Sunday, July 16, 2006
What a Poetry Magazine Needs to do to Survive
If you haven't seen it, the estimable Michael Schmidt writes about PN Review being 30 years old, and how it lasted so long. In truth, not the most illuminating of articles. Like a lot of the poetry scene it seems to be tilting at windmills that only other branches of the poetry scene can see. "Anglo-American and European modernisms and their legacies are to be valued and taken to heart, and the postmodern condition is not to be seen as inescapable" is his conclusion at the magazine's value and agenda, and I can't disagree with that, but mainly because I don't really know what he means by it! His comment on Poetry Review, which "might be thought (erroneously, it seems to me) to have a duty to be a magazine of record" sets up an argument that I'm not sure anyone's making - that in the brackets he repudiates, though I like the idea of a "history of taste" seen through its varied editors. Poetry Review is sometimes the Newcastle United of poetry magazines, never sure whether it wants a dour traditionalist keeping the dressing room in line - and never winning anything - or a risktaking libero who'll upset the directors - and never win anything. All I can say, is that if you ever come across PN Review you'll come away with something, and the new website looks good. 30 years for any literary endeavour is worth celebrating, though I can't help think that whilst PN Review was opening its doors, a number of "poets" - Mark E. Smith, Pete Shelley, Howard Devoto etc. - were watching the Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall. Recent magazines are not really mentioned; and so many have fallen by the wayside over the last few years, from an exhausted Angel Exhaust, through Prop and Brando's Hat, through Thumbscrew, that it's hard to see without London Magazine-Ambit-Agenda-PN Review-Poetry Review there'd even be a poetry magazine scene. Yet, the Rialto still goes about its own quiet businesses, and smaller, more locally based zines proliferate. Best place to start is the Poetry Library - currently closed for refurbishment, but still there in cyberspace. Is it just me, or has the gloss worn off poetry a little? I don't see quite the same "hype", and that's probably for the best. But since the surfeit of millennial anthologies there's been nothing for the casual or interested reader to use as a roadmap through contemporary poetry.
Posted by Adrian Slatcher at 4:38 AM