Literary MagNet: Katherine Indermaur

by
Dana Isokawa
12.14.22

“If I could only see more clearly my own seeing—” writes Katherine Indermaur in the first line of her book-length lyric essay, I|I (Seneca Review Books, November 2022). The book’s title is pronounced by repeating the pronoun “I,” with a pause after the first iteration. The word “I|I” also functions as a personal pronoun in the book, often signaling the speaker’s sense of self as both first and third person simultaneously. Throughout I|I, Indermaur seeks clarity about the mysteries of sight and selfhood. She focuses on the history, making, theory, and connotations of mirrors and weaves in meditations on dermatillomania, also known as skin-picking or excoriation disorder. By juxtaposing scraps of daily observation, etymology, and aphorisms, Indermaur explores how our understanding of ourselves can warp, shift, and fragment in the manner of light. “I|I want light to reveal, but it only travels—passive from the start,” she writes.

Katherine Indermaur, the author of I|I.   (Credit: Diane Kelly)

Describing her book as a “refutation of genre,” Indermaur notes the journals that published excerpts from I|I “embrace genre-bending and liminality of genre.” One such journal, New Delta Review, was the first to feature an excerpt from I|I; the editors also suggested Indermaur present it as nonfiction, not as poetry, as she had submitted it. “Their acceptance shocked me and gave legitimacy to my pursuit of the weird, unwieldy, experimental project that was I|I,” says Indermaur. Edited by graduate students at Louisiana State University, New Delta Review releases an issue of experimental poetry, fiction, nonfiction, translation, reviews, and art twice a year online. “Embrace the radical, the political, the bizarre, but do so with purpose,” write the poetry editors. The nonfiction editors encourage writers to send “compelling content with innovative structure.” Submissions are currently closed.

As with New Delta Review, Indermaur found that publishing with Ghost Proposal made “writing I|I and other audacious, world-building, and page-expanding poems possible.” She has read the online magazine ever since the editors published some of the “wildly experimental and fun pieces” of her classmates at the Colorado State University MFA program in creative writing. “Ghost Proposal feels like a more feral version of the Normal School or Black Warrior Review,” she says. “They exist as an outside-of-genre publication.” Established in 2012, Ghost Proposal is open to “poetry, intermedia work, visual and concrete poetry, essays, video poems, translation, hybrid forms, new media, hypertext works, poetry games, poetry in the expanded field, poets’ theater, sound.” Ghost Proposal also publishes chapbooks; chapbook and journal submissions are both currently closed.

“When you contribute to a literary journal—whether as a writer or editor—you join that community,” says Indermaur, who edits poetry for Sugar House Review and is a former editor of Colorado Review. “Each issue is its own community.” She found herself in good company at the online biannual Gasher, which ran an excerpt of I|I—a visually compelling section in which the text overlaps and is interspersed with images of eyes—alongside nonfiction by Marty McConnell, poetry by Kendall Morris, and fiction by W. T. Paterson, in the Spring 2021 issue. “The work they publish is expansive and stunning,” Indermaur says, praising its publisher, Gasher Press, for supporting emerging writers with its First Book Scholarship that helps poets pay fees to enter first-book contests. Submissions to Gasher are open via Submittable until February 1.

Indermaur printed a portion of I|I in 2021 as the chapbook Facing the Mirror: An Essay with COAST|noCoast a journal and micro press of experimental poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and art. Each issue of the print annual, which is edited in Seattle and Cincinnati, includes writers from Southwest Ohio and the Puget Sound. Since starting the journal as Northside Review in 2014, the editors have published writers such as E. J. Koh, Sasha Steensen, Joshua Marie Wilkinson, and Tyrone Williams. “We seek work that is self-conscious (potentially experimental) in form and context,” write the editors. As of this writing, submissions are closed.

Kazim Ali selected I|I as the winner of the biennial Deborah Tall Lyric Essay Book Prize administered by editors of Seneca Review. After winning, Indermaur was delighted to publish part of the book in the biannual print review, which Hobart and William Smith Colleges have published since 1970. “The grandmother of a friend of mine was a Pulitzer Prize–winning poet, and when I told her about my Seneca Review acceptance, she said, ‘Oh, yes, my grandma had some poems published there,’ which just made me glow for days,” Indermaur says. The journal publishes poetry and essays and, since 1997, has been known for advancing the lyric essay, a genre that “give[s] primacy to artfulness over the conveying of information,” as former editor Deborah Tall and current advisory editor John D’Agata write on the website. “They forsake narrative line, discursive logic, and the art of persuasion in favor of idiosyncratic meditation.” Submissions to Seneca Review are open from February 1 to March 15 via Submittable and by mail; submissions to the 2024 book prize will open in June 2023.

 

Dana Isokawa is the managing editor of the Margins and a contributing editor of Poets & Writers Magazine.