Bare Hands is an international online journal of contemporary poetry and photography started by Kerrie O’Brien in October 2011 with the aim of creating an online journal that was both visually striking and easy to read.
As there are already a huge number of well-established and impressive Irish journals such as the Stinging Fly, The Poetry Bus and The First Cut, Kerrie wanted to create an international collection. She also wanted something with a quick turnaround so that people wouldn’t be left waiting too long for a response. Kerrie decided that ten poems and five photographs would be featured each month and the layout would ensure that the reader focused on each piece of work individually. She told writing.ie “I’d never used Tumblr before but their blog themes are beautiful, easy to use and designed to be read easily on mobile and tablet devices. So I started a Facebook account and put out a submission call on poetry blogs and websites. The results were startling. From the beginning, the poetry and photography I received were of an incredibly high standard and work was being sent from all over the world – China, India, Russia, Malta – it was amazing. Sarah Griffin became my fellow editor and within a few months the journal was getting a huge amount of views and it kept growing.
Each issue now reaches over a thousand hits within a few days of publication, which I still can’t really believe. Because the quality of the work in each issue was so strong and word about it kept spreading, we decided to launch a competition that would promote the journal and its artists in a bigger way. The idea was that two winning poems and photographs would be turned into two beautifully designed postcards and distributed to independent bookshops around the world where people could pick them up for free.
And that’s what we did.
They are now available all across the world in bookshops including Shakespeare and Co. in Paris, City Lights in San Francisco, Foyles in London, St Mark’s Bookstore in New York as well as ones in Melbourne, Toronto, Berlin and even Santorini. The winning and highly commended work is published on our website and it is stunning.
Ever since the creation of Bare Hands people have enquired about the possibility of a print edition, and we’ve decided we are going to create a print anthology, coming out in October 2012 to celebrate Bare Hand’s first birthday.
We’ve launched a Fundit campaign, so we’ll join the epic ranks of Storymap and The Poetry Bus. We hope readers will look at it as just buying a copy of the anthology in advance – if they pledge a meagre eight euro, they’re guaranteed a copy of the book to be sent for free. We’ve other plans in store for the kind people who donate more than this such as a tiny little book of Bare Hands photographs, stickers and even gin! This first print venture is going to mark an important change in Bare Hands, and our second year is going to be full of surprises that are already under way.
Submissions for the anthology are now open. So, while we get our Fundit campaign up and running, write us some poetry and take some photographs! Our deadline is September 1st 2012 – that gives you loads of time. We will be publishing 15 photographs and 25 poems altogether. It’ll be amazing! All contributors will receive two copies of the print journal.
To submit simply send maximum three poems or photographs (you are welcome to send both) firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Anthology Submission’ in the subject field. Please send the poems within the body of the email and attach the photographs as jpegs. We can’t wait to see your work!”
Editor Sarah Griffin is now based in San Francisco, and she is just as excited as Kerrie about the FundIt project. She told us, ” I joined Kerrie to do some reading and editing for Bare Hands. Submissions come in reams, and while our tastes are aligned somewhat similarly, we also find very different things beautiful in poetry too. While I certainly take a back-seat in the final product, I do read all the submissions that come in, and essentially long-list them before Kerrie takes the lead. In the last issue, half the choices were hers, and half mine – it will probably continue to vary in that way depending on the month that’s in it. In a way I feel like I’ve had an amazing opportunity to see what is going on in the imaginations of poets at the moment, both in Ireland and abroad. In a sense, I’ve learned that people are still toiling over the same issues that poetry has always addressed – and by the looks of it, that isn’t going to change.
So what do new poets need to do to impress Kerrie and Sarah? Sarah reveals, “hat I’m excited to see when I click in to the inbox, is somebody talking about these things while utterly and totally surprising me. I want the language, imagery, and story I’m being told to take me somewhere different than I was before I started reading. But chances are, if your poem contains any easy metaphors or images, you’ve lost me. I don’t mind reading fifty poems about your garden, if each of them uniquely projects a new perspective on the concept of the garden and maybe the next time I see a garden I remember your unique slant on the garden-ness of the garden. Poetry about gardens is hugely common. And the landscape, and ageing parents, and the ocean. Sex, unfortunately, not so much. Politics crops up here and there, but not as often as one would assume, given the times we live in. Race not so much, gender and sexuality issues, almost not at all.
Succinct work is wonderful. Short, explosive pieces tend to turn our heads, then, every so often, a seven stanza wonder will come along and blow our minds too. There is no wrong poem, no wrong way to write a poem: but there are raw, startling, magic ones that appear every so often, and these are the ones we want to showcase.
I for one am hugely, hugely looking forward to the arrival of the Bare Hands Anthology. It’ll mark the beginning of the next phase in BH’s journey, which I am so glad to be navigating alongside Kerrie. This is going to be a gorgeous book full of gorgeous things. And our launch party is going to blow a hole in Dublin city so large they’ll be repairing the foundations for years!
Donate, come along with us, buy your issue in advance. With your help and support, Bare Hands, along with the other crowd-funded artistic endeavours Dublin has produced in the last year or so, will prove that any art is possible if there is an audience. We want to give a platform to tiny, surprising, beautiful things, but we need you to help us. So send your poems, photographs, and buy an advance copy of the book: if we can make this happen, year two of Bare Hands is going to be very exciting indeed. That’s a promise.”