Prizes, quixotic ventures, and belief in valuing poets – a note from Ralph Hamilton

ralph hamiltonOur editors prizes cost us approximately $500 a year, and for us that is real money, as folks used to say when I was a boy.  That said, poets are so undervalued (in numerous ways) in our society, that I stand by the idea that a poetry journal should, in some small way (if it is able), try to redress that.  The amounts are symbolic for most winners, but I believe symbols matter.
Havel said “Belief precedes reality” and I think of the prizes as a kind of belief, a statement of faith however tattered, however small, that the work being acknowledged truly matters and that our recognition of that fact somehow establishes a beachhead in the world for the reality of its significance to be recognized more broadly.  Perhaps quixotic, I know.  But what is a poetry journal in our time if not a quixotic venture, even as it remains as necessary as oxygen to our culture (and to some of our individual lives)?

To make your donation to RHINO and the Poetry Forum, visit


Thank you to all who have supported RHINO in 2013 and who have donated and supported RHINO for the year ahead.

Ralph Hamilton
Editor in Chief, RHINO

Guild Complex interviews RHINO Editor Ralph Hamilton for their first “Guild-cast”



The Guild Complex launched their new podcast series today with a first episode featuring a conversation with RHINO editor Ralph Hamilton!

For nearly 25 years, the Guild Literary Complex has been a community- based literary organization presenting and supporting diverse, divergent, and emerging voices through innovative programs including performances and readings. 

Ralph talks frank talk with Guild’s Debbie Carlson about RHINO’s selection process, the Chicago poetry scene, who he’s reading now, and what isn’t being written about.

Reawakened Through Words – Letter from Ralph Hamilton

December 2012

Dear Readers, Poets, Friends:

Poetry.  So what! …And yet RHINO 2013 will include Sandy McCord’s poem, Bath II:

I was baptized in books: not a tepid

Methodist sprinkling but a full

immersion, not in the static pool

of a marble font but in a roiling

stream of ink, of words, of thought;

and I was saved.

One recalls William Carlos Williams’ line from Asphodel, That Greeny Flower: “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.”

For what is found there.

Not so much something new, as the world reconsidered, remade, reawakened through words.  Or at least, our openness to it.  Our senses kindled.  Our thoughts.  Often our hearts.

Brian Phillip Whalen’s brief poem, Envy, for instance:

Willow let her hair down

and the lesser trees wore birds.

Poetry is always a form of alchemy.  Lest that sound derisive, it is useful to recall that even Sir Isaac Newton—inventor of calculus, discoverer of the spectral properties of light, the scientist who formulated the universal laws of motion and gravitational attraction—was a lifelong alchemist, ever searching the means to transmute one chemical element into another.

Like Newton, we live in two necessary worlds.  The one we assume and measure and order and try to control.  And that other world: more numinous, primal and more dangerous, more delicate, more plangent, more fleeting, often more beautiful, and always emergent.

It is poetry’s role—the job of RHINO 2013—to bring that to life: Whether “The pearly immensities / Thoreau saw / jangle jewels of winter / at her lobes” in David Appelbaum’s poem, or memory “traceable / in the loop and purl / of the orange yarn” in Kim Farrar’s, or Zana Previti’s paen to childhood imagination—“But it was not Cool Whip; it was never Cool Whip.  It was the snow drifts in darkest Russia,”as well as “the bird that once mistook / my window for the sky / one eye looking” in Joan I. Siegel’s poem, and Janet McNally’s Persephone is Pregnant in which “For now, she’s naming the flowers out loud / as they sprout: the pink stars of seashore // mallow, white jasmine trailing viridian / leaves in brackish water,” along with Ladan Osman’s “woman who waits so long for the wrong meat.”

Thanks to you, RHINO continues to thrive. A recent review in New Pages ( called RHINO 2012: “one of the best annual collections of poetry you can find.”

Moreover, submissions to the magazine are at an all-time high, while our blog, readings, workshops and other events flourished.  As an all-volunteer effort we rely on you—our readers, fellow poets, our friends—for your continued support.  Your donations and subscriptions continue to make up more than 65% of RHINO’s income.  We thank you for making RHINO possible for the past 36 years.

Wishing you peace and inspiration for 2013 and beyond,

the editors of RHINO,

Virginia Bell    Jan Bottiglieri    Ann Brandon    Helen Degen Cohen

Carol Eding    Ralph Hamilton    David Jones

Deborah Nodler Rosen    Jacob Saenz    Andrea Witzke Slot    Moira Sullivan

Angela Narciso Torres    Valerie Wallace    Marcia Zuckerman

Contribution Levels

T. S. Eliot  – $25

Adrienne Rich – $50

James Wright – $100

Gertrude Stein – $200 +

Donations of $25 or more come with a complimentary thank you gift of RHINO 2013. Send your check made out to Rhino Poetry [ RHINO, PO Box 591, Evanston, IL 60204], or support Rhino Poetry online with a tax-deductible donation.

RHINO: The Poetry Forum is sponsored in part by grants from the Illinois Arts Council, Poets & Writers Inc., and the MacArthur Fund for Arts & Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

RHINO Reads! Open Mic & Featured Readers Andrea Witzke Slot and Ralph Hamilton 4-27-12

Open Mike        6:00 pm – 6:30 pm

Featured Poets        6:45 pm – 7:30 pm

Brothers K

500 Main St.

Evanston, IL


Andrea Witzke Slot is the author of To find a new beauty (Gold Wake Press, 2012).  Her work has appeared in Borderlands: Texas Poetry ReviewTranslation ReviewWritten River: A Journal of Eco-PoeticsAlba: A Journal of Short PoetryThe Pacific ReviewSouthern Women’s ReviewTranslation Review, and Chiron Review, among other print and online journals. She teaches at the University of Illinois at Chicago and is an associate editor at Rhino Poetry as well as the book review editor at Fifth Wednesday Journal. She lives just outside of Chicago with her husband, the youngest of her five children/stepchildren, and her crazy West Highland Terrier, Macbeth.

Ralph Hamilton is editor of RHINO.

This project has been partially supported by grants from Poets & Writers, Inc.
and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

RHINO Reads! Open Mic and Featured Poets Bill Coughlin & Ralph Hamilton 9-30-11

Open Mike        6:00 pm – 6:30 pm

Featured Poets       6:45 pm – 7:30 pm

Brothers K

500 Main St.

Evanston, IL


Bill Coughlin is a Chicago native who lives near the lake with his partner and cocker spaniel.  He earned his MA in English from DePaul University and his MFA in Poetry from Columbia College.  At various times in his life he has been a seminarian, a teacher, a Unitarian Universalist, a classical pianist, a runner, a dog lover and a world traveler. He lives with his partner and their cocker spaniel in Chicago and spends as much time as possible on the coast of Maine.

Earlier this year his first collection of poems, entitled migrations, was published by Aquitaine Media, a local publishing company.  He is currently planning a second full length collection centered on issues arising from recovered memories.

Ralph Hamilton, Editor of RHINO, earned his MFA in poetry from Bennington.  His past professions include: ranch hand, hospital orderly, White House aide, mountain climber, stunt double, arbitrageur, seminarian, foundation executive, prep cook, dean of students, homme fatale, rodeo cowboy, stay-at-home dad, and policy analyst.  He is currently finishing up two books of poems, That Subtle Knot and The Barnyard of Boyage.

This project has been partially supported by grants from Poets & Writers and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.