Shō Poetry Journal was started in 2002 by Sita Martin when she was battling cancer. She wanted to create a platform to promote the work of poets she knew and admired. Sponsored by Hohm Press, she solicited work from nine poets, collected a total of sixty-eight poems, and arranged them in her preferred order. Before going to press she passed on from this world.
Johnny Cordova, one of the contributing poets, was asked to step in to oversee typesetting and cover design. After contributor copies of Shō’s premiere issue were mailed out, Johnny stayed on as managing editor and opened Shō to national submissions, soliciting work in the process from a handful of poets he’d been reading.
Shō Number Two appeared in Spring 2003 and featured poetry by Lyn Lifshin, Amy Uyematsu, Jim Simmerman, Virgil Suárez, William Packard, Todd Moore, Gerald Locklin, Joan Jobe Smith, Fred Voss, Ann Menebroker, A.D. Winans, Robert L. Penick, and others. We think it could hold its own in any collector’s library.
Shortly after publishing Shō Number Two, Johnny moved unexpectedly from Arizona to California. After a promising start, Shō was no more.
But in the summer of 2021, after ten years living in Southeast Asia, Johnny returned to Arizona and shortly thereafter received funding to resurrect Shō. So here we are.
This present incarnation of Shō is edited by Johnny Cordova and Dominique Ahkong, a husband-and-wife team. One of our missions is to carry on the small-press tradition of giving voice to poets who have been historically underrepresented or overlooked. In each issue, we seek to publish a diverse range of poets. As an Arizona-based journal, Shō welcomes free submissions from Indigenous poets during every reading period.
The name Shō was given to Sita Martin by her spiritual teacher, Lee Lozowick. He never told her what it meant.
From what we’ve gathered, we know that it is a Japanese prefix that takes on different meanings depending on the context. The meaning we’ve found most resonant is “to bridge” or “cross over.”
Given that it was Sita Martin’s swan song, we like thinking of the birth of Shō as a bridge that helped her cross over from this world to the next.