written by: Ashley Szanter
While national think pieces bemoan the end of the humanities with the rise of science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs, a small group of local Utahns remain committed to preserving the arts. Sugar House Review poetry journal, started in 2009 by Natalie Young, Nano Taggart, John Kippen and Jeremy VanIeperen, has gained steam and is seeing submissions grow beyond their wildest dreams. “When we started, it was mostly us fumbling around and soliciting authors that we liked,” remembers Editor VanIeperen.
“We’ve gotten to the point now where we’re getting submissions from pretty big names without having to ask, which has been a really happy surprise for us,” says Book Review Editor Michael McLane. SHR most recently published Dorset prize winner Maggie Smith whose work appeared in The New York Times and The Best American Poetry 2017 anthology.
Part of their rapid success came from choosing spectacular poems. “It seems like our popularity hit suddenly,” says VanIeperen. “We had some good fortune in getting some Pushcart Prize-winning poems published, which helped boost our reputation.” Pushcart annually features the best of small-publishing presses.
But it was also the breadth of poetry showcased by the journal that gave SHR exposure. “There’s really not a lot of overlap with the editors in terms of taste. All five of us are represented in every issue. You’re not going to find just one, single aesthetic in any of our issues,” says McLane.
Managing Sugar House Review is a labor of love, and the founders are committed to publishing only contemporary poetry. “I hope that, as best we can, we’re highlighting the full spectrum of American poetry at the present time,” says McLane.
As for the future of poetry and the humanities, neither VanIeperen or McLane are particularly concerned. “Poetry is an expression of the human condition, so it isn’t going anywhere,” says VanIeperen. McLane echoes his sentiment. “In terms of poetry itself, anytime we find ourselves in a really troubled spot, people turn back to poetry. I think that there’s something in lyricism and the way that poetry allows for the breakdown of language that speaks to people’s emotions.” sugarhousereview.com
Sugar House Review has print as well as online publications. But they’re currently expanding their Sound of Sugar channel with recorded readings from published poets as well as plans to record interviews with famous poets to discuss their craft.