Saturday, August 11, 2007

Gerry Cambridge and The Dark Horse

I had an email the other day, one of those round robin jobs, from Gerry Cambridge, editor of an established poetry magazine called The Dark Horse.

I no longer keep tabs on the world of small magazines - except for those few where my work occasionally appears! - but I was very interested to hear from Gerry, as he started up The Dark Horse roughly round the time I launched my own little poetry magazine, Blade (1995 - 1999).

I was aware of his activities before I actually met Gerry in the flesh, so we had something to talk about when that happened - unexpectedly, on an overcast weekday afternoon, both unashamedly browsing our own magazines (first or second issues, I should imagine) in the magazine section of the Poetry Library at the South Bank. I introduced myself to him, always keen to make a contact, and we swopped copies of our magazines. Being fairly unalike as editors in style and taste, we didn't keep in touch or submit to each other's magazines, but I remained aware of The Dark Horse all the time I was editing Blade, and afterwards too ...

Recently, I saw Gerry somewhere online, as I recall, and contacted him by email to catch up on what he'd been up to. I was extremely pleased - and secretly envious - to discover that The Dark Horse was still going strong. My own magazine folded in 1999, while I was at Oxford as a mature student, through a sudden and irrevocable lack of energy and commitment. To this day, I don't feel able to relaunch Blade in any format, even as an occasional online magazine, because the memory of the sheer work involved in running a small magazine is so oppressive to my psyche. Yet I loved Blade dearly and was passionate about every aspect of the magazine whilst editing it for those four incredible years.

So I salute Gerry Cambridge for continuing strong where I folded - a true old-style poetry editor and dark horse; in his own words, describing his magazine, 'passionate about poetry, and a touch contrarian.'


Here's some background on Gerry from his personal website:

Gerry Cambridge is the founder editor of The Dark Horse magazine, and has considerable interests in print design and typography. He occasionally plays harmonica as part of a duo with the Scottish singer-songwriter Neil Thomson.

He is a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at the University of Edinburgh for 2006-2008, where he is based part-time in the Schools of Biological Sciences and of Physics.

And here's some background on his magazine, The Dark Horse.

The Dark Horse was founded in 1995 by the Scottish poet Gerry Cambridge. It is an international literary magazine committed to British, Irish and American poetry, and is published in Scotland. We like to think that the journal is characterised by a clear-sighted scepticism and an eye for the genuine. We believe that hype, in its presumption of consensus, is demeaning to readers of any individuality. Not that we equate poetry with solemnity. We are, by turns, or sometimes simultaneously, serious, wry, humorous, iconoclastic.

While we are glad to print poetry in metre and rhyme, we remember Randall Jarrell’s “Where poems have hearts, a metronome is beating here.” We believe that we can recognise poems of sound heart. Not being evangelical or overly partisan, we also print compelling free verse. We publish, too, a mix of stylish and engaged essays, reviews, interviews, polemics and appreciations. At times these are groundbreaking: when the late Philip Hobsbaum died in 2005, the main available source of recent information on him, quoted extensively without acknowledgement by broadsheet obituaries, was his interview with The Dark Horse in 2002. Similarly, our interview with the poet-scientist G. F. Dutton is the most extensive of its kind available. We have printed work by many established poets, but are possibly prouder of our discoveries, whether of individual poems or of poets previously unknown to us, and we love to highlight excellent yet neglected or overlooked figures. The contemporary poetry scene has a short memory which has less to do with quality than with fashion. We try to honour literary quality over literary fashion.

The Dark Horse is in the tradition of the finest ‘little’ magazines: engaged, at times contrarian, and with a commitment to excellence as we perceive it.

I hope those interested in contemporary poetry will take a few moments to check out Gerry's website and read about the Dark Horse there. Subscriptions are always welcome!


Ed Parsons said...

Apart from anything else, The Dark Horse really looks the part - elegant and stylish, suggesting a corresponding quality of content. The essays and longish reviews, not to mention the poems, are always interesting.


Anonymous said...

Or better still, view extracts of the latest issue online at

Andy (A.B.) Jackson

Jane Holland said...

Thanks, Andy & Tony. Especially for that link to the extracts. Makes life easier ...


Ms Baroque said...

That's a nice fat post about the Dark Horse, Jane! I'd never have known you had any connection there at all - as you say, a different sensibility - so it's interesting to make the link.

Jane Holland said...

It used to be that all small press editors - both publishers and magazine editors alike, regardless of taste or affiliation - were comrades in arms. Not sure if that's still the case in such a divided and multifarious scene. But I still remember how it felt to be a small press editor (I even published one of Gordon Wardman's collections at one point, not just Blade) and so have complete admiration for those who soldier on with such a difficult and exhausting job ...


Jane Holland said...

Following further contact with Gerry, I've changed the links according to his suggestion, so people should now be able to see the latest issue and information on the Dark Horse, as its previous website is - I believe - currently under reconstruction.