Michael T. Fournier and I were interviewed about our role as editors for Cabildo Quarterly by Black Lawrence Press for their Sapling #529 newsletter. The interview is reposted here:

This week Sapling talks with Lisa Panepinto & Michael T. Fournier, Editors, Cabildo Quarterly.

Sapling:What should people know who may not be familiar with Cabildo Quarterly?

Lisa: Cabildo Quarterly is a literary print broadside featuring new short fiction and poetry. We also publish writing on our website https://cabildoquarterly.tumblr.com/. We are inspired by music, human and environmental rights issues, and relationships, and like seeing those themes reflected in the writing we publish. We encourage writers of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, ethnic backgrounds, spiritual persuasions, and disabilities to submit their work, and especially welcome submissions by women and writers of color, whose voices have so often been suppressed by the mainstream.

Mike: The print version of Cabildo Quarterly was inspired by The 2nd Hand, a literary broadsheet published for years by Todd Dills, our friend from Nashville. The single-sheet format is cheap to produce and easy to distribute, effectively harnessing the punk rock ethos we hold dear. (And it’s fun to leave them in laundromats, bus stops, and libraries for unsuspecting folks to find.)

Sapling: How did the name for Cabildo Quarterly come about?

Lisa: The name Cabildo Quarterly is derived from the Cabildo in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Our editor in chief, Michael T. Fournier, had a cat named Cabildo as well.

Mike: My wife Rebecca and I used to have a cat named Molly, who turned into Cabildo when she was bad. That and our love or New Orleans yielded the name.

Sapling: What do you pay close attention to when reading submissions for Cabildo Quarterly? Any deal breakers?

Lisa: As Poetry Editor I look for a sense of story in the poems I choose—I’m drawn to poems that have an arc and message rather than more abstract or cerebral poems. I also look for sound sense, imagery, levels of meaning, authenticity, and qualities of beauty and timelessness in the poem. As far as deal breakers, I try to avoid any xenophobia in submissions I accept, and while I believe it’s crucial to process and document violence and injustice, I tend to pass up writing that is explicitly violent or graphic if there doesn’t seem to be a clear purpose attached to such content. The poet and activist Lee Sharkey once said that many poets write about violence in vivid detail, which can end up enacting more violence on the reader. Violence violates us, so how do we end that cycle in the writing we create? I think that’s an important question to consider.

Mike: As the fiction editor, I’m looking for distinct voices, outlooks and storytelling. Writers who have no choice but to tell their stories in their own specific voices are a joy to find. It’s shocking to me that so many cis dudes are still submitting axe-grinding breakup stories. Where you been, guys? It’s 2020! And stop using so many adverbs! Also, it’s obvious when writers are carpetbombing with their submissions: rather than getting to know journals that might be good fits, they bcc every journal on Entropy’s “Where To Submit” list or whatever. I understand the notion that submitting to more journals ups one’s mathematical chance of acceptance, but so does submitting to the right journals for you. Our entire output is easily available online – take a look and make sure we’re up your alley (or vice versa) before sending stuff along.

Sapling: Where do you imagine Cabildo Quarterly to be headed over the next couple years? What’s on the horizon?

Lisa: We have some exciting writers who will be gracing our pages soon, such as new work by Stephanie Athena Valente coming up in our 14th broadside edition. We also hope to offer more spoken word audio components to our website, compensate contributors, and make CQ t-shirts in the future.

Mike: I’ve been applying for grants to help us pay writers, like Lisa mentioned above. At some point we’d love to anthologize past issues, too. And yes, shirts!

Sapling: As an editor, what is the hardest part of your job? The best part?

Lisa: The hardest part of being an editor is sending rejection letters, because I know how tough they can be to receive. I’ve gotten around this at times by encouraging writers to “revise and resubmit” in my responses to submissions. In some cases the poetry someone submits will be exquisite in most ways but have just one line or phrase that strikes me as off-putting or too vague, in which case I’ll suggest the writer change that detail and resubmit the poem. That’s been a rewarding process and it lets me have more of a conversation with the writer, and that to me is the best part about being an editor: the literary community I get to be included in. I like having the chance to communicate with worldwide artists, especially when I can give the writer positive feedback and publish their new poems. It’s inspiring and exciting to be among the first to read emerging work of the writers we publish—I especially admire the poetry of Cabildo Quarterly contributors Howie Good, Kelli Stevens Kane, Quenton Baker, James Croal Jackson, Kat Georges, Kelvin Kellman, and several others.

Mike: Yeah, finding previously unheralded writers is what it’s all about. This past year, we worked extensively with Katherine Sinback, whose work has gained traction in the community – it’s an honor to be involved with her career. Also, building and maintaining relationships with writers and editors is rewarding, especially when we hit the road. Every few years we tour – getting the chance to hang out with our lit friends is always welcome and awesome. The hardest part is passing on excellent work that doesn’t quite fit our vision.

Sapling: If you were stranded on a desert island for a week with only three books which books would you want to have with you?

Lisa: I would want to carry the books, I am That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj and The Essential Rumi translated by Coleman Barks, because they never fail to uplift and impart wisdom, and Isabel Allende’s In the Midst of Winter since I haven’t read it yet and Allende is one of my favorite authors for her political truth-telling and magical realism, plus I find her stories especially entrancing when read in or near water.

Mike: A week? Give me some tomes to grind through. Classics, preferably.

Sapling: Just for fun (because we like fun and the number three) if Cabildo Quarterly was a person what three things would it be thinking about obsessively?

Lisa: 1) How to give more kindness to myself and others while striving for artistic and inner growth, 2) getting all people and sentient beings access to quality shelter, water, food, and happiness, 3) and song lyrics.

Mike: Red Sox baseball, Fugazi live shows, and the TV show “Survivor.”


Lisa Panepinto is the author of Where I Come from the Fish Have Souls (Spuyten Duyvil) and On This Borrowed Bike (Three Rooms Press) and poetry editor for Cabildo Quarterly.

Michael T. Fournier is the author of Double Nickels on the Dime (33 1/3) Swing State and Hidden Wheel (Three Rooms Press). He interviews writers about punk rock in his Paging All Punks column for Razorcake and plays drums and writes songs for Dead Trend. He’s the publisher and fiction editor of Cabildo Quarterly.

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