I’m happy to be revisiting the Creative People Who Rock feature here. I’ve asked Amanda Eades, the editor behind a poetry publication and platform quickly gaining momentum and now inundated with poetry on it’s third issue: Railroad Poetry Project. The Railroad Poetry Project is an online port for contemporary poetry, and ‘seeks poetry that is beat, beatnik, avant-garde, experimental or anything in-between, poetry that lives by its own rules, poetry that refuses categorization, poems that were scribbled on the run, in the dark, poems that simply had to be written.’
I’ve enjoyed reading each issue so far, and have told many of my friends about the project. In order to let you know more about it, and the fabulous editor behind it, I’m proud to feature Amanda as our creative person who rocks this week.
Thank you for agreeing to do an interview for The Stifled Artist! First off, is there a story behind the name of the Railroad Poetry Project?
The Railroad Poetry Project was borne out of two main lines of thinking, really. Jade Willetts, past co-editor and co-founder, was pivotal in creating the idea of the ‘Railroaded poet’ – the writer who feels sidelined by major publishers, pressured by submission guidelines to bend their poetry to ‘fit’ and lost on the journey to getting their poetry out there. Willetts has experienced this time and time again – the next rejection letter, the well-written email that masks the underlying feeling that your writing simply isn’t “good enough”.
To feel Railroaded is to be way-off your own tracks as a writer, to be lost on the road to coverage . The ‘Railroad’ name is a pun on this, I suppose – it’s drawing the attention of those that feel how the modern writer seems to in this current climate and in this way subverts it – gives the track back to the writer, and empowers them to move forward.
Secondly, Willetts and I are massively influenced by the Beat Generation – a group of writers from 1950s America that fought the face of publishers, made their own mark on literary history and shocked contemporary literary minds with their avant-garde approach. ‘Railroad’ is a word that features so heavily throughout Beat writing . Jack Kerouac’s Lonesome Traveller, a favourite of mine, refers to “all that railroadin”, whilst Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, a pivotal Beat text, features one of my all-time favourite lines: “who wandered around and around at midnight in the / railroad yard wondering where to go, and went, / leaving no broken hearts”. In creating the website content for the project, I really played on this connection with ‘Railroad’ – and it worked.
The diction around it embodies what I am trying to do – create a platform, give fellow projects stations, get writers on their own track, and help them with their own journey … it embodies everything that I, and Willetts, are passionate about.
In your mission statement, you declare, ‘‘if most editors don’t want it – we probably will.’ This is a bold statement. Tell me what spurred this decision to accept broken, fragile, non-mainstream poetry.
It most definitely is a bold statement; you are bang on with that – and that is precisely what I wanted to put across. I think the Railroad Project is a bold statement – against publishers, alongside writers – this statement would crumble if Railroad were to put any guidelines on submissions. This is where the ‘Unadulterated Creativity’ promise comes in: No matter how ‘out’ of time or ‘ahead’ of time you feel your work is, nothing shocks Railroad. We love the experimental, avant-garde, ground-breaking writers who are not afraid to express themselves through the pen, and do so without the wants and needs of traditional publishing houses hanging above them.
You seem to have had a very positive reception from the grass-roots poetry movement so far. When you launched the project with your co-editor, what was your vision?
The response to Railroad has been phenomenal – there was most definitely a gap for it, and it slotted in with no problems. The vision at launch was to get people tweeting and to produce a first e-mag that we could be proud of. I remember when the first submissions came in, setting my Blackberry off all night. I was just astounded, and as I began to read people’s work, I knew that we were on to something big. The vision was to get involved with poets – and we have both succeeded with this – on the level of publishers, colleagues, friends – but also emotionally and spiritually. It feels like we are on this journey together.
Did you have hopes or expectations of how long it would take people to grab on?
The hope was that anyone would grab on to Railroad. There were no expectations – even though I believed whole-heartedly in Railroad from the word go, it would be wrong to put my expectations on to other people – I just hoped, and hoped and hoped. So far, this has proved to be the best way to go about. I think because Railroad doesn’t expect anything, it makes us more open to people, and this is what Railroad is: Open, honest, writers working together.
Do you foresee a day when you’ll be inundated with requests and have to turn people away like the larger pubs do?
To be honest, I am already at the point where my ‘to-do’ pile is growing, and I am finding that it’s taking a day or two longer than usual to reply to submitters – if you’re waiting on my response, sorry guys, just hang in there! As time goes on, it’s not just submitters that fill my inbox – I am in touch with a few very influential individuals who are heading up exciting projects and blogs. Keep an eye out on the Railroad ‘Stations’ page, and for posts about up-and-coming collaborations. Railroad is really coming into its own now. Our influence is stretching through the submitters to other magazines and websites. This is exactly what I want for Railroad’s future.
Poetry itself is viewed as a wish-washy medium to the mainstream majority, though you can find it in greeting cards, books, songs, commercials, even. What keeps your faith in poetry ticking in spite of the fact that everyone always says, “You can’t be a poet for a living or get paid for poetry.”
This is a tricky question, but one that can only be satisfied by a very straight answer: Simply my love for the art, and my passion for the poetic community. You’re right, poetry has been somewhat commercialized – to its detriment, some might say – but what will always remain are the poets who are in love with poetry as an art form, that can’t get enough of poetic expression and thrive within the community. My faith in poetry keeps ticking because it’s in my blood, I breathe it every day. I couldn’t go a day without it. Railroad gives me this, and my Railroaders are a good enough reason on their own to keep the faith.
It’s very cool that you are offering a platform to poets through the Poet of the Month feature. What inspired this and how do you hope it will grow?
I’m really glad you like the feature – and it was an honour to have you as the first POTM. The idea for the feature has been in the back of my mind since the inception of Railroad. I wanted to keep my Railroaders in the spotlight outside of the monthly issues. POTM gives a great platform for a featured poet, increasing traffic to their blog and promoting their work. It also gives me a chance to exercise my critical mind and stretch my perception even further. This is invaluable to my personal projects, as well as the coverage of my selected poet. I hope POTM will grow in line with Railroad. I hope that POTM will be as big a feature as the monthly issues. The first step for this is promoting the POTM through the monthly Railroad newsletter: the first one is due out before Christmas.
A lot of people probably don’t know how much time you pour into this project. With my poems, you offered a thorough interview and critique for no compensation whatsoever. This symbolizes courage and dedication. Tell us a little bit about your other work and how the Railroad Poetry Project fits in your schedule.
It is a full-time job, but I wouldn’t change that for the world. I’ve built Railroad up, and now I am thinking about Issue 3, wow, I just can’t believe how far it has come in such a small space of time. But I think the main reason I find it so easy to devote my life to it is that criticism and poetry is my life. I have a first class honours degree in English Literature, and am working towards a Masters’ degree in Literature, Culture and Society – as I said, I breathe poetry, it’s in my blood. I also write reviews for Nerditorial – an online news and reviews site. My day is full of words, poetry and deep consideration – just how I like it.
How did you personally start out on the writing/poetry path? What were your defining moments as a poet/writer?
My passion for writing and poetry developed as a Literature undergraduate. I started my degree with a curiosity for criticism and this quickly developed into an obsession. Defining moments have come about so often it is hard to pin one down. I knew I could make a career out of criticism when my essays kept coming back with ‘this could be published’ scrawled on them. Finding out that I was well-known in the academic community at my University was a huge wake-up call; I knew I was doing something I should be doing, and doing it well. I struggled through education up until university: not academically, but emotionally. Taking charge of my specialism gave me confidence in myself, as well as my writing.
The reception Railroad Issue 1 received was massively influential – again, it was confirmation that I am on the right track. So thank you to all those who helped make it a success.
What poets inspired you?
My Railroaders inspire me, every day. The variety of poetry I come across on a daily basis is astounding – it keeps my critical eye sharp. Outside of Railroad, my inspiration changes with what I’m reading. Lately, I’ve been taking a lot from Frances Presley’s Lines of Sight – linguistically innovative poetry based on landscape. In that vein a pivotal text in the development of my understanding of linguistically innovative work was Maggie O’Sullivan (editor) Out of Everywhere - I’d highly recommend that. I will always have a soft spot for the poetry from the Nineteenth century Pre-Raphaelite movement – visiting Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s house in Chelsea, London, U.K. was a defining moment in my career, and his work has inspired many of my undergraduate projects. As a post-grad, as well as innovative work, I love the poetry of my homeland, Wales: Gillian Clarke, Ruth Bidgood, Gwyneth Lewis, Hilary Llewellyn-Williams. The Devon poet Alice Oswald is a current research interest of mine. Her use of sound and voice in poetry is breathtaking.
What music are you listening to right now (or want to be listening to right now)?
Lately, I have been listening to a lot of The Smiths. Their music comes in and out of my life a lot! Ed Sheeran has caught my ear. His lyrics border on poetry sometimes, and his voice is captivating. I love classical: Right now I would love to be listening to Holst’s The Planets.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I’d like to finish up by saying a huge thank you to you all. Every follower, fan, tweeter – you are invaluable to the Railroad mission, and you are my inspiration every day. Keep submitting – Issue 3 isn’t far away – and I am now accepting art-work as well as poetry. If you want it out there, submit it and see! There’s plenty of track ahead of us – spread the beat and let’s make Railroad a joint success!