Black Lawrence Press

Issue #88 — August 2, 2011

No, Dear

For this week’s feature article, we interviewed Emily Brandt of No, Dear magazine.


Photo credit Jane Van Slembrouck

Sapling: No, Dear is a hand-made journal that specifically features the work of New York City poets. Tell us a little bit about how No, Dear got started, how you selected its name, and the decisions to make the journal by hand and feature local poets.

Emily Brandt: No, Dear grew organically out of an informal poetry workshop that lasted, in various incarnations, for about six years here in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I was one of the original founders of the workshop, along with some good folks I worked with at the Strand. Alex Cuff had also been involved for many years. Due to many life changes, the group had whittled down to Alex, myself, Jane Van Slembrouck, and Katie Moeller. At our last workshop we decided that we should put together a little magazine to honor our community. We quickly decided to extend the invite to our circles, but wanted to keep it limited to New York City poets. There were/are already plenty of journals catering to the national/international community. It made sense to keep No, Dear local. That way we could invite people to read and foster a continuing community, even though the workshop was dissolving. And we thought, well maybe we’ll do one or two issues and see how this goes. Most of us had some roots in the DIY movement, so of course we knew we’d be making it by hand. That would be part of its charm. The name grew out of a comment I made (in response to some trends at that time in music/art/fashion) that our title should have no wolves and no deer in it. Originally we thought it would be No Deer but that version quickly and fortunately got vetoed.

S: Your first issue appeared in 2008, and you’re putting together the eighth issue now. Has the journal gone through any major (or minor, yet important) changes since its inception?

PatternEB: Well originally the journal was intended to be a home for poems from our workshop community and just beyond, but word had spread, and after the fourth issue, when we were already publishing mostly works by people we did not know, we decided that we would no longer publish our own work. The journal was growing and it felt no longer appropriate to present our own poems within. Around that time we began soliciting some work from specific poets we like (Lisa Jarnot and Anne Carson and Bob Currie for the last issue), though through the present only one or two poems per issue are solicited. Most still come from submissions. And we get quite a lot of submissions now!

Also after issue 4, Katie left to pursue more education, and after issue 6 Jane left to start a family. Alex and I knew we’d be missing their voices in the editing process. So now Alex and I work with a guest editor for each issue, which has been really exciting. Steven Karl worked on Issue 7, and Levi Rubeck is co-editing Issue 8 with us. Aesthetically, some small changes have happened. We now letterpress (instead of stamp) the covers, and no longer machine stitch the binding. Beginning with the last issue, we are committed to featuring an illustration by a local artist on the cover. Cartoonist Sarah Glidden did our last cover, and we have two amazing artists collaborating on our next cover.

S: Each issue is themed, at least loosely, around one word. Past themes have included, for example, Flight, Pants, Pattern, and the current theme, Metal. Can you tell us about what goes into selecting an issue’s theme? Have any themes proved more successful than others when compiling the issue?

EB: I feel lucky that all of our themes have been successful. Though I especially liked the work we received for Edges, Pit and Pattern. I like each new issue the best. I’m extremely excited for Metal. We’ve had lots of different processes for selecting themes. But basically we devise some kind of a brainstorm list and go from there. For the current issue, Alex and I made a list of our top three choices and let Levi, our guest editor, choose. We like to pick single words that can have several meanings and allow for lots of interpretation. Very few poets send work that literally adheres to the theme. It’s fun to see the loose connections people make.

S: As a Founding Editor of No, Dear, what is the hardest part of your job? The best part?

EB: The hardest part is just co-managing everything, like setting up production schedules and getting copies of the magazine to the bookstores, and maintaining a (simple) website, and, of course, raising funds. But it’s a labor of love. The very best part is the editing meeting when we discuss the poems that people have sent us. Those conversations are fascinating and feel like the heart of why we do this. I’m sure Alex would agree, because we talk about that a lot. I think we both also really like printing the covers at the letterpress studio, and we love the launch readings where we get to see and meet everyone in the issue and celebrate their good work.

S: In addition to the standard wisdom of reading back issues and following the submission guidelines on the website, what advice would you give to poets who are interested in submitting to No, Dear?

EB: We like poems that are earnest, unusual and intelligent. We like poems that have a strong and surprising voice. We like poems that take risks. We would like to feature more poems by more poets of color and by more queer poets. We definitely do not like when people don’t follow our very clear, very few submission guidelines. We’ve had people send us upwards of 20 pages of work. That’s far too much. We read everything ourselves, which is time consuming. So send three poems. And if your poems are eight pages long, just send one. Be considerate. We’ll ask you to send more if we’re interested.

S: Other than No, Dear, of course, what literary journals do you most admire?

EB: I really like Forklift, Ohio and Lumberyard, and pretty much all of the local hand-made journals. I’m fascinated by all of the amazing online literary journals—there are far too many excellent ones to list. But I’m just astounded by the integration of good writing and good web design.

S: Any favorite books of poetry you’ve read so far in 2011? What’s on your shelf that you’re excited to read next?

EB: From what I’ve read recently, I loved Arielle Greenberg and Rachel Zucker’s collaborative poemic Home/Birth, Brian Teare’s Pleasure and Thomas Sayers Ellis’ Skin, Inc. I’m really excited to read Anne Carson’s Nox (which has ashamedly been sitting on my bookshelf for a year) and Julian T. Brolaski’s gowanus atropolis.


To learn more about No, Dear, visit


Emily Brandt is a co-founding editor of No, Dear magazine. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in New Wave Vomit, The 2AM Project, The Furnace Review, andBluePrint Review. She teaches English at a public school in Brooklyn.