Thursday, 30 May 2013

couldn't resist

Date: 8th June
Entry: free
Open Mic Event
Winners of the Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize Julie Maclean ( When I saw Jimi ) and Terry Quinn ( The Amen of Knowledge ) launch their collections on the 8th June at The Barlow Theatre. Julie lives on the Surf Coast, Australia but was born and grew up in Bristol and this retrospective collection sparks through those times. Terry lives in Preston, Lancashire and his everyday language covering ordinary subject matters have a subtext which has become the hallmark of his poetry.

Together they will attempt to find common ground when they tackle similar issues from their books but will also read separately and there will be open mic slots throughout the afternoon.

The prize was instigated by Indigo Dreams Publishing in commemoration of Geoff Stevens, editor of Purple Patch ( national treasure, the Guardian ) Black Country poet and artist and after a break for refreshments Geoff’s poetry and artwork will be on display with selections from his poetry being read. There will also be an open mic for his poet friends to add to their memories with poetry readings.

The event starts at 2-00pm (doors open at 1-00pm) with the evening session beginning at 7-00pm.
Venue Details:
     at Barlow Theatre - 2.00pm
Address: 3, Spring Walk, Oldbury, B69 4SP, GB

anonymous submissions

Over the last few years there seems to be a growing trend for poetry magazines to request that submissions be entered without identification with a separate sheet containing one’s name and address. Well, there is if you count a trend as from 2 to 3. But they are important magazines.

The idea is that editors will not be swayed by receiving poems from poets already known either just to them or with a more nationally recognized profile.

And that’s a good thing. I’ve heard of publications where there is an in-tray with ‘friends’ and an out-tray with ‘get lost creep’.

But. The but is that this anonymous approach does not allow for editors, in more open magazines, to nurture poets as they develop. Good editors will advise people as they get to know their work and suggest that, maybe, the poet should revisit a poem in the light of what they have submitted or had published in the past by their magazine.

Or it may be that the poet is trying something different and the editor can see what is going on and although that particular effort wasn’t up to standard they can urge them to keep trying instead of getting a rejection due to no knowledge of prior work which could then put the poet off progressing.

On balance, my opinion is that there is a need for some magazines to have anonymous submissions. Maybe there should be some more with half and half. But only a few.

Friday, 17 May 2013

What’s the point of going to the Poetry Library in the South Bank, London on a bone chilling winter day if I can’t use it as a piece in something like a blog.

In fact the actual title of the place is the Saison Poetry Library and it contains the most comprehensive and accessible collection of poetry from 1912 to the present day in Britain. It also has the hardest chairs – but I think I’ve mentioned this before.

When Alan Dent gave a talk on how to get published during a recent Preston Arts Festival  he brought along a selection of the magazines to be found at the Library. He stressed – as all editors do – that one of the major factors in getting a magazine to take your work is to be familiar with both the magazine to which you are sending the poems and a knowledge of contemporary poetry.

I can’t emphasise enough that any magazine worth its salt will be found at this Library. Depending on how fast you read and how many coffee breaks you take you should put aside about an hour minimum and two hours maximum to trawl through old favourites and the newcomers onto the market ( including the inevitable thick, glossy table breakers that remain a complete mystery to me – how do they get the funding, who reads them? ).

One of the interesting aspects of browsing through the collection is coming across the magazines that you ( well, me actually ) wouldn’t touch with a quill the size of a barge pole. Anything that contains the word ‘experimental’, for instance, is guaranteed to bring on nausea. Silly line drawings don’t do much. Big glossies ( see above ). Stand magazine. Front covers that mention the word ‘Faeries’. The list is not that long thank goodness.

What was slightly depressing is that there doesn’t seem to be any new magazines coming onto the market – in paper form anyway. There are various emagazines around now and the Poetry Library does have a list of those that follow the traditional editorial policies of printed magazines. I’ve had a few poems published in this type of format but it just doesn’t seem the same.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

'not previously published'

About ten years ago I was involved in a vigorous online discussion on the poetry magazine Iota’s website regarding the policy of most, if not all, poetry magazines requiring that any poems published in that magazine be ‘not previously published in any other magazine’. I was arguing that this was self defeating for the future of poets and various Editors responded by saying that purchasers wanted new material and their magazines would go under if that wasn’t the case.

This argument raised its head again in a recent edition of ‘South’ where a comment column made much the same points that I had been putting forward those years ago.

The main and most important point is that this policy severely restricts the opportunities for poets and poems to become well known. As both the columnist and I argue Poetry must be the only art form where a previous publication/exhibition/concert/cd means that it can never be realistically seen again. Can you imagine the situation where if the Beatles had been first heard on Radio Merseyside then no other radio station would play their music. Or David Hockney’s paintings had been shown in Harrogate so the Tate would not place them on display.

Who knows whether a truly great poem has been published in some obscure magazine with a circulation of dozens and lost forever. Why not have something like a ‘Top of the Pops’ where a good poem gets into national significance by being read in many magazines. Maybe the magazines would benefit as well due to their having a mix of new and previously published work.

The columnist makes the further points that aspiring poets only submit their best work to magazines with large circulations so cutting off the input to smaller magazines and also that ‘famous’ poets have little incentive to bother submitting to small magazines when, as a consequence, they will dramatically limit their audience by so doing.

One of the ironies of the columnist’s article is that underneath the piece is a statement from the magazine’s Editorial Board that ‘not withstanding these comments it is still South’s policy only to accept previously unpublished work’