Our latest survey and our new poetry editor

The readers have spoken, and our poetry editor speaks.


Hello there, friends! This is the first time I’ve formally addressed you in the pages of this magazine — though my fingerprints may have occasionally appeared in previous issues. My name is Michael Schrantz, and I’m part of the business staff at High Country News. I might show up in your mailbox when it’s time to renew, check in with you via email, entreat your participation in our reader survey, maybe even follow up with a call — and bring you tidings from HCN in these Community Pages, as I’m doing now. 

This month, I have an update on our latest reader survey, which closed at the end of March.

It was a tremendous success: We saw our highest levels of participation since we resumed regular surveys last year. And more than a hundred of you volunteered to let me steal even more of your time on the telephone. I didn’t quite get to all of you, but please know that your willingness to participate was very much appreciated.

Overwhelmingly, the most popular story mentioned in this survey was our March spotlight on the Colorado River Basin and Indigenous water rights, written by Pauly Denetclaw and Christine Trudeau, a contributing editor at HCN for the past year. Readers were fascinated by the history of how tribal nations were cut out of water agreements, infuriated by the injustice but encouraged by the possibility of a more inclusive future. A common theme that emerged from the surveys was how much you appreciate HCN’s coverage of Indigenous issues as well as our stories about Westerners who rally for their communities. I can confirm HCN will continue writing about both. 

The other thing I want to plug this month is the opportunity I’ve had to interview key staffers and interesting newcomers, asking the kind of questions I imagine curious readers like you might have. I recently spoke to Paisley Rekdal, HCN’s new poetry editor. You can find an excerpt on this page.

In the meantime, please keep emailing [email protected] with your suggestions about how to better connect with HCN’s community, since it just so happens that I’ve been the person behind the inbox this whole time. Until next month!

—Michael Schrantz, marketing communications manager


‘Doing something kinda sneaky around poetry’

New HCN Poetry Editor Paisley Rekdel’s CV is extensive. She has written 10 books, been published in a long list of journals and periodicals and taken home the sorts of fellowships and prizes you know by name. (Think Guggenheim, Fulbright, NEA and Pushcart.) Since 2017, she’s also served as Utah’s poet laureate. A few excerpts from a longer interview are below.

On surprising people with poetry … 
“At magazines where readers are already expecting poetry, you’re speaking to the converted. I like the idea of doing something kinda sneaky around poetry. Readers coming to High Country News for something different might find a poem that leads them to become more interested in poetry or seek out more poets living in or writing about the West.”

On poetry complementing HCN’s strengths …
“What poetry can do is leap out of longer documents and accounts to offer new ways of seeing a subject. Poems become visual counterpoints on the page. They offer breathing space for readers moving their way through the publication online or in hand. But also, poetry offers a different way of seeing the world, and oftentimes, can compress really big stories into small images that do a lot of work. I think that if you’re a reader of longform nonfiction you’re always hungry for those bigger stories that poetry can actually offer in small, short ways.”

On the kind of poetry that will appear in HCN …
“I’d like to publish the best poems that I find written in and about the West. I’m not going to be particularly focused on just one topic. That said, I think I am going to find more delight in poems that subvert whatever the topic might be. Oftentimes, we don’t talk about the urban West as a natural space. I’d be interested in seeing that. We don’t tend to think of the West as a place that hosts a kind of experimental poetics, but we do. I’d be interested in seeing some poems that resist conventional lyric expression in favor of something more surprising or visually disrupting on the page. I don’t want to limit what I’m looking for.”

Read the full interview here.

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