Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The job of the poetry magazine


The job of the poetry magazine is to testify to the messiness that comes with the connectedness that we want, and may indeed be the price we pay for it: the arguments and the debates and the passionately-held-but-in-hindsight-hard-to-see-the-point-of differences of opinion between people who, to the naked eye, seemed to be doing the same thing.

We have our debates today, but they're rarely about things that matter, and more about promotion, marketing, prizes, neglect or over-attention, in-crowds and out-crowds, identity politics and imputed identity politics.  Pressed from above by the grant culture and sapped from below by a crisis in readership, in poetry as elsewhere, talking about identity seems to have become easier than just getting on with having one.  This is no substitute for a critically-healthy poetry culture and is more the result of being, on the one hand, embattled, and, on the other, consensus-stunned and stupefied with boosterism, than with any real curiosity about how what we do connects up to the world outside; or even - a good and provocative question, and maybe the one we should be asking first - whether it should.

-- from an editorial by Patrick McGuinness introducing the Summer 2013 issue of Poetry Review

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