10.5.09

The Manchester Review

In certain quarters of the poetry world, there can be a certain snobbery surrounding publication online - one that maintains that print literary magazines are usually better than online journals. This argument is usually based on the idea that many (though certainly not all) established poets only send their work to print publications, and so the best quality work ends up being published in them, especially given the added incentive that the bigger players pay for poems: Poetry Review, The London Review of Books, the TLS and so on.

Though not entirely untrue, fortunately this is only part of the bigger picture, as a number of online poetry and literary magazines in the UK and further afield are growing in considerable authority. These include the likes of Salt Publishing's Horizon, edited by Jane Holland; Blackbox Manifold, edited by Adam Piette and Alex Houen at the University of Sheffield; the longstanding Jacket magazine, and those print journals which also publish much of the material from their issues online, most notably the American magazines AGNI and Poetry. A few UK print journals could learn a thing or two from the latter, and of the former UK online publications, work by Paul Muldoon, Michael Schmidt, George Szirtes, Fiona Sampson and Vona Groarke have featured in Horizon's and Blackbox Manifold's pages - some of the better poets writing in English today.

Another online magazine that's recently emerged in the UK is The Manchester Review, edited by the staff of Manchester University's creative writing course. The magazine published its second issue earlier this year, and has already featured new work from Sean O'Brien, Nick Laird and Conor O'Callaghan, among others. It looks like another strong addition to the best online publications around, and one which poets and novelists alike can publish their work in. Of particular interest to me were Nick Laird's poem 'Adeline' and Peter Armstrong's 'Breakfast at The Fisherman's Mission'. Check it out if you get chance.

1 comment:

Background Artist said...

Whilst agreeing with the substantives of your scenario Ben, my take would be slightly different.

The Manchester Review has the best podcasts, because it is Amis, who tells it straight, and there is a fantastic one of him, James Fenton and McCauley discussing Larkin, who as you know, is the immediate biggest influence in terms of poetic style and substance, on the Armitage and Duffy schools which mix high-blown lines within a demotic scenario framed in a conversational vernacular and one in which the word *fuck* (and other swearies, which fifty years ago would have been thought the most unpoetic of words) is considered to have poetic charge previously absent.

Amis is a gas, real riot, because he talks about Larkin the godfather of his brother, rather than Larkin the god he became afrter collapsing in his toilet and frantically mouthing to Monica to burn the journals in which his sweary soul had laid bare the immense amount of jealousies and petty hatreds he acquired - particularly about his freinds and colleagues who were more succesful commercially, like Amis's father, Kingsley.

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This is part fo the reason why i would place Manchester Review above Horizin in my own pecking order of contemporary literary importance, because they have had two issues, and also much of the poetry that appeared in there, i didn't consider fully formed.

I would argue that though it does have a certain *authority*, i personally do not consider it *considerable*.

Mainly because there have only been two issues, so it really is too early to elevate the zine with such an important position.

Also in the last issue in particular, there was, not only a real imbalance gender-wise (which the editor may say is down to the gender of those submitting) - but most of the poems by man poets that did appear, the problem I had with them, was a noticeable lack of playfulness buried beneath attempts at hitting a high seriousness the pieces aimed for but didn't reach.

I thought there was a preponderance of authoratitive philisophical all seeing all knowing narrator I's going for the majestrial note and not pulling it off.

But that's only my opinion - criticism and not the last word of course.

I wrote a detailed review of Horizon's second issue here, at Niall O'Sullivan's chat gaffe, UK Poetry Forum.

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Whilst i agree with you on the poets you named as being some of the *better* ones writing today, i always find that term a tad too heavy, a whiff of exclusion, i hasten to add, only for the general readers who may find contemporary Poetry intimidating (in the most general sense) and though not in any way impugning your choice of word here Ben, and only because it's a sort of idiosyncratic and what amounts to, personal preference - I always try to avoid it when speaking of poets, being better ones and such.

More respected, senior, or longer in the game, just to try and get it across that anyone can come to poetry and rather than it being a competition between a mass of artists all vying to be the better or best ones, a lone-sport anyone can play.

As i say, this is just my own personal vision, and totally unrealted to the professional poetry side of things in which we draw from a slightly different lexicon and where phrases as *better* poets, are perfectly acceptable and indeed deploying such terms, should be encouraged for the prupose of gently nudging ourselves to try and do the very best we can. Attain our poetic potential.

Great work, keep it up.

slainte.