by: Aaron Jackson
What do you get when you mix passion for writing with playful wit? HalfDrunkMuse.com. Half Drunk Muse is a quarterly webzine launched in 1999. By quarterly I mean that they publish an issue for every season. But don’t expect to find any themed seasonal poetry. Half Drunk Muse marries the humor and personal flair of its editors with a penchant for adventurous, and often times, emotional poetry.
The publication’s editing staff consists of Sarah Miller the editor in chief, and Julie Platt the assistant editor. They are currently looking for editors to round out their regular line up. The small but intimate editing unit makes for a journal that is a light hearted, and easily approachable publication. The editors themselves put it best, describing their publication as such: “Since 1999, Half Drunk Muse has worked to prove that it is possible to run a poetry e-zine, and have fun doing it. So far this philosophy has worked well. Without the pressure of determining whether each poem meets some vaguely defined (or, in the case of some journals, strictly defined) mission statement, the editors are able to read submissions and publish those they like.”
Each issue itself contains anywhere from 8 pieces of poetry, to 15 plus, oftentimes accepting multiple poems from each of the contributing authors. Besides the poetry, which is the journal’s main focus, some issues contain chapbook reviews, as well as editorial comments from both editors.
Overall the site is well-arranged, with an attractive front page which features striking photography. This effectively draws the potential reader in, inviting him or her to explore the journal in depth. Half Drunk Muse is easily navigable, providing links to the current issue, archived issues, and a multitude of information about the site, including the site’s history, a masthead, submission guidelines, and frequently asked questions. The only point in which the presentation breaks down, to any degree, is in the archives section. While all their material from 1999 to the present day is archived in a neat manner, the system itself is unconventional. Up until 2004 Half Drunk Muse did not archive by issue, but rather by author. While this is definitely a fast and easy way to pinpoint specific information, it would be nice to b able to browse the issues in their entirety. However, each archived poet has the issue number labeled beside the title of their poem.
New to the site is an open forum to discuss everything “small press” and “literary” or at least, that’s the hope of Editor-in-chief Sarah Miller. That’s one thing I found most appealing about the editors, besides their playfully confrontational wit. I say editors because I believe that a publication is nothing more than a reflection of its editors' preferences. The editors convey a sense of small press community. They are willing to work not just on putting out a good magazine, but on seeing small press publications thrive in all forms and areas.
Regarding the actual content of the poetry, Half Drunk Muse is a publication that’s not afraid to take emotional chances. The poetry is aimed at a reader with very specific tastes. I found the work to be very immediate, urgent poetry, often told through the first person perspective. The type of poetry favored by the editors is free spirited, unhampered by the academic principles of meter, rhyme, and form. Half Drunk Muse’s poetry is poetry with a voice. Take Daniel Gallik’s poem She Enjoyed The Winds of Change: “She said our nation’s archives are full of a lot of bullshit.” If I had to, I would compare the general content of the journal to the school of confessional poetry, along the Sylvia Plath vein. That’s not to say that the poetry, or the editor’s choices are an unimaginative continuation of the movement, but rather, their preferences seem inspired by it. Because of its highly personal tone the poetry is open for interpretation. As a result, a poem that may seem touch and go to one reader will resonate with another. Take Taylor Graham’s poem Athena Considers Dawn, for example. She writes, “I simply piped four uninterrupted /chords in the dark,/ such sounds a sleeper might wake to/ and think ‘owl’/ and wonder at his life./ Does this make me responsible/ for everything wings/ do? I’m tired/ of your dreams/ extrapolating consequence/ from myth.” There is a world of a interpretation in between the words, but the quality of the language, and the philosophy behind it makes for a pleasant and surprising surface read as well.
As far as the actual submission guidelines go, the editors will consider anywhere from three to five poems per author. They strongly, strongly encourage submissions to be pasted into the body of an email, which can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Unfortunately, being that they are a small press publication, they cannot afford to pay their contributors, but as we all know, published work is worth far more than money. The editors strongly encourage the contributor to include a brief bio along with their submission. A good bio consists of your name, where you’re from, and your publication history. The editors don’t really need, or desire a photo along with the submission. Simultaneous submissions are welcome as long as you observe the regular courtesies, i.e. informing them that it is indeed a simultaneous submission, as well as informing them immediately if another publication accepts the piece. Previously published work is not accepted.
Half Drunk Muse is a fulfilling emotional read, where the poetry conveys strong and intimate feeling through personal imagery. It is poetry driven along by narrative, vibrant wording, and a confessional tone. The small but dedicated editing staff uses each issue to bring its readers challenging and rewarding poetry.