Cover illustrations provided by Rhino Poetry
After nearly four decades of publishing poetry, local poetry journal Rhino reaches national and international acclaim for its annual guide, as well as its community outreach. Words by Ann Marie Scheidler /
The city of Evanston is filled with gems and few are more precious than RHINO: The Poetry Forum. Founded in 1976 as a workshop for local poets by Helen Degen Cohen, Suzanne Brabant, Lowell B. Komie, and Elizabeth Peterson, RHINO is now recognized both nationally and internationally as a publisher of the best poetry, flash-fiction, and translations in English produced in a given year. Each April, in conjunction with National Poetry Month, they publish RHINO, a collection of the 100 or so best poems of the 10,000-12,000 submitted poems that they receive over the course of the year. RHINO 2015 officially will be launched at its release party on Sunday, April 19.
What’s most extraordinary about RHINO as a thriving artistic enterprise is that it’s comprised of 10-12 volunteer editors who meet every two weeks to review and vote on submissions. “It’s the best part of our process,” explains senior editor Angela Torres, who has been part of RHINO for the last six years. “We present a poem we would like to include and then sometimes have to ‘fight’ for it. It leads to wonderful discussions before we take a vote to see if the poem is ‘in’ or ‘out.’”
Each poetry submission is read by a minimum of three editors, except in cases where the first two readers recommend not proceeding. They use a simple 1-3 point scoring system charted with room for editors’ comments. Editors’ final decisions are made as a group, following an oral reading and discussion; no poem is published unless put before the group—approval requires a simple majority of editors present (where all votes are equal). If an editor knows a submitter personally, this relationship must be declared. And no work of the current board of RHINO editors is considered for publication in this annual.
In addition to producing their annual journal and maintaining their website, with its lively “Big Horn” Blog, RHINO is active in the community—hosting a monthly Poetry Forum led by different master poets, as well as “Rhino Reads” open mike sessions with two featured poets on the last Friday of every month, usually hosted at Brothers’ K coffeehouse in south Evanston.
And for those wondering about the significance of the rhino, history has it that it started as a whimsical doodle when the founders were looking for a cover image. Over time, it has evolved into the iconic image it is today, often interpreted by important artists.
“Poetry is a passion for us,” adds Torres. “It is alive and well in Evanston.”
The pod cracked, it was time.
But the seeds clung
To the ribs of the thing
While the spine
Held the halves in place.
Still Life in a Field, RHINO 2010
I was baptized in books: not a tepid
Methodist sprinkling but a full
immersion, not in the static pool
of a marble font but in a roiling
stream of ink, of words, of thought;
and I was saved.
Bath II, RHINO 2013
I would have given anything to be from elsewhere,
to celebrate strange holidays, to unpack figs and grape-leaves
at lunch, to camber my vowels into things so precisely deviant
that everyone who heard them would be charmed.
Brenna W. Lemieux,
Ear Training, RHINO 2012
It had to do with the moon that night
climbing the boned skirt of a cedar.
Tents, RHINO 2014
Willow let her hair down
and the lesser trees wore birds.
Brian Philip Whalen,
Envy, RHINO 2013
The pearly immensities
jangle jewels of winter
at her lobes
Prolix, RHINO 2013
Past RHINO covers and artists, from left to right: 2009 (Tom Bachtel),
2011 (Doug Stapleton), 2012 (Nancy Robinson), 2013 (Steve Musgrave)