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Get to know your bears: Mason Wray


As you might have seen recently on our socials, Bear Review conducted a search for two new poetry editors to do the work of reading each packet of poems we receive with the care it deserves. And we needed to find two dynamic individuals, themselves poets with skin in the game, to do the work of maintaining the integrity of our journal’s goals of fostering online, interregional, and intercity communities for this beautiful, living art we practice and revere. For a week in late October, we received many CVs and sample poem explications from highly qualified candidates. And for two weeks in November, we conducted interviews with six of these candidates, each dynamic in different ways, and two of them really clicked with each of us: Nikki Ummel and Mason Wray.


Here we excitedly introduce you to Mason Wray, one of two poetry editors we’ve brought onboard to keep Bear Review (founded on December 29th, 2013) growing into its tenth year. From Decatur, Ga., Mason lived for a time in Oxford, where he was a Barry and Susan Hannah Fellow while earning an MFA in poetry at the University of Mississippi. A former poetry editor of Yalobusha Review, Wray has taught English in the states and Spain, and he has attended the Ruth Stone House New Galaxy Retreat and Breadloaf. Currently writing poems toward his first poetry collection and editing Bear Review in Atlanta, Wray’s work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Bear Review, Diagram, Hayden’s Ferry Review, New Letters, New Ohio Review, Ploughshares, and Southwest Review.


Below are responses Wray gave recently to a few questions I was curious to hear from him about:


Marcus Myers: What are some current obsessions you feel comfortable giving our readers a glimpse of?


Mason Wray: Joni Mitchell, deserts, jumpsuits, and overalls. The sorts of foods that take a long time to simmer and come with a party (gumbo, crawfish, boiled peanuts, etc.).


MM: Seriously, now. What drew you to come edit at Bear Review?


MW: Who wouldn't want to edit such an amazing journal? For years I've kept up with Bear Review, reading many of the thoughtful poems published within, and watching it grow into a significant literary presence. When the opportunity arose to help shape the next phase, it was a no-brainer. It's an exciting time to work toward all the places Bear Review is headed.


MM: How would you describe your aesthetic as a poet?


MW: I'm not sure I'm the best at objectively diagnosing my own work, but I'll say that imagination, surprise, playfulness, experimentation and most important, an emotional core, are elements of poetry (and any kind of art for that matter) that are very important to me. They always really move me in the work of poets I admire. If even half those things end up in a poem of mine, it's a good day.


MM: What other aesthetics do you appreciate, and what kinds of poems do you like to read most?


MW: As someone who was born, raised and lives in the Deep South, I'm really interested in other Southern poets who are fearlessly reclaiming and reinventing what that label means, particularly voices that have historically been underrepresented in that cannon. But also all those working with aesthetics, ideas, eccentricities, joys, vulnerabilities, and representations of love and empathy that subvert traditional notions of Southern-ness. It's the South of the possible, and I'm grateful to all those poets helping to imagine it into existence.


Aside from that, I'm always moved by poems trying to do something I've never seen before: taking novel risks, saying something I've not heard articulated in such a way, functioning linguistically or logically or aesthetically in new forms, and all the while doing it with heart. It's a really difficult balance to strike, and always astonishes me anew.