A Conversation with Helen

Interview with Helen Vitoria of Thrush Journal
By Cynthia Reeser

Helen Vitoria…you may have heard the name if you have spent any time reading online. I had the pleasure to talk with Helen about a few things literary and found her to be open, down to earth, and easy to talk with (virtually speaking, of course). Helen heads up Thrush, an online endeavor focused solely on poetry. Always intrigued by why editors do things they way they do, and by gals who know what they want, I e-sat down with Miss Vitoria to ask her a few burning questions I had about her approach. Here’s the result:

CR: Could you talk about your background in the creative field? Inquiring minds want to know.

HV: I have been writing (something/anything) for as long as I can remember. When I discovered my love for poetry, from that point on I wrote only poems. I studied creative writing at NYU for some time, attended workshops with writers whose work I admire. I feel I learned the most about poetry from reading poetry.

I have tons of creative energy. If I am not writing, I am taking pictures, doing crafts or gardening, all of which I find gives me such a vast area to be creative.

CR: How did you end up an editor? Why did you start a journal?

HV: I started Thrush, because of my love for poetry. I wanted an online journal that is presented a bit differently than most. Although there are dozens of journals that I admire, many include art, fiction, and other creative endeavors. I wanted one that was poetry only, with the main focus being the poets and their poems. I wanted to create a simple, elegant aesthetic.

I want Thrush to feature all kinds of voices, poetic forms, and styles, and I believe in each edition we have accomplished that.

CR: What would you say your identity is as a writer? Have you found your style, as it were, as a writer?

HV: Definitely, I would say I am a poet. As far as my style, I do not want to be locked into any one particular style. I prefer to say I have found my voice.

CR: Whose work do you admire most and why?

HV: Anne Sexton, Pablo Neruda, George Seferis, Rainer Maria Rilke, Lucille Clifton, Roberto Bolaño, and many, many others. Because their work moves me, makes me feel something.

CR: What inspires you?

HV: The human condition and all it encompasses.

CR: What are you most proud of (writing- and/or editing-related)?

HV: I am particularly fond of an echap I have at Gold Wake Press (2011), The Sights & Sounds of Arctic Birds. I wrote those particular poems about loss and I feel that I have captured the isolation of grief. I have received letters from teachers, therapists, and psychologists expressing such fondness for those particular poems and the way they describe loss and grieving. As a writer the greatest feeling in the world is waking up to an e-mail from someone who ran across your poems and was touched by them so much they felt compelled to make contact with you.

CR: If you could see one thing change in the field, what would it be and why?

HV: It would have to be how unapproachable certain journals are. In terms of taking upwards of three months to respond to a writer, and also that a particular tier of journals is not necessarily open to emerging and new voices. I feel that needs to change. Although their guidelines may say they do, if I pick up five print journals, and month after month it is the same poets represented—frankly even for me that becomes boring. I want to read fresh voices in those higher tier journals, voices that would leave me saying “wow” after finishing a poem, rather than “Oh, ok.”

CR: What annoys you most as an editor?

HV: No cover letter whatsoever. I do not need a long one; a few lines is fine. When someone sends us poems and a bio pasted in the e-mail and nothing else. It makes me want to write back and say: “Hey, there is a human being on the other side of this submission, please acknowledge that.” It is not professional, and I do not buy into the artist default personality in that because we are artists we do not need to be professional. Yes, we do.

Bonus Question! What is your one guilty pleasure in life?

HV: Tattoos.

Helen Vitoria’s work can be found and is forthcoming in many online and print journals: elimae, MudLuscious Press, PANK, Rougarou, FRIGG Magazine, >kill author, decomP, Dark Sky Magazine and others. She is the author of six poetry chapbooks and a full length poetry collection: Corn Exchange, forthcoming from Scrambler Books, Spring 2012. Her poems have been nominated for Best New Poets & the Pushcart Prize. She is the Founding Editor & Editor in Chief of THRUSH Poetry Journal & THRUSH Press. Find her here.