Recently I asked poet, editor, painter and publisher, Jonathan Kevin Rice for an interview. I was pleased with his response. After reading his remarks, I find that I have much in common with him, his likes and how he spends his time. He also has a sense of humor.
I appreciate him taking the time to answer my questions.
Glenda Beall: Thank you, Jonathan, for taking time to answer my questions.
Tell us, please, about your family and where you live and work?
Jonathan Rice: I live with my wife and youngest son in the University area of Charlotte, NC. I’m a working artist and editor/publisher. I manage to make a few bucks doing that.
Glenda: Your education was in religious studies. Are you a minister or have you been a minister?
Jonathan: I am not a minister, although many years ago I worked with an inner-city ministry. That was a very busy and fulfilling time working with families in public housing, elderly, as well as the homeless and incarcerated. I became a bit burned-out though and moved on to other things.
Glenda: I know you have been editor and publisher of IodinePoetry journal since 2000. Why did you begin this publication?
Jonathan: Around that time I was getting published in small press mags and, upon looking at the various inexpensive (and sometimes cheap) formats, I thought, “I can do this!” So I went to my good friend Scott Douglass, editor and publisher of The Main Street Rag and Main Street Rag Publishing. I told him my idea, so with a few hundred bucks I started Iodine as a 32 page saddle-stitched mag with a card stock cover, priced at $4. I was also hosting readings at the time. It was a year into those readings when I decided to start Iodine, so getting poetry was easy. Much of what was in that first issue was poetry I heard at the mic. I hosted the readings for fifteen years until the café closed. I miss that café (Jackson’s Java) and those readings.
Glenda: Iodine has published some notable poets over the years. Tell us about them and some of the universities that subscribe to Iodine.
Jonathan: Well, some of those poets found us, like Virgil Suarez, for example. I never knew what was going to be in the mail box. Also, I was always meeting poets at readings and conferences, so I made it a habit of asking them to submit. Not everyone did, but those who did helped to make Iodine what it is.
A letter or email goes a long way in reaching out to poets to submit as well. I was thrilled to publish work by Fred Chappell, someone I greatly admire. He was kind enough to write a blurb for my collection, “Ukulele and Other Poems.”
We’ve published Kim Bridgford, Peter Cooley, Kim Garcia, Jaki Shelton Green, Colette Inez, Ron Koertge, Dorianne Laux, Karen An-Hwei Lee & R.T. Smith.
We have poetry by Kim Addonizio, Cynthia Atkins, Joseph Bathanti, Patrick Bizzaro, Cathy Smith Bowers, Mary Carroll-Hackett, Okla Elliott, Jane Ellen Glasser, Lola Haskins, Peter Makuck, John Stanizzi, Shelby Stephenson, John Tribble & Virgil Suarez among many other emerging and established poets slated for our final issue.
Ron Koertge’s poem “Found” was selected for inclusion in Best American Poetry 2006.
A handful of university libraries subscribe, such as Brown University, Davidson College, Furman University, University of Arizona’s Poetry Center, University of Buffalo (SUNY), University of North Carolina at Chapel, University of Wisconsin at Madison and a few others. Iodine is also archived at The Poets House in NYC.
Glenda: Many poets will be disappointed that you are discontinuing Iodine.
Jonathan: Actually, just picked up the last issue a few days ago. I have other things I’d like to do. I would like to have more time to write and paint, but I couldn’t say no to being offered a co-editor slot of KAKALAK 2016, so I’m still wearing the editor’s hat. I also do some select reading for Main Street Rag, so I’m staying busy. I thought about exploring the possibility of transitioning Iodine to an online mag in 2017, but that idea is pretty low on my priority list, if I go there.
Glenda: In 2002, you co-edited a chapbook, Celebrating Life, a project funded by Barnes and Noble. Tell us about it, please.
Jonathan: This was a little anthology of poetry that was put together in honor of Dorothy Perry Thompson, who was a wonderful poet and instructor at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC.
Glenda: Your latest poetry book is titled Killing Time. Interesting title.
Jonathan: My publisher, Scott Douglass at Main Street Rag, had been bugging me for the past few years (maybe longer) to put a new collection together. My last book came out in 2006, so I was a bit overdue for a new book. It just wasn’t high on my priority list, but I bumped it up the list after a lot of prodding from him and other friends.
I took a variety of work from the past nine years and assembled it, hoping Scott would like it. I sent it to him and I was pleased that he suggested few edits, so I felt like I must have done something right. I blame the title…or should I say give credit to Scott, because he would call me from time to time wondering what I was doing (as if I wasn’t doing anything), and, more often than not, I would say Killing Time.
Glenda: You won the Irene Blair Honeycutt Legacy Award. That is not for writing or painting, is it? How did you feel about receiving this recognition?
Jonathan: That award is given to individuals for “outstanding service in support of local and regional writers,” so that was basically for my editing/publishing Iodine for so long along with the hosting of readings in the area all these years, which I still do. I was surprised and very honored to receive this award. The literary community in Charlotte and the state is by and large a very supportive one.
Glenda: You are a visual artist, also.Tell us about that part of your life. When did you begin painting?
Jonathan: I began painting in high school, but my interests were all over the place, so I didn’t paint continuously over the years. I had some art instruction in high school, but I have basically learned from other artists and from just doing. I had always been attracted to abstract work and loved the art of Robert Motherwell, de Kooning, Pollock, Rauschenberg and others, so I naturally was drawn to experiment in that realm. I also painted seascapes, beach scenes, some landscape, although they were a little abstract. I just prefer to work in the abstract. I paint practically every day, although lately I’ve been pretty busy with the poetry side of things and doing readings around the state.
Glenda: At one point you began using your own paintings for the covers of Iodine. Why did you do that and how was that idea received by your subscribers?
Jonathan: Five years into editing the magazine, Scott had suggested we do a full color cover for the five year anniversary edition, which he designed from a surreal image of me, that another friend had created from a photograph. I call that cover the Warhol-Peter Max cover. Scott did a great job designing that. After that issue came out, readers said, “You can’t go back now!” Nobody wanted me to go back to the simple card stock covers and some friends suggested I start putting my art on the cover, so I did. Readers loved it. Not long after that I set up a studio in a local gallery and I was painting more, and selling my work. The covers brought new attention to my visual art.
Glenda: Which do you most enjoy, painting or writing poetry?
Jonathan: I can’t say I enjoy one over the other. John Lee Hooker once said, “If the boogie is in you, it’s gotta come out.” That’s how I feel about the creative act. Whatever is in me has to come out, whether it’s on the page or canvas.
Glenda: With more free time, where do you plan to exert your energies?
Jonathan: Free time? I exert it with the stuff that I do, like answering these questions for you in this interview.
I always have something to do: walking my dog in the woods (the most important thing I do at the beginning of the day), reading, writing, editing, painting, booking readings, hosting readings, going to readings, art exhibits, booking exhibits, marketing my art, doing coffee with friends, wine with friends, beer with friends, etc etc. I am very fortunate to have wonderful friends in the arts. I try to look at everything I do from a creative aspect. Everything I experience leads to the next creative act.
Glenda: Can you tell us something personal that is not in your bio?
Jonathan: I love music. I play guitar. I’m not great at it, but I love to play and sing. I love listening to music and I love live music, whether it’s a busker on a street corner or a band in an arena. Love it all.
Glenda: Thank you, Jonathan. I like the humor in your answers. I feel I know you, and you and I have much in common.
Jonathan Rice will teach a poetry and poetry marketing workshop at Writers Circle around the Table in Hayesville, NC on June 11, 10:00 - 1:00 p.m.
Contact Glenda Beall at 828-389-4441 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. You may go to www.glendacouncilbeall.com for a class description and fees.
Jonathan is one of the featured readers at Writers Night Out in Blairsville, GA at the Union County Community Center on Friday evening, 7:00 p.m. The public is invited to meet him and hear him read his poetry.