Posted by: noelwilliams | February 12, 2013

Poetry Review

The Poetry Society has just announced that Poetry Review is to have a new editor, Maurice Riordan. He begins with the autumn edition. PR is one of the UK’s most prestigious poetry magazines and has a strong international repute. (Press release here)

Maurice takes up the role vacated by Fiona Sampson in 2012. She also has just started a new job, as editor of her own magazine, which also seems to aspire to the prestige of Poetry Review. This is POEM Magazine, “a new world-class magazine for the best poetry in, and translated into, English”: here  The first issue came out on 24th January and so far seems well received, despite initial printing hiccups. I’ve not seen a copy yet, so can’t comment. It’s interesting though, that it has a Facebook and Twitter identity but, as yet, neither website or blog. I wonder if this is a deliberate marketing approach, or merely that the latter is on its way.

Poetry Review, of course, is very well established at the top of the poetry magazine mountain doing an important job since it began in 1912. Some people regard it as rather conservative in its tastes, tending to the focus on the core establishment of UK poets and reproduce a relatively limited range of voices. But a glance at any recent issue will show that’s a simplification which ignores much of what the magazine does. The voice is international, and the upcoming poet can find a place, though it’s true that it’s tough to get accepted there. That toughness is perhaps itself a measure of the quality of the publication.

Hopefully, however, Maurice Riordan will shake the tree a little and perhaps some fresh fruit will fall. He’ll almost certainly look for new lines to explore, and present us with some unexpected work and stimulating new poets.

The magazine’s approach to poetry might also be called a little conservative. It follows the tried and trusted formula which, in effect, we’ve also followed in Antiphon: something like 70% poems, 30% reviews and essays. Possibly it’s time for a slightly more radical approach, to test the well-tried formula. I’m not sure what this might be, but then I’m never likely to get that editorial job. Perhaps invite specific poets from overseas? Perhaps have a section, or even an issue, focused on the use of space on the page, or the prose poem, or the long poem (all of which create problems for a magazine!) Perhaps reserve a section for a young guest editor. Perhaps commission collaborative work.

Personally, however, I enjoy the traditional format, with its essays and reviews, both of which I usually  learn from, though sometimes they might seem like personal indulgence. Perhaps most essayists and reviewers tend to do this? It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Poems come from our individual being. Effective essays may do, too. It’s not hard to think of examples: Coleridge and Shelley, Eliot and Pound. But perhaps a new editor in an old magazine may stir up the coals and spark some new fires.

The editors of Antiphon (who, we should say, have both benefited from Maurice Riordan’s tutoring) wish the editor of Poetry Review good fortune and inspiration, and we look forward to the new in the old magazine.


Somerset House

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