Time is what it is, or was, or will be, and magazines are put together so far ahead that last night was the middle of September and Ann and I were at the launch of the previous issue of The North. It was busy for a poetry event but niche really for a Saturday at Kommune – Sheffield’s newest dining, shopping and the arts experience. It was in the iconic former Co-op building, next door to the iconic and now relocated Indoor Market, and it was good to remember that we’re part of the city. And also part of something larger, this actually international poetry community of ours. (One special issue of The North we have in mind is a European one, with the UK equally represented.)
At the launch a dozen poets read three very good poems each from the wonderfully crowd-funded Alive & Kicking issue, and it was a real celebration. It was also a chance for The Poetry Business to express publicly our thanks to everyone who stepped up for us during the campaign. Most of you of course weren’t able to be with us in person, but Ann and I grew up with patchouli and tie-dye and could feel the love even from you hundreds of absent friends. We thank you again here and now: this latest issue like the last wouldn’t exist without all your so-heartening support, and The Poetry Business itself, who knows. On the night, Suzannah, our Assistant Editor, was mc-ing, with Katie (Marketing and Production) and Laura (our Hallam University funded intern) on the bookstall. Ellen, the PB Co-Director and Business Manager, had organised it all, and was now serving cake with its magazine-cover icing which she had hand-painted herself (sent away for). Absent staff were Keith, our Designer and Typesetter, who lives in France, and Eleanor (Production) and Jess (Marketing), who were away. Jess we’re delighted to say for her and very sorry for us is moving to a full-time job in Manchester (everyone is part-time at the PB or at any rate paid part-time).
Ann and I sat at the back of the room and were amazed once more at how good we are at choosing poems. It shouldn’t surprise us, because we use a lot of North poems in workshops, where they’re generally much-admired especially by the poets who till that moment have never heard of The North.
In any case, the Alive & Kicking issue was a statement in itself, simply in terms of the quality of the writing. But then so is this latest, and that may in fact be due to the campaign and the subsequent flood of excellent submissions, together with a continuing up-turn in great work from Ireland after that recent special North. A magazine is only as good as the poems submitted. In our case, as good too as the excellent reviews and features we and more often Suzannah commission.
We hope you agree that right from those first Chrissy Banks poems, this is a particularly compelling issue, altogether varied but still coherent. We were struck by Miriam Patrick’s Piffy poems, reminiscent of Edward Thomas, and all the more interesting to us because we don’t know her at all. The other side of which is Gina Wilson’s direct but emotionally complex poem, a very moving piece, which she actually wrote pretty much as it is on one of our residentials. David Crystal is somewhere in between in that we hardly know him but have loved his poems since the eighties; and as it happens his poems here concern other poet friends of ours, Brendan Cleary and the much-missed Matthew Sweeney. There’s such a lot here we might mention, and we thank the authors, and indeed every one of the hundreds of writers who in this day and age trouble to post their work in to us.
Which reminds us, we have a new website we hope you will enjoy and help evolve. As well as fine virtual Poets in Residence, and audio of interviews and readings, it features among other things an online extension of the magazine, East of The North. Check it out you groovy digital crew.
Finally, and sparing his blushes, a hats-off to Jonathan Davidson, in many ways the tenth member of the PB team. We wanted to mention the ‘Retro Review’ feature he thought up, which is new to this issue, because on p65 you’ll see one of the books he looks back to is a Littlewood/Arc title by the writer Mick North, while on p54 (by coincidence) we have excellent poems by his son, John North. But mainly we mention Jonathan because he was in the audience back in September. The next day he sent an email:
Sometimes, daft though it sounds, I like to sit and hear people read good poetry well and this was the case last evening. There was a moment when I observed everyone in silence except the reader, all looking ahead, listening intently, and it crossed my mind what a wonderful thing it is you/we/all of us do to make such gatherings – in real-time and through the magazine – possible. Against the odds? I should bloody say so. Even in the dark times. Especially in the dark times.
The North 63 showcases 112 poems by 65 outstanding poets, including poems by Mimi Khalvati, Stephen Knight, Fokkina McDonnell, Bernard O’Donoghue, Jane Routh, Paul Stephenson, and Cliff Yates.
This issue’s ‘Featured Title’ is The Minute & The Train by John-Paul Burns. Other features include ‘Poets I Go Back To’ by Kathy Pimlott, ‘Blind Criticism’ by Robbie Burton & Jasmine Simms, and a new feature, a ‘Retro Review’ by Jonathan Davidson.
The North 63 also includes reviews of dozens of collections including Jay Bernard, Alison Brackenbury, Vahni Capildeo, U A Fanthorpe, Hannah Lowe, Kristín Ómarsdóttir, and George Seferis.
We love reading new poetry. Submit your work to The North 64 here from now until 1st January 2020.