Poetic Justice

Four Delaware women counter ageism by creating Quartet, an online journal for 50-and-older female poets

A year ago, four Delaware women embarked on a challenging and rewarding journey based on their love of poetry.

Today they have mastered online publishing and created an outlet for women across the world to express their voices. 

Launched in January 2021, Quartet is an online poetry journal created to expand publishing opportunities for women aged 50 and older. It provides women in this stage of life a place to share deep truths and universal emotions; it welcomes experienced and new women poets to express their creative voices. 

“As editors, all over 50, we have felt the sting of ageism in the industry and want to give others like us an opportunity to publish their work,” says Jane C. Miller, Quartet co-founder and co-editor. “[Quartet] is less about level of experience and more about quality of work. We want to be a vehicle for excellent writing, regardless of what degree a person holds or how long they have been writing.”

Published quarterly, the journal receives 150 to 290 submissions per issue. Sixteen poems are selected for each issue. Contributors include scientists, equestrians, photographers, trauma survivors, trans women, farmers, teachers, and grandmothers. Although most submission are from the U.S., contributions are worldwide, including Finland, Canada, Japan, India, U.K. and Tasmania.

“As a poetry editor myself, I’m impressed by how quickly the Quartet founders have mastered submission systems, design programs, website technology, and publicity — not to mention the actual editing process,” says poet and Penn State Altoona professor Erin Murphy. “They deserve high praise for their exemplary service to the literary community.”

The other Quartet founders are Linda Blaskey, Gail Braune Comorat, and Wendy Elizabeth Ingersoll. In their decade of writing together, the group has collectively published seven books of poetry, received six fellowship grants from the Delaware Division of the Arts, and earned multiple Pushcart and Best of the Net nominations. 

The four became friends through poetry-writing gatherings. Eventually they formed a biannual writing retreat at Ingersoll’s family farm near Chestertown, Md. There, they combined hundreds of poems written by the four into books.

The definition of quartet is a group of four singers or musicians or a group of four similar things that belong together. So, Comorat’s suggestion of it for the journal’s name made sense.

Unlike some journals, Quartet does not charge for submissions. Run by retired women who volunteer their time and experience, Quartet also does not pay contributors either. 

“We can only pay contributors by publishing them and selecting a few for prizes and online recognition,” says Miller. To finance Quartet, the founders use money received from fellowship grants, contributions from their Go Fund Me campaign, and pay out-of-pocket for some expenses.

Blaskey says the idea for the journal arose when she suspected ageism was making it difficult to get her work published, receive residencies and grants, and secure important reading opportunities. “I asked several women friends if they were feeling, or sensing, the same thing. Turns out, they were,” she said.

The group spent 10 months scrambling to learn what they needed to know before they launched the first issue. “We knew nothing about technology,” says Blaskey.

So, they researched, found experts, and acquired new computer skills. Before long, their new knowledge enabled them to eliminate paying someone to help and they began publishing the journal themselves.

According to Google analytics, people in 68 countries read Quartet in its first year. In December, the number of people who visited the journal was higher than 83% of similar journals published elsewhere in the world.

“We don’t read and write poetry because it is cute,” said Robin Williams’ character, John Keating, in the movie Dead Poets Society. “We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion.”

— Quartet’s next submission period opens January 8 and ends February 8. Visit quartetjournal.com

Feeding Horses on a Clear New Year’s Day After Weeks of Steady Rain

By Linda Blaskey

I have divvied grain and supplements into feed tubs, tossed orchard grass to the Oldenburg, alfalfa to the aged Thoroughbred.

Annie, I am told, is still able to care for her horses, saviors for some of us; their needs.

Once, leaning over a glass counter, Annie and I misread know your worth engraved on a silver bracelet as know your north, gentle admonition to keep a constant bearing.

She has lost numbers and letters. This morning her husband dialed the phone so she could ask me if she had once been a writer.

Bucket half-filled with beet pulp forgotten in my hand, I listen as the earth sips away pools of standing water.

It sounds like vespers.

Where You’ll Find Me

By Gail Braune Comorat

I’m no good at route numbers, never sure of east
or south, but I know this road by seasons, by landmarks
memorized the last time I traveled this way.
f you still want me, just head away from the city,

keep an eye out for meadows of bold blue and yellow —
bachelor buttons, wild mustard. Cross the rusted
iron bridge
that will lead you to a crossroad —
turn left and keep going until
you see a stand selling Tender Spring Peas and
an orchard of peach trees beyond their bloom. Take your time

as you roll through the old mill town
where elderly men in suspenders and felt hats
doze on planked benches. Wave as you drive by.
You’ll pass beneath a thick canopy of elms, and then

there will be a Mennonite farm (yellow siding and pine-
green shutters) with a misspelled sign that offers
Saw Sharpning. You might see some deer in the field.

After that, it’s straight on until the road dead-ends
to a graveled lane. Drive as far as it takes you, park right beside the house.
I’ll be on the crooked swing, rocketing skyward and back, skyward and back,
my eyes on the cove, watching bald eagles query the river.
I’ll be waiting for you.