Scary Bush is one of my favorite parts about Menacing Hedge.
RN: I’ve been stalking you online, hardly in a worrisome way, except I know where you live and it’s incredible how close Google streetview can get. Anyway, I’ve learned you’re quite the poet; I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve read thus far. What’ve you been up to lately? Can you tell is where we can find your work?
KB: You can find my work on the web. I have recently participated in a few anthologies and might have a full length collection forthcoming. Yes, that is a super vague answer, but I don’t know what else to say. I am working on several chapbook concepts, one is a collection of poems based on the original Ripley’s Believe it or Not.
RN: Your book, Zoonosis—what’s the concept and where can we get our hands on it?
KB: Zoonosis explores the spaces where animal and human meet – both to collide and form symbiosis, and the dark magical spaces they create. It is about the connections and diseases shared by humans and animals and comparisons between marginalized humans and marginalized animals. You can find it at Hyacinth Girl Press.
RN: What journals are you a fan of? Do you have any favorite writers you want us to go stalk? Because, ya know, we’re obviously into the stalking thing. Give us some names to go on, yeah?
KB: I am a huge fan of [Pank], but they are shuttering their doors. I am also a fan of FRiGG, Apercus Quarterly, Prick of the Spindle, and many other journals. With respect to online journals, I like journals with a spare and uncluttered format. Poets who I admire who are currently writing would be Caitlin Thomson, Jennifer Gavan, Lauren Henley and Amorak Huey (just to name a few).
RN: What’s your favorite book? We all have that one book that feels like it was written just for us; what’s yours?
KB: This would be a top 100 question again. I read so much and have so many favorite books. The books that I personally recommend that you might not have heard of are as follows:
Cruddy by Lynda Barry
And the Ass Saw the Angel by Nick Cave
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
What these three books have in common are stories told by marginalized, almost unworldly, protagonists. Cruddy is a sordid tale told by a teenage girl, And the Ass Saw the Angel is told by a southern small town mute, and Confederacy of Dunces is told by a 30 year old man still living with his mother.
RN: Since this is our Historical (Re-Tell) issue, tell us something true about yourself/your history. Or untrue – we’ll never know.
KB: When I was younger I used to eat things to make them part of me. The best thing I ever ate was a piece of bone from a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The thing I always wanted to eat, but could not get my hands on, was a piece of an asteroid. I’d actually still eat a bit of an asteroid if I got the chance.
RN: Got a question for us? About the publication, the staff, who we think the boogie-man really is?
KB: What was the inspiration for creating cahoodaloodaling? What were you hoping to achieve? And who is the boogie-man? I think he might be a disco dancer from the 1970’s.
RN: Well, I wasn’t in on the creation of cahoodaloodaling. Raquel Thorne and Kate Hammerich were the masterminds, or maybe sneaky devils. At the time I was likely trying to master the ideal grilled cheese sandwich. The trick is to use garlic salt and pricey cheese. Anyhow, I was eventually roped into being on staff, which was hardly a struggle. I can say this: we all seem to share the same idea that art is a collaborative endeavor and we all feed on one another. I imagine that was the intent, to gather folks around the same metaphorical fire and share stories. Hopefully there’s always someone who thinks to bring a ukulele.
The boogie-man is likely Santa Claus. The old guy’s gotta get his jollies somewhere.
Kelly Boyker’s poems have appeared or are appearing in [PANK], Opium Magazine, Prick of the Spindle, and Arsenic Lobster, among others. Her book, Zoonosis, was published by Hyacinth Girl Press (2014). She was nominated for Best New Poets 2014 and received Pushcart nominations in 2013 and 2014. Zoonosis was listed as one of the best 16 poetry books published in 2014 by Entropy Magazine. She is the founding poetry editor at Menacing Hedge and spoke on an AWP panel about publishing, poetry, and gender in 2014.