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Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Poetry London Summer 2009 & Eyewear

The editorial of Poetry London's Summer 2009 issue, by Tim Dooley, explores important issues relating to the death and rebirth of poetry criticism and reception in the UK. One of the points he makes is that there are as many new poetry collections out each year as there are film releases, and the possibility for proper engaged reviews of each of these is subsequently becoming limited, in some ways, partially simply due to the numbers; but also because newspapers, other than the Guardian, are less and less interested in reviewing poetry (I think the Times does a bit, too). On the other hand, he observes, there are new forums to read such works. He writes: "The Internet has created new possibilities like the discussion board Poets on Fire moderated by Jane Holland, or Todd Swift's blogzine Eyewear."

I am very proud to have Eyewear mentioned in this way, especially as it is an amateur pursuit without funding and fuelled only by enthusiasm. It is the second time this decade that Poetry London has mentioned an aspect of the Internet I helped to associate with poetry - in 2003, my political-poetry ebooks, edited with Val Stevenson, at Nthposition, were similarly discussed. I mention this because virtual reinvention is exhausting, as is cultural activism, and I am not sure I'll be at the forefront of whatever replaces blogging, in the next decade - it may be Twitter, or beyond - will be beyond, and beyond what we can currently imagine, surely. What I have tried to do, at Eyewear, and for all my projects, is place an ethics of engagement and interest and support, even tolerance, at the heart of the proceedings - as well as fun and surprise. I have aimed for the sort of "common pursuit" discussed at other recent posts, in the process.

Community as a unified thing is now perhaps a fiction. It may be a fiction of supreme value, worth creating. Excellent literary magazines like Poetry London and Poetry Review allow a conversation and a celebration of poetry to take place, and as such they are invaluable, and it is good if online publications, networks and actions can supplement this. I think the model may be of four: live events and performances + published or recorded works + broadcast material (radio, TV) + online activity = the full spectrum of poetic reception. Each of these four pillars of creation and reception requires a reader, listener, or audience. Poetry is not a zero sport of the single mind, but is a singular spreading of the laurel to many.
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