“I am—a sea of—alone.”

Alfred Hitchcock (at one of his last public appearances)

Psycho. The Birds. Rear Window. Vertigo. North by Northwest. Notorious. The Thirty-Nine Steps.

The list goes on and on—the masterpieces of the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock.

Hitchcock is almost certainly the most popular and influential film director of Hollywood’s classic age—but he’s more than that. Nearly three decades after his death, the image and voice of Alfred Hitchcock remain instantly recognizable throughout the world. The word “Hitchcockian” is understood by movie fans in every corner of the globe to refer to films that are brimming with tension, romance, and shocking plot twists. The music from his Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV series (actually Gounod’s “Funeral March for a Marionette”) is known to everyone, forty years after the show’s cancellation, as “the Alfred Hitchcock theme.”

Hitchcock was one-of-a-kind, and there can hardly be a movie or TV fan anywhere who has not been affected by his work. A Sea of Alone: Poems For Alfred Hitchcock will celebrate this unique figure in a suitably unique way—through verse.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Table of Contents Announced...

A Sea of Alone: Poems for Alfred Hitchcock is now closed, and I’m delighted to be able to announce our Table of Contents! Many thanks to each and every poet who took the time to submit to this anthology. It was a privilege and a pleasure to read your work.


Introduction by Christopher Conlon

  • Sydney Duncan / "Sestina for Alfred Hitchcock"
  • Michael Louis Calvillo / "Devolution"
  • Lyn Lifshin / "Hitchcock’s Circles"
  • S.D. Hintz / "Bird’s Eye View"
  • Steve Vernon / "Leytonstone Lad"
  • Elissa Malcohn / "Far From the Pleasure Garden"
  • Deborah-Anne Tunney / "The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog"
  • Steve Rasnic Tem / "39"
  • Maria Alexander / "39 Regrets"
  • Kurt Newton / "The Thirty-Nine Steps"
  • Miles David Moore / "Shadow of a Doubt: Charles Oakley’s Speech"
  • Anne Harding Woodworth / "Spellbound at Smith College"
  • G.O. Clark / "Alfred"
  • Lyn Lifshin / "Alma"
  • Craig D.B. Patton / "Rope Tricks"
  • Deborah-Anne Tunney / "Vertigo"
  • Kathi Stafford / "Double Feature at the Pecos Drive-In"
  • Martel Sardina / "The Wrong Man"
  • Lucy A. Snyder / "Recreation"
  • Andrew J. Wilson / "crop-duster"
  • Norman Prentiss / "The Lies of Janet Leigh"
  • John Palisano / "Mother you can watch"
  • Bev Vincent / "24 Hour Psycho"
  • Richard A. Lupoff / "At the Cosmic Saloon"
  • Kurt Newton / "Fly on the Wall"
  • Michael A. Arnzen / "Marnie Checks In"
  • Lyn Lifshin / "Think of a Woman Terrified by Birds, Caged"
  • Marge Simon / "The Birds’ Lullaby"
  • Lisa Morton / "Bodega Bay, 2004"
  • Frances Boyle / "Cross double Cross"
  • Gary A. Braunbeck / "Triskaidekaphobia"
  • James Wilson / "Near Window"
  • Deborah-Anne Tunney / "Bel Air, 1980"
  • Deborah-Anne Tunney / "Alma and Alfred"
  • Brian James Freeman / "Mary Rose"
  • Lyn Lifshin / "Hitch Writes to Tippi from the Grave"
  • Rich Ristow / "Acceptance Speech"
  • Raychelle Swann / "A Sea of Alone"

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Extending Ourselves...

As I predicted last time, we’ve ended up with a really excellent, unique book in A Sea of Alone: Poems for Alfred Hitchcock. We’ve got Gary A. Braunbeck’s meditation on the Master of Suspense late in life, as Frenzy is about to open. We’ve got Richard Lupoff’s fanciful sonnet sequence in which Hitchcock, Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, and Robert Bloch all meet in the afterlife to discuss Psycho. We’ve got Lisa Morton’s touching reminiscence about her father and The Birds. We’ve got Michael A. Arnzen’s inventive crossing of Marnie with the mother of a certain well-known motel owner. And we’ve got great new work by John Palisano, Bev Vincent, Steve Rasnic Tem, and a host of others.

What we don’t have quite yet is a book-length manuscript. We’re close, but although we’ve gotten lots of excellent submissions, we still need a little more good work.

So we’re opening up for submissions again through April 10. Please note that this is a one-time-only extension; after that date, the book will be closed for good and all. For this final push, I’m willing to read any new single-poem submission from any writer, whether or not you’ve submitted to this project before. The poem must be previously unpublished (and must not, obviously, be one I’ve already rejected — new submissions only). If you’ve written it and it’s in some way connected to Hitchcock, I’ll read it.

I’ve read a lot of poems for this anthology at this point, so let me offer some suggestions on what we are and are not looking for.
  • Please do not send poems focused primarily on Psycho, The Birds, Rope, or The 39 Steps. Also, no more on the early, unfinished project Thirteen.
  • I welcome poems about Hitchcock’s youth, but please, no more poems about the time his father sent him to the police station and he was locked in a cell for five minutes. I’ve read that one too many times now.
  • I have received very little material about Hitchcock’s early filmmaking days. I continue to be interested in finding poems about his silent films and early talkies. I would especially welcome poems which can vividly re-create that long-ago world of early moviemaking — poems that make us see, hear, and feel what it was like to be on a set then, or in an editing room.
  • I definitely want to see poems which offer psychological insight into Hitchcock, but too many of the poems I’ve gotten along this line seem to be informed entirely by Donald Spoto’s Dark Side of Genius biography. It’s inarguably an important work on Hitchcock, but it’s also one-sided and tends toward the muckraking. Please consult other sources as well. I have no problem with poems about Hitchcock’s “dark side,” but poems which simply repeat the gamier material from Spoto’s book aren’t very interesting to me.
  • Does no one remember how witty Hitchcock was — both the man and his films? Why do so few of the poems I’ve received deal at all with Hitchcock’s wonderful humor?
  • Along similar lines, I’ve received practically no work which deals with the lighter, glossier films — To Catch a Thief, say, or North by Northwest. Hitchcock made some of the most charming movies of all time — I’d love to see that represented in the book.
  • One true oddity of the submissions taken as a whole is that I have received more poems about Rope than about Vertigo — or, for that matter, than about Rebecca, Notorious, The Man Who Knew Too Much (either version), Strangers on a Train...the list goes on. Maybe prospective writers have decided to go for the less-obvious choices, but that’s left a lot of major work unmentioned in the book. That’s a shame. I’d like to change that.
  • I would like to see more poems focused on Hitchcock and his family, friends, and/or fans.
  • I would like to see more poems which create a vivid personal connection to Hitchcock’s work — memories of seeing a given film for the first time, say, or staying up late at night to watch Alfred Hitchcock Presents (a series which has gone practically unmentioned in the submissions I’ve gotten so far).
  • Perhaps most of all, though, please remember that we’re looking for poems which offer something unique. Don’t be afraid of going a bit out on a limb. Many of the best poems I’ve gotten have been highly unusual in their approach — their form, their structure, their subject matter — while the weakest ones seem to take this project as some kind of assignment, mechanically reciting facts about Hitchcock’s career or summarizing the events in a given film. Let your subconscious do some of the work here. Free-associate. Dream. And see what happens!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

An Update From the Editor...

With one month to go in the submission period for A Sea of Alone, I thought it might be helpful to let writers know where we are with the project, and what they might want to consider in terms of creating poems for us. We want to get poems we can use, and time is running short!

I really think this book is going to be sensational. We’ve got a great mix of known names and newcomers, and the manuscript as it stands has a real “wholeness”—different writers, yes, different voices, but all held together by the Hitchcockian theme. I believe that this will be an anthology that is truly more than the sum of its parts.

Submissions actually came in quite slowly back in the fall, when we first opened; that was a surprise. Both Vince and I were afraid of a deluge from Day One. It didn’t happen, and that allowed me to give early-submission poets a lot of leisurely individual attention. But things have accelerated over the past few months, to the point that I’m now a busy editor indeed. I expect the workload to increase even more in February, as we push up against the deadline. As a result, responses to submissions may be briefer than before—but they will come fast. I’m a pretty efficient fellow.

Here are some points to ponder if you’re thinking of sending us a poem.

  • I’ve already accepted several poems focused on The Birds. As a result, we’re pretty impacted on that particular film. I’ll read your Birds-related poem, no problem—but bear in mind that it’s going to have to be awfully good. I don’t want any one film to dominate this anthology.
  • To my surprise, we’re not impacted on Psycho. Early in the submission process, fully half the poems I was receiving were focused on this film—but they didn’t make the cut (as it were). I’m open to Psycho poems, but please: Everybody knows that Psycho is a scary film, and that Norman Bates is a creepy guy. Your poem needs to go deeper. You might remember that while Psycho is indeed frightening, it’s also very sad—and very funny.
  • I’ve rejected a lot of poems that do nothing more than skim over the major facts of Hitchcock’s career, with film titles and whatnot. This kind of poem just isn’t very interesting or insightful. After all, everybody knows who Hitchcock is. They know the titles of his major films. They know that he’s the Master of Suspense. Tell us (or, better, show us) something we don’t know.
  • I’ve gotten a number of poems on the subject of Hitchcock’s cameos in his films. This topic will probably be a tough sell at this point, unless you have something very striking and original to say.
  • With one or two exceptions, the light verse I’ve received has not been usable. Quality light verse has wit and insight. Silly joke poems aren’t going to make it here. Poets who wish to submit light verse should be familiar with contemporary masters of the form such as Billy Collins and John Updike.
  • I have received few (if any) poems about Hitchcock’s youth or early career. You may, if you wish, take that as a hint...or, rather, let’s call it a clue.
  • I have also received few (if any) poems about Hitchcock’s late career and final years. Another clue...
  • Why hasn’t anybody sent me anything centered on Rear Window, North by Northwest, or even—and this is kind of hard for me to believe—Vertigo?
  • In general, my feeling about the submissions so far is that almost everybody is taking the theme very literally. The poems I’m getting are clear, well-written, competent...and, generally speaking, a bit tame. I’m sensing a lack of wildness. Don’t be afraid to send something surreal, irrational, bizarre...as long as the connection to Hitchcock is clear, I’ll be happy to have a look. Hitchcock was an innovative genius of film—I want innovative geniuses of poetry.

So send me your best work, and let’s finish this anthology in style!


Monday, July 27, 2009

Take Two: Submissions Guidelines

For this anthology, we are looking for original, unpublished poems on the subject of Alfred Hitchcock—his life, his films, his impact (on you, on the world). His legend.

To that end, here’s what we are specifically seeking.

  • Poems should be original and previously unpublished. (Query for reprints.)
  • Poems should run no more than fifty lines. (Query for longer.)
  • They must feature Hitchcock—his life and/or work—as a central component.
  • They can be written in any style (but please see suggestions below).
  • They can take any approach to the subject matter; extreme imagery and language are OK, but only if they are essential to the work.

Now, some tips and suggestions for prospective poets.

  • No poems which are simply summaries of individual films.
  • No poems in which Hitchcock and his work are only tangential—i.e., no poems about how you lost your virginity in the back seat of a Buick at a drive-in while Psycho was on, unless Psycho itself is in some way central to the meaning and impact of the poem.
  • Biographically-oriented poems about aspects of Hitchcock’s life are fine, but they must offer insight into whatever event(s) you are portraying.
  • Fantasy scenarios are acceptable, but only if the poem in some way makes us think about Hitchcock in a new, deeper way. A poem in which Hitchcock is randomly placed on Mars is unlike to succeed, but a poem in which he, say, speaks to some of his actors in the afterlife might. Fantasy scenarios need to have some sort of psychological or metaphorical resonance.
  • A poem which is simply a personal response to Hitchcock’s work is fine, but if it tells us nothing more than, say, that The Birds scared you when you were ten, it’s unlikely to be of use to us. Everyone knows The Birds is scary. Make us think of the film in new ways.
  • Keep in mind that while Hitchcock produced a huge list of notable films, many viewers know him best today for a small handful—notably Psycho, Vertigo, and The Birds, along with perhaps two or three others. We are likely to receive many poems which center on those particular films. You might consider digging deeper into his filmography for your subject matter.
  • Poets thinking of submitting work to this anthology should be familiar with contemporary modes of poetry. Studying recent issues of Poetry, The American Poetry Review, Paris Review, and other leading literary journals is a good place to start. Any significant anthology of the major poets of the past 50 years would also be an excellent resource.
  • The dominant mode of poetry today is free verse, and we expect that much of what we publish will take that form. But we are open to more formal styles of poetry.
  • If you wish to use rhyme, it needs to be subtle. “June/spoon,” “dance/romance” types of rhymes will almost certainly get a poem rejected. (Also please refrain from rhyming “Hitch” with anything.) For examples of subtle rhyme, again, consult any of the leading verse journals, especially Poetry.
  • Light verse is welcome, but please note that “light verse” is not the same thing as flippant or silly verse. Effective light verse is witty, creative, and insightful, with a genuine sense of the language and its rhythms. Writers who wish to submit light verse should be familiar with contemporary masters of the form such as John Updike and Billy Collins. No doggerel, please.
  • Prose poems are acceptable—but the term “prose poem” is not a synonym for “short-short story” or “flash fiction.” A prose poem may or may not have a sense of narrative, but it definitely features the same attention to language, rhythm, and imagery as any other poem. Recommended reading: Great American Prose Poems edited by David Lehman; Models of the Universe edited by Friebert and Young.
  • In general, while we definitely want work that is subtle and suggestive, poets should strive for clarity. We hope to create an anthology which will appeal not just to poetry readers, but to Hitchcock fans everywhere. As a result, poetry that is deliberately obscure or difficult stands little chance here (T.S. Eliot was a great poet, but please don’t send us your version of “The Waste Land”). The poems we want are written in a way that any intelligent, curious reader can enjoy them—including readers who don’t normally read poetry. Contemporary poets in this mode you might consider familiarizing yourself with (and ones we happen to like) include Donald Hall, Robert Bly, Rita Dove, Adrienne Rich, C.K. Williams, Ai, Sharon Olds, William Heyen, E. Ethelbert Miller, and Jack Gilbert.

Reading Period:

  • We welcome submissions from writers beginning September 1st, 2009. Please do not submit before September 1st; any submissions received before then will be deleted, unread.
  • The submission period ends February 28th, 2010.

Submissions Specifics:

  • Submit one poem only. We’ll contact you if we wish to see more. Your poem must not run more than 50 lines. Do not submit multiple short poems totaling fewer than 50 lines, submit ONE POEM ONLY.
  • Payment is the established HWA professional rate of $0.25 (twenty-five cents) cents per line, with a $5 minimum.
  • Please include a brief message in the body of your e-mail. We want to know who you are! If you have previous publication credits, tell us about them (it’s okay if you don’t—new writers are welcome). If you have any particular background in poetry or Hitchcock studies which you think is relevant, tell us about that. But please keep your message BRIEF—limit yourself to one paragraph or so.
  • Send submissions to DSPSubmissions(at)AOL(dot)com.

Formatting Requirements:

  • Send as Word attachments only – do not send submissions in the body of an email or as any other type of attachment;
  • Use Times-New Roman, 12-point font;
  • Single-space your poem. Indicate a stanza break with a blank line. If a stanza break happens to coincide with the bottom of a page, type [stanza break] in the appropriate place;
  • Use 1-inch margins — this includes top, bottom, left and right;
  • Film titles within poems are to be italicized — do not use all caps or bold;
  • Working title of poem center on first page — do not use italics or all caps, no quotations;
  • No headers or footers;
  • No page numbers;
  • At the top of the first page in the left-hand corner, single-spaced, please include the following information:
    Street Address
    City, State, Zip Code
    Email Address
    Line Count
    (body of submission, excluding title)

Notification of Writers:

  • Email confirmations will be sent upon submission. If you do not receive a confirmation that your submission has been received after two weeks, first check your Spam folder and then drop us a line. We’ve also taken the time to create this project-specific blog in an effort to communicate with writers. Please bookmark the page and check back for updates on where we stand with submissions.
  • Expect to hear back on your submission between 60 and 90 days from the date of confirmation. Poems will be either accepted or rejected outright, or we may ask to hold a poem until the end of our reading period. We realize that six months is a long period to ask to hold onto a particular poem, but because of the nature of this project we anticipate high interest and multiple submissions in various areas of Hitchcock's life and work. At DSP, we realize that a writer’s time is money. If you receive an email from us asking to hold onto your submission until the end of the process and don’t want to tie up your work that long, simply let us know and we’ll take the piece out of consideration and release it back to you with our best wishes.


  • Questions? Hopefully, we’ve covered all bases with these guidelines. If not and there is a pressing need for information, you may contact us at darkscribepress(at)aol(dot)com. Due to time constraints, it may not be possible to answer questions individually. We will, however, compile questions and answer them here on the blog. Bookmark and check back often.
  • Please do not email us asking if a particular film or specific aspect of Hitchcock’s life has already been covered; these emails will not be answered.

Publication Date: August 2010 (subject to change)

Take One: The Editor

Christopher Conlon’s work has appeared widely in magazines and journals including Dark Discoveries, Poets & Writers, America, Tennessee Williams Annual Review, Poet Lore, The King’s English, and The Long Story, as well as in such anthologies as Masques V and California Sorcery. He is the author of four books of poems, most recently Starkweather Dreams, and a novel, Midnight on Mourn Street, which was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award.

As an editor his credits include He Is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson, Poe’s Lighthouse, and The Twilight Zone Scripts of Jerry Sohl. A former Peace Corps Volunteer, Conlon holds an M.A. in American Literature from the University of Maryland. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, where he writes, teaches, and hosts a popular quarterly poetry reading series.