Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Poets-I-Used-To-Know, Poetry-Magazines-I-Still-Miss

Well, the Ancient Greek exam is finally behind me - results at Christmas, I'll admit to them only if I pass - so I now have a small amount of time free each day for writing poetry.

But is that what I do, first day 'out of school' - write some poetry? Of course not, that would be too sensible. No, instead I spent a few hours tonight trawling the net in search of amusement. Not the porn stars on pink lilos type of amusement - I used to bother with that sort of thing when I was single, but now the pop-up ads just drive me insane - the poets-I-used-to-know type of amusement.

Here for instance is KM Dersley, who may have said hello to me at the Small Press Fair one year in Newcastle, possibly 1996, after we had been corresponding on a poetry matter.

As I recall, he came shuffling up to me in a duffle coat, heavily rucksacked and looking at me sideways. I was on a stall flogging, or trying to flog, copies of Blade, the poetry & critical magazine I used to run before my brain ran out of energy for such adventures. We talked and then he moved on to the next stall. And here I find KMD again, ten years later, still poeting and online at the Ragged Edge website and writing about precisely that experience; the 'Magazine Rigmarole' as he calls it in his poem of the same name ...

I wouldn't get on very well at committee meetings,
would rather be at home
reading Scarlet Pimpernel stories
or one of Rider Haggard's soap and tsetse fly sagas

Later in the same poem, he quite accurately - if cynically - describes the motivation of poets to part with hard cash in exchange for poetry magazines they despise on the off-chance that this purchase may somehow enable them to get their work in too, since

If that shit counts, then maybe their crap does too,
and everyone can then sit on the dung pile and
smoulder together.

Nada the Lily. What a classic. And Umslopogaas. They don't make tragic heroes like that anymore.

Everything I know about tsetse flies I learnt from H. Rider Haggard.

But not all (small press) poetry magazines are/were unadulterated rubbish.

What about Joe Soap's Canoe? The Wide Skirt? Sunk Island Review?

The poetry world seems to be shrinking even while the magazines proliferate ... shrinking down, down, to the few that still matter (to me, that is).

When will any of us get excited by a new magazine again? By which I mean the sort of little magazine that spurns the establishment whilst making its strong new ideology heard above the wastepaper-bin fodder.

Ah, those heady days of wide-eared poetry innocence ...

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