An Interview with Jordan Poyner, Editor of Colloquy
December 16, 2019
Jordan Poyner (AGI20) took over as editor of Colloquy, the Graduate Institute journal for the Annapolis campus, in the fall of 2018. Since then, Mr. Poyner and his editorial board have helped transform the publication from a folded-and-stapled periodical into a full-color, bound publication that showcases the essays, interviews, and art produced by GI students. We took some time to ask him about Colloquy, what it means for the GI community, and how publishing is an expensive and challenging process.
What inspired you to take on the Colloquy project?
It’s important to note right off the bat that Colloquy existed before I came to St. John’s (the first issue was published in Spring 2017). It is important to have a journal for a variety of reasons, one of which is that it contributes to a sense of community and creates a place where students can share writing.
The kind of writing that I wanted to push to the front was the academic or scholarly writing, because there are certain ideas that deserve elaboration in writing. Because conversation is so central to what happens at St. John’s, there are lots of really good ideas being discussed, but I wanted a place where those ideas could be expanded upon.
Sometimes, at least from the outside, what we do at St. John’s is not always clear. To people on the inside, it is obvious that there is depth and complexity to what students are doing. But sometimes, especially when talking to friends and family about how classes are held, it’s not always apparent where the rigor is, so I also wanted there to be a place where these strengths were expressed more tangibly.
The other point of focus was in terms of presentation. I wanted the journal to have a serious look, something that gets someone to pick the journal up and start reading and thinking about the content within. St. John’s College has an amazing culture of student-run publications, and I wanted Colloquy to stand out immediately.
The GI is such an interesting place because it is both a graduate program and also an extension of what the college is already doing. I don’t think people necessarily understand GI students, so I wanted to make Colloquy one possible expression of what some members of the GI were capable of. Submissions are obviously totally voluntary, and we’ll take submissions from anyone if it contributes to the conversation.
What's your favorite part of putting together each issue?
It’s all awful [laughs]. No, my favorite part of each issue is working with writers. I put in at least three hours per submission on average, just in terms of reading the piece and adding comments. That part of the process is my favorite; I can be quite liberal in terms of my comments and making sure everything is in its best possible form for the expression of the authors’ ideas.
I pride myself on putting out a journal in which there are few editorial mistakes. I have the same attention to detail for making sure writers’ ideas are making it through the editorial process as I do with the rest of the nuts and bolts of the journal.
What's a surprising thing you've learned since embarking on this project?
Publishing anything is expensive! In all seriousness, I think I’m always surprised when I’m able to have a conversation with someone and each of us can communicate a vision or aspiration for something that doesn’t yet exist. And that other people are willing to take that leap of faith on an idea that we don’t yet know is going to work, but we’re going to dive in anyway. Colloquy in its current form wouldn’t exist without the talents of Andy Dorchester, Jaime Marquez, and Jennifer Trovato—these individuals were incredibly generous with their time and talents.
The editorial board is a group of very thoughtful and hardworking people. They took a leap of faith with me. Which is something that you need in order to keep learning—the antidote for cynicism.
How does Colloquy help the GI community?
I think the answer already given is that it can (and this was already true of the journal before the Fall 2018 issue) help establish and sustain a sense of community. The GI is a different kind of community than the undergraduate program. People are coming from very different walks of life, age ranges, and backgrounds.
The other part I am particularly interested in is furthering the intellectual work happening in the GI, showcasing just how good the work of GI students is, and setting a standard for people to aspire to. I wanted Colloquy to participate in that to some extent. This is contingent on whether the best student writing is submitted to the journal, and whether students want to read the journal with the same seriousness with which submissions were put forth.
What have you learned about the GI community and the college since you started on this project?
I learned something I should have known all along, which is that there is an incredible diversity of students here. There is something that unites us and brings us together, but I don’t think I really understood that. There are lots of students I end up not running into, and I presumed I knew who all the GIs were.
Besides not knowing who they are—it’s hard to express this without sounding overwhelmingly cliché—students come from an incredibly diverse set of backgrounds. Which I think makes doing something like Colloquy very exciting, because people will have insights—because of their very different experiences—that you would never have thought of yourself.
If you have bought into the approach at St. John’s, and you’re reading these texts together, it’s amazing the kinds of connections you can make with other people. But I did not fully respect how eclectic the GI community was.
If you could go back to before you first started working on Colloquy, what’s one piece of advice you'd give your past self?
My concrete answer: don’t set your submission deadline two weeks before you publish. That would have saved a lot of pain and late nights.
But in all seriousness, I always think the answer to this question is obvious: I couldn’t and shouldn’t go back and tell my past self what I now know, because being involved in Colloquy was a massive educational experience. I had to make a lot of mistakes as a part of that process. And I don’t think you can get the latter—the education—without the former, the mistakes.
What’s next for Colloquy?
I am looking for a successor, but it’s a voluntary position with no compensation. Every semester we put out a robust call for people to be involved in any capacity with Colloquy. I’m hoping we can get new people involved, but it’s often difficult with the GI because most students are only there for two years.
Right now, we’re in a precarious situation where at least four of the five current editors are in or nearing their last semester, so the future depends on who decides to get involved—the new blood that will be involved. One of our initiatives this semester has been to try and set up protocols, templates, and methods for running Colloquy so the handoff can be smoother.