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Little Magazines I love you

The good people behind the Free Verse publishers fair have started a new venture, a fair for small magazines. The event on 13th May was smaller than its book-publishing equivalent – I presume cost constraints played a part – so that by no means all the outlets for new poetry were represented. All the same it was a good cross-section of the most established names/brands and some new bright ideas. It highlights the fact that despite the fact few, if any, of these magazines make enough money to pay for the work put in by countless editors, designers and typesetters, heroic souls still commit themselves in, if anything, growing numbers. Here are a couple of thoughts.

The ‘big names’ (big names in a small pond) were nearly all represented, Poetry Review, PN Review, Ambit, Rialto, North, Magma, Agenda, Acumen, and generally an editor or two on hand to talk to – for this alone it would be a very valuable event. However of more interest to me were the possible up-and-comers.

Butchers Dog: a name that is popping up more and more frequently on my radar, so it was a chance to browse and pick up a copy. Great original colour illustrations on each cover, but a clean simple format inside, poems only without the guilt-burden of reviews and articles I ought to read..but probably won’t. The poems in the issue I did pick up and take home did not inspire me in the main, though that may just be singleissueitis (I’ve found the same with some issues of almost every poetry magazine in the past). I won’t be submitting at the moment, but there is an energy and freshness in the team – one to keep an eye on.

La Errante: OK so a language-crossing Anglo-Spanish avant-gardy zine made from a single sheet of map-folded A3, printed blue-on-white with artwork presented alongside the poems….may not be to everyone’s taste. I found it exciting and hard to fault. Beautiful, clear production values, sharp poems from the likes of Fiona Sampson and Toby Martinez de las Rivas (and an international cast of names not familiar to me), with the kindly gesture for this basically monoglot reader of English translations of the poems in Spanish. Fab. Get one (this was issue 1) – have not yet worked out how to get myself on the mailing list for issue 2.

The mid-level was well represented by some (in my view) necessary magazines. Shearsman continues to plough a fearless furrow, not doctrinaire but the place to find work that really excites which few others would print. Long Poem Magazine has a secure place in the ecosystem given the pressure on page space in most magazines (and the 40 line tyranny of the competition) and I hope a necessary place on your subscriptions list. Interpreter’s House is enjoying a new lease of life under a refreshed editorial team (the move to Scotland seems to have done no harm!). So power and thanks to you all, brave, wonderful, selfless people who keep poetry afloat in print form whether I’ve mentioned you or not.

[In the interests of disclosure I was on the board of Magma 2011-2016 and have had poems published in many of the journals mentioned, while I continue to send little parcels of hopeful material out to nearly all the others…..]

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