Sunday, 14 September 2008

Horizon Review and the future of poetry

From Salt, edited by Jane Holland comes the first issue of Horizon Review. A proper e-magazine with articles, reviews, stories and poems. Solid. It could almost be made of paper! And the contents are good. It will go in the left-hand links bar from now on.

I suspect e-publishing will become an ever more important part of writers' lives - particularly poets' lives. It is not commercial and is therefore under less pressure to be big-name populist. The ideal will remain to publish and be reviewed in book form, but reputations can be built in this more fluid but still selective environment.

In so far as Salt is concerned - like Bloodaxe and Carcanet before (and still) - it is a force for good in that it prises poetry from the grip of those who regard themselves as its narrow brotherhood of custodians. Chris and Jen Hamilton-Emery at Salt have realised that the prising can take place on two levels - the free domain of the web that won't pay you directly for your labour, and the book domain where the difference in price between a handsomely produced object and a cheap paperback is not so great as to put off those who actually think of buying poetry in book form.

On the one hand, free floating text as idea and song, on the other the tactile beauty of the solidly crafted book.

People, particularly institutional and institutionally-funded people, whose chief concern is an accountably-representative ledger of bums on seats, worry about the future of poetry. I have never ever worried about an activity so deeply inscribed in human instinct, intuition, intelligence, desire, need and practice. Specific publishers, specific books, specific magazines come and go as they have always done but they are not poetry.

True poetry is always underground, always the samizdat-bloodstream bubbling up through language. Publishers, magazines, media slots are the temporal vehicles through which poetry is disseminated. I want them all to survive and prosper, of course, and, if they are intelligent and open-minded, they will - for as long as their cycle of energy lasts.

Credo for a sunny Sunday morning.


Jane Holland said...

"True poetry is always underground." I couldn't agree more with this.

And once something - however revolutionary in its origins - becomes established, becomes establishment in itself, its energies begin to flag and fade, and its useful life is done.

Of course, Horizon Review is brand-new, and still in the sunny uplands. And its initial purpose is not so much to showcase new writing or critical opinions - though that is an integral part of its raison d'être - but to engage actively with new poetries, literatures and art across the board, and by active engagement, seek to bring those forces together for change.

Sometimes that may result in powerful collisions between opposites or opponents. And sometimes it may result in a newly perceived harmony of purpose. But the energy involved in such meetings, the underlying dynamic of Horizon Review, is something that ideally will serve as a catalyst for the discussion and creation of new work and new artistic ideologies. As you say, not poetry itself, the origin of which must always remain hidden, but potentially a driver of poetry, given the right circumstances. Though what those may be is often only apparent with hindsight.

And I'm very glad you approve of the first issue. Many thanks!


Chris Hamilton-Emery said...

George, your comments on Salt are too kind but I'm very, very grateful for them.

See you soon