The End Will Not be Sugared: Contemporary Apocalypse Poetry is a forthcoming anthology of contemporary poetry in the tradition of apocalyptic poems. Edited by Jennifer R. Hancock and Juan J. Morales, they are currently seeking submissions of poems with the theme of “the breakdown of society and its structures, technological advance and collapse, environmental destruction and purification, human hubris, popular culture (including zombies and the fetishization of ‘prepping’), and hope and despair.”
Hancock and Morales hosted a well-attended reading to announce the anthology at AWP last March in San Antonio, TX. I was honored to be among the readers and it was a wonderful night! Though planned long before the pandemic, the anthology seems even more timely now.
I wanted to know more about this anthology and how the project came to be, so I asked friend and fellow poet Jennifer Hancock some questions. See my in-depth interview with her and a link to submission guidelines below.
HOPKINSON: Tell me a little bit about The End Will Not Be Sugared anthology?
HANCOCK: The End Will Not Be Sugared: Contemporary Apocalypse Poetry, will be an anthology of mostly American, contemporary poems that show responses to the breakdown of society and its structures, technological advance and collapse, environmental destruction and purification, human hubris, popular culture (including zombies and the fetishization of “prepping”), and hope and despair.
Basically, we hope to gather the very best poems out there that deal with or reveal our fascination with all things apocalypse. We’ve been soliciting some pieces, but want the majority of the collection to be new, unpublished work. Poets are addressing how apathy, well-intentioned innovations, and our own direct implication shape our understanding of climate change, pandemics, and the human toll on the planet. Mid-century poets and other artists wrestled with the atomic age, but we’ve moved beyond the fear of—to the inevitability of—. Poets have certainly mourned civilizations before, but never on this scale. These contemporary poets are writing the elegies of the human race.
And poets have never to this degree competed with (and been inspired by) popular culture’s attempts to address the same concerns. Poets, like Rae Armantrout, are writing about show-runners crafting our conflicts and confronting the spectacle of Russell Crowe in Noah. This anthology will assemble the poets who are carving out a brand new space for poetry in the public’s consciousness.
At the heart of apocalypse writing there is humanity, persistence, and survival through storytelling, and contemporary poetry is a larger part of apocalypse writing than is currently realized. Ultimately, the emphasis is on humanity as cause, chroniclers, witnesses, victims, celebrants, and survivors, and this is one of the best ways art can work hand in hand with facts and science.
HOPKINSON: How/why was this anthology project originally started?
HANCOCK: I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of apocalypse, end times, all that. I grew up in southeast Texas (near Corpus Christi) and my mom was fairly religious. We read the Book of Revelation, of course, and occasionally had to evacuate inland because a hurricane got close. Plus, as a Gen-Xer, I had that double whammy of parents who lived through “duck-and-cover” AND having the Cold War on the TV every night. So I felt like any day could bring aliens, Russians, or the second coming of Jesus. So my own work has always dealt with some of these ideas, but when I wrote an essay review for Spoon River Poetry Review, I read close to twenty recent collections of poetry that I’d classify as somehow “apocalyptic”. I settled on discussing Meghan Privitello’s wonderful chapbook Notes on the End of the World (Black Lawrence Press, 2016), Sam Witt’s Little Domesday Clock (Carolina Wren Press, 2017), and Angela Hume’s middle time (Omnidawn, 2016). And I spent the most time on Hume’s, I think—it is a fascinating feminist eco-poetic meditation on how chemicals, pharmaceuticals, etc., have soaked into the earth and into us—especially women’s bodies. But my childhood still called for that apocalypse note that isn’t purely eco-poetic. Eco-poetry has done VERY important work, but it is largely focused on the damage we’ve done to the world. I’m curious about how such a flawed species as humanity reacts to having done that damage and bracing for the repercussions.
After writing the essay (which was in SRPR’s issue 42.2 and can be read online here: http://srpr.org/reviewEssay.php ), I looked for apocalypse poems and found them everywhere. What started as twenty or so books has kept me busy now for two years—and people keep writing them, of course. What we’re going through right now will change the face of American poetry for decades.
So I wanted to collect the best ones, and get it into the hands of readers and teachers. At AWP Portland, I attended several panels on building anthologies, and the first lesson everyone had to share was Don’t do it alone! So I asked a fellow Coloradan and poet on Lithic Press, Juan Morales (CSU Pueblo) if he’d like to co-edit… his most recent book, with UNM Press, is The Handyman’s Guide to End Times (!), and he took about five seconds to say “yes”.
We started building the book proposal and approaching poets for poems we already knew and loved—a list of poets you’ve already secured is key to getting a publishing contract—and soon had several poets who were so enthusiastic about the project we felt confident in proceeding. Crucially for me, Rae Armantrout (get her book Wobble from Wesleyan) and Dorothy Barresi, who has allowed us to use her line “the end will not be sugared” as the working title, have been instrumental in supporting the project. And I know for Juan, Rigoberto Gonzáles has been just as strong a voice. At AWP this year, we hosted a reading to launch the call for poems.
HOPKINSON: Who is your target reader audience?
HANCOCK: We’re thinking of both a general readership (even people who don’t normally buy a book of poems) and the college classroom as ideal audiences. We’re both professors, so we will be building a website with accompanying classroom content, like Mike Theune did with Structure and Surprise. At this point, we don’t have a publisher yet, but the excitement about it so far gives us a fair amount of confidence that we’ll find a home for it soon. There are several great eco-poetry anthologies, but nothing in print right now that more broadly deals with apocalypse. We’re hoping for a bigger, possibly university press, for help getting it into classrooms, but know that someone will think it’s the perfect fit. We’ve spoken with three university presses who are considering it right now. And of course, the pandemic and resulting crisis is slowing things down… although poets are writing and reading poems about this experience and publishing them everywhere. Even before we hit National Poetry Month, I was seeing poets posting videos of readings, and posting new poems written out of our deep need to make art out of experience. How this will change the direction of the anthology is a question that has yet to be answered.
HOPKINSON: What type of work are you looking for?
HANCOCK: We’re looking for work that uses the voice of prophecy and witness to craft poems. It’s that simple, and yes, those are terms taken from religion, but we aren’t looking for specifically religious poems (although we certainly wouldn’t reject them for being so). Good poems, poems that tingle our Spidey senses. We’re witnessing the likely decline of human dominion over the planet, our own demise. How do you write about that? But we’re also looking for those poems that write of the apocalypses that have already happened.
HOPKINSON: What are some of your favorite lit mags/journals?
HANCOCK: I went the MFA/PhD route to a 4/4 teaching job, so unfortunately I don’t have enough time to read what I’d like to. I tend to buy books and then follow their acknowledgements pages to new journals, but I try to keep up with Spoon River Poetry Review, Crab Orchard Review, Gulf Coast, Copper Nickel, and the Denver Quarterly. Juan probably has a more eclectic list!
HOPKINSON: What is your favorite part of working on an anthology?
HANCOCK: The best part, honestly, is just reading the poems as they come in! We get an email any time there’s a new submission and it feels like Christmas. I say that now, while submissions are coming in at just one or two a day, lol. And seeing the thing take shape, despite whatever I think it will be. We’ll be picking the best poems, not poems that conform to our individual ideas of what apocalypse poetry is or should be. I’m aware that it might end up being *all* pandemic apocalypse. And I have a dream (shhhh) that once we get further into the process, contract solidified, etc., that we ask Margaret Atwood to write the Foreword. Most people don’t realize she’s a poet as well as a fiction writer. It’s my little fantasy. I had hoped that this semester Juan and I could do more collaborating on it, but the pandemic has thrown that goal into chaos, as each of us deals with our separate universities and responses. Maybe the summer will bring more time to work together. Over Zoom, of course.
HOPKINSON: Where can we send submissions, and if someone has a question, how can they contact you?
SUBMISSION DEADLINE: June 30, 2020
THEME: apocalyptic poems
FORMAT: print anthology
SUBMISSION FEE: None
PAYMENT: pending publisher
Jennifer R. Hancock, MFA, PhD is Associate Professor of English at Colorado Mesa University. She received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and her PhD from Oklahoma State University. Her poetry and criticism have been widely published, in Crab Orchard Review, Puerto del Sol, Antioch Review, and Ecotone, among other journals. Her book Between Hurricanes was published by Lithic Press in 2015. Her essay “The Body Apocalyptic: Recent Books from the Anthropocene” was a recent review essay in Spoon River Poetry Review (42.2).