Peter LaBerge

Editor’s Corner: An Interview with Peter LaBerge of The Adroit Journal

Interview conducted by Stevie Edwards

Peter LaBerge is a poetry editor wunderkind. He founded The Adroit Journal in 2010 while he was still in high school with the mission of creating a space where high school students could be featured alongside established writers. Since then, The Adroit Journal has become one of the most selective literary journals in the country, currently listed on as having a .46% acceptance rate. The Adroit Journal publishes poetry, prose, and art. Work from Adroit has been honored by inclusion in Best American PoetryPushcart Prizes: Best of the Small Presses, Best of the NetBest New Poets, and elsewhere.

Adroit has a massive staff (about thirty poetry readers and twenty prose readers), which makes sense given that they are known for their lickety-split submission responses. For staff applications, they specifically ask for writers who have yet to publish their first books. This focus on supporting emerging writers can also be seen in their other initiatives, including The Adroit Prizes (a writing contest for undergraduate and secondary students) and the Summer Mentorship Program (a free online mentorship program that pairs experienced writers with secondary students).

In addition to LaBerge’s generous vision for Adroit, he is also a very accomplished young poet. He is the author of the chapbooks Makeshift Cathedral (YesYes Books, 2017) and Hook (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2015). His recent work appears in Best New Poets, Crazyhorse, Harvard Review, Iowa Review, Pleiades, Tin House, and elsewhere.

Stevie Edwards: Can you talk a little bit about your path toward founding The Adroit Journal in 2010? What were your goals?

Peter LaBerge: Absolutely! I started The Adroit Journal as a sophomore in high school, over my Thanksgiving Break. I founded the journal because I was really frustrated. As a high school student, I was reading and submitting to the places I knew–Poetry Magazine, The New Yorker, AGNI, etc. Of course, my work was nowhere near the standards of these publications at that point, but nonetheless I felt that I was discouraged by the industry, rather than encouraged by it. It seemed silly to me that the industry was closed-off in this way, especially given the STEM focus of most high schools around the country and world.

Since the beginning, I’ve set forth to support young writers in high schools and college by featuring their work alongside the work of established adult writers—this was successful at the beginning, until the journal became too selective to continue to fulfill this mission in this way. At that point, I decided to found the Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose, which specifically recognize work by young writers and create firm spaces for them in o