Publication Date: 14th December, 2012.
Poetry Review is Britain’s leading and oldest poetry magazine (100 years old) and I was thrilled to be asked to guest edit this issue. What an honour. What an adventure. I decided to fill it with the kind of poetry and voices that I’d like to see more of in Britain’s leading poetry publishing avenues, and I aimed for this issue to reflect a wide range of diverse voices. Out of 46 poets I have included 25 women poets, 21 poets of colour* and several ‘queer’ poems that explore, amongst other things, sexuality. True diversity embraces all voices. I also commissioned essays on the relationship between poetry and culture (s) in order to explore its relevance to context and critical reception.
I am, at heart, an iconoclast, I want true democracy, I want inclusion, not tokenism, and I have problems with a poetry ‘establishment’ that excludes those who don’t fit into current ideas of taste and aesthetics.
In my issue I wanted to only showcase poets who had not been in the magazine before. Some of these poets are outside the ‘establishment mainstream’, others are new and just emerging, quite a few are still very young and in their twenties. Oblique, understated poetry is fine, but I was glad to find some poems of exuberant chaos and experiment, although not as much experiment as I wanted. I wanted ‘Society’ in this issue too – poems that address the world around us, our times. I found myself drawn to poems that unsettle, and poems that were endlessly re-readable but which never lost their emotional power. I found a shape emerging to the collection, an order; not a narrative as such, but the poems bounce off, and speak to, each other.
Jay Bernard’s stunningly provocative cover was specially commissioned. I wanted something bold and provocative. I said to Jay, try and get some black faces on the cover. She incorporated African masks. I love it, and like the best poems, it too is re-readable.
Working with the Poetry Society on this issue was a wonderfully positive experience from start to finish. I was given total support and total freedom and couldn’t have asked for a better team of people. I’d like to thank Michael Sims (who is production editor for PR and the person I had most contact with), Judith Palmer (director) and Sophie Kirk (administrator). They were all absolutely fantastic partners on this venture.
* I’ve been a big advocate of getting more poets of colour published by the leading poetry publishers in the UK. I initiated the Free Verse report (Arts Council/Spread the Word, 2006) and The Complete Works (TCW 1) mentoring scheme for poets of colour (Spread the Word, 2008-2010). TCW 2 (2012-2o13) produced by Dr. Nathalie Teitler, is currently open for entries. http://www.spreadtheword.org.uk/index.php?id=miscellaneous&text=4817