Sunday, September 14, 2008

Horizon Review

The first edition of the webzine, Horizon Review, edited by Jane Holland, has just gone live.

The range and quality of content is astonishing for a first issue – poems, short fiction, an opinion column, articles, interviews, art, critical reviews, and a piece on translation. I’ve only managed to read a handful of poems and reviews so far, and they’ve all been very good. I have a couple of poems included ('Voices' and 'Visiting Hour'), and other contributors include Andrew Philip, Andrew Shields, Alison Brackenbury, George Szirtes, James Midgley, Katy Evans-Bush, Tim Love… and many more. A zine to bookmark, I should think.

Oh, and George Szirtes makes some great points on Horizon Review and on Salt’s current contribution to poetry online and on paper.

What George says in his article is all good, but I particularly liked this, linking Salt, Bloodaxe and Carcanet:

“In so far as Salt is concerned - like Bloodaxe and Carcanet before (and still) - it is a force for good in that it prises poetry from the grip of those who regard themselves as its narrow brotherhood of custodians.”

I find it bizarre that some people appear to think of Bloodaxe and Carcanet as an “establishment” to stand against. In fact, the anti-establishment roots of these organisations still run deep. From Carcanet’s website:

“In an age teased by post-Modern relativism and post-millennial uncertainty, where literary value sometimes plays second fiddle to the demon profit and that other demon of ephemeral political imperatives, Carcanet takes its bearing from Modernism. It bases its activities on the best practice of the last century, during which great lists were forged...”

Bloodaxe’s editor, Neil Astley, wrote this introduction to the 1988 anthology ‘Poetry from the Edge’ (even the name tells a story):

“Right from the beginning Bloodaxe’s role has been of working for writers and readers. There was at that time what I can only call a malaise affecting poetry publishing. None of the publishers seemed to pay any attention to what readers wanted and poetry was losing its readership because few people cared anything for what they were being offered by the publishers.”

It’s worth remembering, I think, that however successful Bloodaxe, Carcanet and Salt (let’s hope!) are, they are not the ‘establishment’. They all come from different starting-points and have their own distinct take on what poetry publishing needs, but they each produce quality literature in accordance with their particular vision. The ‘establishment’ is the dull, mediocre nonsense that fills the shop windows of bookshops – celebrity memoirs, TV chefs, populist fiction etc. It’s disposable pap and is against anything serious or provocative, anything indeed that asks for a genuine human response. The pressure to embrace it and dumb down everything is greater than ever, but nothing acts against that tendency more than publishers dedicated to the production and selling of quality poetry, allowing it to be seen and heard in however modest a way. There’s nothing ‘establishment’ about that.


I’ll be at the Great Grog Bar at 43 Rose Street, Edinburgh, tonight from 8pm, introducing Michael Schmidt, Helena Nelson, Dorothy Baird and Charlotte Runcie. I’ll see some of you there and, for those who can’t be, you can read poems by all four (and more besides – the archive is well worth a delve) at the Poetry at the Great Grog website.

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