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Long Poem Magazine 10

LPM strikes me as a necessary magazine in all kinds of ways. Its dedication to publishing longer poems and sequences makes it unique in the ecosystem of poetry in the UK (I don’t know if there is a US or international counterpart). The ‘sequence’ or ‘project’ has become an vital area of new poetry over the last few years. In part this may be due to the proliferation of poetry degrees with their demand for ‘portfolios’ ‘projects’ or even (heaven help us) ‘theses’: but it also shows some welcome ambition in modern poetry – the ambition to go beyond the contained lyric or pay-off epiphany. Serious thought is getting into these longer poems – something which the typical domestic lyric of the last few decades has tended to avoid.

Issue 10 (Autumn 2013)  contains 18 long poems/sequences and one reflective prose article. The first piece, a collaborative poem by George Szirtes and Carol Watts, is rich and strange, beginning with reflections on a particular picture (by Jenny Saville) it very soon finds itself deep in the philosophy of art and visioin without ever losing touch with the experience it unravels, re-codes and enriches. We all knew George Szirtes could write (and think) like this, but the subtle harmony of two voices (minds?) across the project adds a further dimension of freshness and complication. Reader, I like it. Elsewhere there is some excellent, approachable work by Patience Agbabi, part of her project of writing through Chaucer and Anna Robinson (on libraries). LPM is also happy to deal with more aggressively contemporary poetics – ‘Kernell Stone’ (Lisa Mansell) and ‘Fragments Salvaged From Her Diary’ (Lucy Sheerman) are both projects which use source text – respectively ‘Goblin Market’ and ‘Rebecca’ – and procedural rules (loose in the first case, fairly strict in the second) to generate a new surface.

I certainly enjoyed and engaged with Martyn Crucefix’s prose article – which I will not do a disservice by trying to summarise (particularly as I’m pretty sure I disagree with quite a lot of it). It is about much more than poetry, but locates a certain poetics as a (necessary?) conditon of a good life in the fullest sense. For all my surface cynicism I agree with the seriousness of the attempt.

There are some items that I think are weaker (and I am not completely convinced on the poetic strength of the contemporary approaches of Mansell and Sheerman that I’ve mentioned above, but they are certainly interesting). That is only to be expected. Other readers are likely to have different sympathies to my own. However, a generous 76 A4 pages of poetry of undoubted quality represents trememdous value for the £6 cover price.

Once again I close with a health warning, LPM has demonstrated its infinite good taste by publishing me in the past, so I am not an unbiased observer.