Monday 6 July 2020

Diversity statistics

In a recent report The State of Poetry and Poetry Criticism in the UK and Ireland 2011-2018 there's an analysis of how well women and BAME writers (BAME=Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) have got on in magazines. 26 magazines were studied. Over the period, the percentage of poems written by women and Non-binary people rose from 39% to 48%. In contrast the percentage written by BAME poets has stayed at about 8% (the census results suggest that about 13% of the UK are BAME).

I have some sympathy with the editors. Perhaps the low-BAME magazines get few submissions from BAMEs despite their best efforts. Perhaps they publish a high percentage of some other oppressed minority group - the old for example, or Rhymesters. Sometimes only a change of [sub]editorship will convince submitters that a magazine is genuinely open.

Poets will send poems to outlets that they think gives them the best chance. Sonneteers will send sonnets to magazines that publish sonnets, not realising that other magazines might love to publish more sonnets if only they were sent more. Ditto perhaps for poems written by BAME poets - poems of particular types/origins will tend to cluster.

Articles and reviews were studied too. The magazines have more control over this - most pieces are commissioned. White males dominate. It's tempting to stick to contributors who've not disappointed in the past - newer magazines have an easier time getting a mix of contributors. On the face of it, some magazines aren't doing well - the report states that "The London Review of Books has publised (sic) 70 articles by 33 different poetry critics. All 33 were white. Those 70 articles reviewed 86 different books. All 86 were by white poets. Of those 83% are male."

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