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Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Unusual Suspects?

Roddy Lumsden and Salt have announced - over at Facebook - that they'll be launching a new series, The Best of British Poetry (starting with 2011).  This is modelled on the wildly successful series started by David Lehman back in 1988, when the first guest editor was John Ashbery.  Lehman, as Series Editor, has given the series credibility, and a coherent identity, that plays well off of the various poetics each of the guest editors brings to bear.  And, what editors: Lyn Hejinian, Rita Dove, Paul Muldoon, Louise Gluck, Adrienne Rich, Harold Bloom, Jorie Graham, Robert Bly, AR Ammons, John Hollander - none less than a major figure, in their way.  As Series Editor, Lumsden will have a job on his hand to provide that level of serious continuity, and charmed broad church integrity, which somehow Lehman has pulled off.  Fortunately, Lumsden knows most poets he will need to reach.

However, to truly reach the heights of the American series (there are other versions, say, in Ireland, and Canada, much younger), the guest editors will have to be stellar.  An equivalent level of varied names would be: Geoffrey Hill, Patience Agbabi, Wendy Cope, JH Prynne, Craig Raine, Don Paterson, Alice Oswald, Michael Schmidt, Paul Farley, Carol Ann Duffy, Simon Armitage, Giles Goodland, Fiona Sampson, James Fenton, Philip Gross, Christopher Ricks, etc.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  And oh - what does British mean in this context?  Anyway, let's hope it does well.
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