New Journal Hopes To Support Aspiring Poets

Virginia Military Institute poetry professor Julie Phillips Brown, reflecting on the mentorship she received from other poets, said she recently thanked a former professor for sifting through some early poems of hers that were ripe with “the pretensions of youth.”

“I basically thanked her for not crushing me,” Brown said, laughing.

Those professors helped guide Brown toward a productive poetic life. But not everyone has the opportunity to get help with their creative work through a university or a graduate program, for example. So Brown wondered: outside of scholarly institutions, how do you create opportunities for mentorship?

Brown’s new online poetry journal, House Mountain Review, attempts to do just that.

“Even if a submission is turned down,” Brown explained, “the goal is to give feedback as a way of giving permission to create.”

Such feedback means recognition, and being recognized as a poet is important, Brown said. She recalled sitting in a poetry class and being shocked when the teacher addressed the class as “poets” with a capital “P,” rather than students. Brown welcomed the responsibility that the title implied.

House Mountain Review will hopefully do something similar for the readers, critics and poets that are drawn to it.

“It’s a way of giving back to the poetic community,” Brown said.

Since it’s so difficult to get a book of poems published, and the financial payoff is often limited, Brown sees how there could be almost a disincentive to taking one’s poetry seriously. Active poetic communities can help encourage artists to create when all else seems indifferent.

House Mountain Review first opened for free poetry submissions early this fall, but within a day and half they had met their quota, and had to close submissions. The journal then reopened for general submissions on Oct. 1 and will stay open until Dec. 15. The first electronic issue will come out in February, and there will be two issues per year.

As for future plans for the journal, Brown said that she’s taking the temperature at each stage of the process, because all of her editors and readers are working on a volunteer basis, and she’s paying any necessary expenses out-of-pocket.

Brown doesn’t mind the lack of profit so far, because it supports the magazine’s purpose: to give back and to foster a community of artists.

“I think of it as paying for art supplies,” she joked.

Brown does hope to have a couple of contests, and the submissions for those will be evaluated by a guest judge. For each judge, Brown hopes to choose a poet that has fresh aesthetic tastes.

“For [judges] I am looking for someone that would choose something different than I would — unpredictable — but I know it’s going to be great,” Brown said.

As is perhaps obvious, House Mountain Review was named in homage to House Mountain in Rockbridge County.

The mission statement of the journal quotes poet Wallace Stevens:

“HMR is a place for poets to ‘go their own way,’ but also to find their ‘unique and solitary mountain homes.’”

Brown has been teaching poetry and English classes to VMI students for almost a decade. Her individual poems have been published in a variety of magazines and journals, and her first book of poems, “The Adjacent Possible,” will be published by Green Writer’s Press in 2020.