Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Poetry Review Reviewed

In just a very short time, maybe two or three years, the authority of magazines like Poetry Review has been seriously undermined, in the sense that its job of presenting to the poetry-reading public 'the best' of contemporary British poetry ('the best' defined at one level by being in Poetry Review) isn't really needed any more. For non-UK readers, the magazine is the organ of the Poetry Society, the main public body for the promotion of poetry in the UK. Print-on-demand publishing and of course, the Web, mean that there can no longer be a central authority. Consumers now have more information available to them, and greater access to what's published - they can find things out for themselves. The contents of Poetry Review are simply editor Fiona Sampson's choice (which is not to belittle it, but it's no more valuable than, say Tony Frazer's or John Tranter's choice).

My subscription to the magazine has expired and I've just had the reminder. The mag had no interest for me during Peter Forbes' long tenure, but I signed up during the (brief) Potts and Herd period. In the forthcoming series we are promised "Don Paterson's stunning essay", and "stunning poetry by Peter Porter, John Burnside...etc". Don't know if I can cope with being stunned twice in one year. They ask for my email address because "We put great value in communicating with you effectively" - a rather
obsequious piece of service-speak.

To renew or not? I find it generally rather dull, and I wasn't impressed by a recent issue which had two Dante translations - by John Kinsella and Sean O'Brien - both entirely unnecessary. It seems the application form for Major Poet status has a check box labelled 'Dante translation'. Anyhow, Sean O'Brien's effort was bebunked by someone who should know here. There's a feature in the latest issue on Paul Muldoon, a poet to whose charms I've so far remained immune, and nothing else that really catches my eye. So the chances are I'll save my 30 quid for something more exciting.

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