Thursday, March 25, 2010

Rounding up the Poetry News

I don't think, in the dozen or so years thatI've been keeping an eye on the poetry scene, that I've seen it quite as vibrant as now. When I first sent off to a dozen or so subscriptions in the late 90s there was a diversity of publications, that wasn't always as diverse when you went through the pages. The same names came up time and again, serial submitters, I guess. Without much internet information in those days I relied on the Poetry Library on the South Bank to check out magazines that did exist. In the years since magazines have come and gone, and, to their credit, some of those magazines I signed up for back in the day are still ongoing, labours of love.

Poetry has moved to the internet of course, but its great that readings, books and pamphlets are still it's lifeblood. In recent months, the neat little editions from Knives, Forks and Spoons press have been popping up at readings in Manchester, and I'm pleased to say that they've now got a website, where you can read extracts from and buy copies of chapbooks by writers like Neil Campbell, Steven Waling, Scott Thurston and Stephen Emmerson, and, shortly, my good self. Closely linked, though independent of, the work that's been going on at The Other Room, Alec Newman who runs the press, is aiming to quickly develop a wide ranging list of new and innovative work.

The next Other Room is on 7th April at the Old Abbey Inn - so just after Easter. Expect standing room only for Ian Davidson, Zoe Skoulding and Matthew Welton.Skoulding, like Welton is featured in "Identity Parade" (see below), again showing how the pluralism of the current contemporary poetry scene is good thing.  As always expect to find a more diverse poetry bookstall here than in any Waterstones, sure to include publications from Knives, Forks and Spoons, zimZalla, If P then Q and others.

It seems, as well, that the new generation of editor/poet/publishers are getting the hang of this internet thing. Certainly the internet seems the right place for reviews and critical commentary, if not always for the poems themselves, and Hand & Star was launched at the end of last year as an outcrop of the successful Penned in the Margins events/publications; as a review site.

It's interesting that the venerable the Rialto, is now celebrating its quarter century, and has brought in Nathan Hamilton from Eggbox to source poets under 35 for it's anniversary issue. You have a short deadline - till the end of March - but its always a great magazine, and I've felt privileged to be published by them now and then.

There's also interesting news from Salt Publishing with the imminent launch of its own chapbook list, Salt Modern Voices. As Roddy Lumsden makes clear in his introduction to Identity Parade, "nearly half the poets included here are published as part of poetry lists which didn't exist at the beginning of the 1990s" - a sign that the closed lists of more traditional publishers actually mitigates against the development of the art.

But poetry also needs readers; no publisher wants boxes full of unsold (and unsellable) books cluttering up the office or the loft. After yesterday's budget you can probably afford a couple of poetry books for the price of a night out on the cider; and its often reading what you've not been told to read that can have the greatest influence on your own writing, as well as giving you much pleasure, as this fascinating interview with Tom Jenks makes clear in 3AM Magazine.


Tim Love said...

Maybe the scene's more vibrant than it's been for a decade. or maybe because of the WWW we can see more of what's happening even though less is going on. There's no "A Various Art", no Mersey Poets or Albert Hall readings, and I think book sales are as low as they've every been.

But as you say, people without the burden of a paper-based past are beginning to use the WWW effectively. Pamphlets seem on the increase too. After the economic crisis has killed off the dinosaurs, things might get interesting.

Adrian said...

I think its about identifying what's of value. A new Andrew Motion collection or Carole Ann Duffy giving Don Paterson the Queen's Medal for Poetry, however important it is to poetry's "profile", aint gonna rock my boat; whilst something local, something interesting, something original can make my day.