Saturday 28 October 2023

The Dark Horse, issue 47

In this issue there's quite a lot about about how clubiness and other social pressures affect poetry writing and reviews. In his editorial, Gerry Cambridge writes

  • "poetry is most valued as the vessel for issues"
  • "The community is inclusive provided one shows that one is right thinking and holds the same values as the group. If one doesn't, unconditionally ... one ... will be covertly or openly excluded"

Edna Longley's essay wonders how The Waste Land (which she thinks good in parts) has come to take such an prominent (almost defining) position in Modernism - because Eliot was a critic? "because the academy may need The Waste Land as all things to all theories ... Latterly, the poem has even been called an ecocritique ... Ricks ingeniously or desperately proposes that Eliot's ugly images are cast back upon the reader to test our own prejudices"

NB's contrarian exploits in TLS are explored.

Kathryn Gray writes -

  • "Many poets - too many poets - spend the remainder of their careers attempting to rewrite their most successful book"
  • "In an age heavily policed by social media avatars, we are supposed to be good. Increasingly, and quite illogically, I think, we also desire our writers to be good"
  • "I wish more poets wrote in as badly behaved a fashion as they sometimes lived. ... And perhaps a readership for poetry would widen and deepen and we would see far less of the 'school project' syndrome that haunts many a collection"

Gerry Cambridge writes

  • "Criticism and reviewing are regarded as the antipathy to 'creative' work ... Nothing is gained [] by calling indifferent work good. All it does is baffle the potential audience outside the subculture and buttress the idea of poetry as a recondite arcana, over the heads of the uninvolved intelligent"

Saturday 21 October 2023

Breaking into the US market

I sometimes send stuff to US paper journals. I don't know my way around very well, and depend on online ranking lists etc. As in the UK, US paper magazines are disappearing (e.g. Tin House and Glimmer Train - 2 of the top 5 in one list), and the online replacements don't have the same impact. I think more of their journals are university based. And there's the pay-to-submit issue.

I have trouble understanding currently fashionable US poetry, so it's the short story market I focus on. There's a wide range of journals. The most recent one that I was in paid me $20 for a piece of Flash and sent me (expensively, unexpectedly) a contributor's copy, cover price $18. But it's only 290th in one list I found, and in another list it's categorised as Tier 4, Respected: usually small circulation, one or more “notable” prize mentions, sometimes payment.

Anyway, I'll continue trying. I use John Fox's list, Erika Krouse's list etc, which are based on BAP (Best American Poetry) and BASS appearances. A Pushcart nomination would suit me just fine. I check my pieces for UK references before sending off and find that most have something I need to change - local colour is all very well, but obscure nostalgia is deadwood.

Friday 6 October 2023

Writing and AI

I think the majority of literary competition guidelines now include a statement on AI. Usually AI isn't allowed, though the wording tends to be along the lines that they'll delete the accepted online piece if AI use is subsequently discovered.

Cult. Magazine has an enlightened (or resigned?) attitude - "If AI tools were used to make your submission, please inform us how you used the tool and why". Such pieces are collaborations of sorts. They benefit from the work of others, but so do pieces that were the result of workshop exercises, or pieces that are "after" another work.

It's hard to know where to draw the line. I use a self-written style checker on some of my prose to check on sentence lengths and work frequencies. No generation is involved. I could write programs to do various OuLiPo works for me (N+7, etc) leaving me to judge the best ones to send off, but it doesn't interest me.