We all did it at school. For many, it was a complete turn off. I bloomin’ loved it, but without the watchful eye of Mr Tucker, peering over the top of the AQA Poetry Anthology, I fell out the habit.
Many people never pick it up again, but lots of us find solace in poetry, turning to it in difficult times. In the last two years, The Poetry Review has seen subscription increase and The Poetry Society membership has also grown.
While we’ve been spending time with this issue, we’ve laughed, we’ve cried and been more than a little inspired.
Chatting to publisher, Michael Sims, only served to inspire us further and when I hung the phone, I was so enthused, I vowed then and there to be a poetry reader forever more, a disciple of language, a devotee of form…!
Ok, perhaps I do have a tendency to get carried away, and while future me may not alwaysswap Netflix for Neruda, it’s been such a joy to rediscover well, the joy of poetry. It’s clever and it’s playful and poets twist and bend language so much that they actually reshape the way we see the world.
Other people’s passions are infectious – it’s one of the main reasons I love independent magazines – and the essays and perspective pieces in The Poetry Review are an amazing peek behind the curtain of what can sometimes seem like an impenetrable art form that you’re not clever enough to understand. You are.
As Michael Sims told us, ‘poetry is meant to slow us up. It’s hard to do that instantaneously. You need to adjust your brain to reading it.’ Give it a go and we think you’ll take a surprising amount away The Poetry Review…
"Poetry is meant to slow us up..."
About the mag…
The Poetry Review is a quarterly print magazine made by The Poetry Society and it started way back in 1912. It has published some very famous names in its long and illustrious history (W.H Auden, Dylan Thomas and Allan Ginsberg to name a few…) but you won’t find many names you recognise in current issues, as The Poetry Review is dedicated to contemporary poets and poetry. It is THE place for new and important voices in the art form.
Who chooses what goes in the issue?
The current editor of The Poetry Review is award-winning poet, Emily Berry (Dear Boy, Stranger, Baby). In her tenure, she’s selected work from poets who have gone on to be prize winners and short listers, (like the incredible A.K Blackmore). She knows her stuff.
Our thoughts on the Winter 2021 issue…
Lisa, David and I all spent some time with the issue as we selected it to be the first mag in our Creative Spark stream for our new Free Range subscriptions. We thought it would be a fantastic way to start the stream. Creativity comes in all forms and creative spark can come from anywhere, and often blooms when we take ourselves out of our comfort zone.
While a bit nervous about embarking on the ‘Serious Business of Reading Poetry,’ Lisa came in to the office the next day fizzing with enthusiasm…So here’s Lisa’s take on the issue…
I would imagine most of us haven’t heard of the poets mentioned on the cover but don’t let that put you off. An open mind and the intention to spend a little time with this magazine is all the preparation you need.
Some poems seem purposely obscure, like a puzzle to solve, a challenge being laid before you. These are not my favourite kind of poems. Others speak from the heart and speak directly to yours (see Tom Sastray, Searching for the Last Word, p84).
It’s divided into poems, essays and reviews. How my bastard verses are made by Mona Arshi (p95) is a great title that begs you to read it led me to discover the ghazal, a specifically structured form of Indian poetry that originated in Persia. But, like all the best stories, it digressed and also offered fascinating insight into immigration, ‘80s England and Indian cultures.
Poetry is a craft – the skilled make it look effortless but many more pursue it as a pastime.
Like all crafts it has great beauty but understanding of the art form can be oblique to many of us. If this is you try a short poem to ease you in. If you’re into literary criticism dip into the reviews or try and an essay
Hugh McMillan’s Carbonation is fun and wry as is Stephanie Burt’s Toasty, a Hound. But for a big emotional wallop that makes you well up several times, Fiona Benson’s RAF Poem is the one.
Slow yourself to the pace of reading poetry. This is not a magazine to flick through, neither will you read it cover to cover. Instead dip in and find something that speaks to you. There may be a few false starts but there will be lines and verses, prose or poems that leave you feeling wiser or calmer (or both).
It will last you ages and is particularly useful for procrastination, idle moments or that awkward ‘between books’ time.
Hannah Hodgson’s perspective on 'poetry and chronically dying' (p88) charts her progress following a terminal diagnosis and palliative care, after which she began writing poetry. Her opinions on death and how the realities of being unwell are rarely shared make for a mind-changing read.
What’s next for The Poetry Review?
The next issue will actually be Emily Berry’s last issue as editor, as they tend to change editors every three to five years to get new ideas and fresh perspectives. You can expect some Sylvia Plath in the issue as it will coincide with the 90th anniversary of her birth. Then, in the summer, The Poetry Review will be guest edited by two poets, Trinidadian, Andre Bagoo and Richard Scott (author of Soho). This will be a super exciting issue, bringing their perspectives on poetry and queer culture into their editorship.
Want more poetry?
If this issue reignites your love of poetry, why not become a Poetry Society member?
Get more recommendations from Poetry Review contributors with their mixtapes.
Want to chat about the poems you’ve loved/ hated/deemed unfathomable?’ Follow The Poetry Review on Twitter @Poetry Society #ThePoetryReview
Fiona, David and Lisa
The Poetry Review is the first mag in our Creative Spark stream for our new FREE RANGE MAGS subscriptions. Find out more here.