It’s Friday morning, and the avid listeners of the most popular podcast ever, Serial, likely heard the last episode of the season sometime yesterday. (If not, no worries. No spoilers here.) There's something special about the format, the way the story unfolds, moving backward and forward across wrinkles and obsessions. There's something, dare I say, poetic about the ways the episodes talk back and forth with each other that resonates, too, with the way series of poems work with and against each other, troubling and teasing expectations in what Air Schooner Episode 41 calls "series syndrome."
Around the Office: Marianne Kunkel
Marianne Kunkel is the Managing Editor of Prairie Schooner and a Ph.D. student in poetry at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, with a specialization in women’s and gender studies. Her poems have appeared in Columbia Poetry Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Poet Lore, Rattle, River Styx, and elsewhere, and her chapbook, The Laughing Game, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.
Give us the background on how you got to be where you are now--interpret that enigmatic command however you want.
You mean the Managing Editor position, right? Lots of luck and hard work. After I earned my MFA at the University of Florida, I wanted to take some time off before applying for a PhD, so I worked two editing internships and then landed an editing job that I kept for two years. When I arrived at the University of Nebraska, I wanted to keep my editing skills fresh as a back-up career plan, so I interned at the University of Nebraska Press. In the meantime, I served as a reader for Prairie Schooner every semester and trained to become the PS Book Prize Coordinator. The year the new Editor-in-Chief, Kwame Dawes, began work was also the year the former Managing Editor, James Engelhardt, left for a job at the University of Alaska Press. I was tapped as Interim Managing Editor and I'm so happy (tickled! thrilled! ecstatic!) to continue in this role permanently.
What's your emotional relationship with the city of Lincoln, Nebraska?
We have lots of pillow talk, Lincoln and I. Ha! Not really. Let's see, I've grown really fond of Lincoln during the last three years that I've lived here. I lived most of my life in the southern United States, and I still feel like a visitor in Nebraska. Things frequently jar and surprise me—the proximity to farms and orchards, the abundance of tasty ice cream, the brutally cold winters. Lincoln itself is a pocket of pretty environmentally-conscientious people, and I've enjoyed becoming more involved in local politics. But I miss the South.
As Managing Editor, what's a typical day at the office like?
Busy! I get anywhere from 25 to 50 emails a day, so I spend a lot of time in front of my computer. When I'm not answering emails, I'm supervising our undergraduate interns—who are lifesavers when it comes to processing mail, proofreading, and keeping up good spirits in the office—planning events, booking advertisements, creating subscription promos, managing the journal's finances, reading submissions, and meeting with our Editor-in-Chief, Kwame Dawes. He's always coming up with unique and ambitious ideas for the journal and it's my job to help turn those ideas into actual accomplishments.
How do you find time to work on your own poetry amid all your responsibilities at the journal? While we're on the subject, what are you working on now?
Weekends are precious, as are weeknights. I've always written at least two hours every day, but I've had to cut back a bit in the last year or so. Lately what's becoming even more precious than time is efficiency—the more I read at my job and elsewhere, and the more I write, the more quickly I'm able to see productive and unproductive turns in my own writing process, and I'm really glad for this. Lately I'm writing first drafts of poems in two or three days, which is huge progress for me. Currently, I'm working on a series of poems about young girls for my book project on girlhood. It's a great focus for some of my natural interests—my own childhood, humor, irreverence, gender, psychology, language, etc.