Saturday, August 07, 2010

New Writing Scotland

Well, there’s so much doom and gloom around whenever anyone mentions poetry that anything upbeat doesn’t have to fight for my attention, and I was pleased to read a positive comment on contemporary Scottish poetry from prose and theatre writer Alan Bissett in this year’s intro to New Writing Scotland, 28. Alan writes:

“What was most noticeable to the editors this year was the higher quality of poetry than of prose. Many of the poems sang, while relatively few of the stories did. Perhaps mass-market imperatives and the lack of opportunity for prose writers have led to an inevitable blunting of short fiction.”

So, I suppose we have to balance up the positive opportunities for poetry with the negative effect of marketing imperatives on prose. And yet, for poetry publishing houses to survive and thrive, they need to carve out a larger share of the market – without sacrificing quality. Quite a dilemma.

As a footnote, here are the submission guidelines for next year’s NWS (deadline 30 September 2010). I noticed one dramatic change:

“You should provide a covering letter, clearly marked with your name and address. Please also put your name on the individual works.”

Now, I’m sure no names have previously been allowed on individual works. Everything was anonymous, but that’s no longer the case. There are positive and negative aspects to reading ‘blind’ just as there are for reading with a name attached. It will be interesting to see whether it has any effect on next year’s issue and whether the editors prefer this new system over the old.

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