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Magazine Review: Poetry Wales Winter 12-13

I have an addiction, an addiction to poetry magazines. A rough count says I have 11 active subscriptions at the moment – but I’ve probably missed some (oops, yes 12). To get it out of my system, and maybe give anyone listening a few ideas about what you might want to buy (poetry mags need subscribers folks) I’m going to offer the occasional, unscientific, issue review. I’m starting with Poetry Wales winter 12-13, simply becasue it is what I’ve read in the last couple of days.

Poetry Wales is a well-produced magazine. It does give good coverage to poets from/working in Wales, with a small amount of content in welsh (and generally translations are provided) but it is a broad church. The poems PW carries are nearly always excellent, interesting, and with a decided bent to modernity. (They have accepted some of mine too, but everyone is allowed a lapse.)

This issue has some wonderful sounds by Robert Minhinnick and Patience Agbabi, Bill Herbert with a mix of the erudite and the slapstick, a really lovely Rilke version by Mario Petrucci, along with poets probably less familiar/out of the comfort zone of many (Frances Presley for instance). PW usually carries one quite academic piece. In this issue it’s an attempt to recover Brenda Chamberlain from obscurity by Damian Walford Davies. To my mind the professor can keep Chamberlain on the basis of the showing here, but if professors aren’t allowed to go overboard on their pet subjects, who is? In past issues there have been articles which I have found much more interesting, for example on Lynette Roberts or Lee Harwood’s account of meeting Tristan Tzara!

The magazine carries a consistently good review section, which often gives assessments on things that are not well covered in the ‘mainstream’ poetry press (as if there could be such a thing). This issue, for example, reviews work by Drew Milne, Redell Olsen and Rod Mengham normally confined to the academic outer fringe (and largely avoids giving the n+1th review of the Eliot shortlist). That look at ‘Cambridge School’ poetry is helpfully balanced too – avoiding the lionisation of anything alternative that some magazines go in for, but at the same time clearly engaging with and trying to appreciate what the poets have to offer.

A well-produced magazine of 76 pages that is just £5 an issue – so a full year’s postal subscription is £20. I’m pretty sure that is the result of some meaningful public subsidy from the Welsh Books Council and it is worth taking advantage of their generosity.