No 132 - Spring 2005
Over to you; reserving the right to edit, or omit
Rosemary Harris - her excellent poem, Shotgun Eulogy was judged joint 1st with John Whitworth, and did not come second, where I inadvertently placed it, in the Middlesex University Competition.
It seems that, for space reasons, you found it necessary to make severe cuts to the piece I submitted to you on Performance Poetry. I am sorry to say that in my opinion they went too far and distorted much of what I wanted to say. If any readers are puzzled as to the reasoning in my article, they can obtain the full uncut text from me at SMkShlds@aol.com, or by sending an SSAE to me:
27 Valley View, Jarrow, Tyne and Wear, NE32 5QT, UK.
Sadly, the Summer issue, 133, will be the last for Rupert Loydell as Reviews Editor, and I’m sure readers will be as sorry as I am to see him go, after all his sterling work and that of his team of reviewers. Gladly, however, welcome to Nessa O’Mahony; having made such a good job of the Index (watch this space for further news), she will be taking over from Rupert, 134 (Autumn issue) onwards.
So review copies should go directly to her: 1st Floor Flat, 4 Raglan St, Beaumaris LL58 8BP
And publishers please note that if files are not updated and publications persist in wending their way in my direction, they are liable to be listed under Books Received rather than being considered for review.
Christine Despardes (New York)
An amazing issue, and with its colour cover, an insult to winter doldrums – it’s been posted in easy view in my studio. Regarding Dead Sun, by Nnorom Azuonye, a masterpiece, possibly the most outstanding poem. The appearance of social and/or political protest pieces adds an extra voltage, without the baggage of anger, that makes Orbis complement the daily international news reports.
J.A.P. Dutton (Ellesmere Port)
I am very pleased to hear that Under the Plough, my first poem in Orbis – has satisfied enough readers to win me a prize. It was interesting to see which other poems had taken the readers’ fancy.
The reviews felt a bit variable, one or two rather condescending, though Paul Rowland’s review of the Vane Women’s Press collection amused me with its frank recantation of what he had expected. As for the Past Master, yes, Robert Browning wrote too much, like most Victorians, but some great stuff. His poem about Jean de Molay (A Heretic’s Tragedy?) always takes my breath.
Mike Riley (Lancaster, USA)
I am delighted with the journal, from the cover on through (The Green Man and quote are both wonderful). I am flattered to be in such talented company. It’s obvious that Orbis is useful to its readers for more than the literature itself. I was impressed with the number of vetted places to send, reviews, and other eminently helpful information and liked the ‘voteoff ’ and attention to feedback generally. You’re doing a lot of good things for your subscribers; it must take enormous energy on your part.
Lynette Craig (Finchley)
I loved this edition and am proud to be in it
Erika Lorentzen (Paris)
Thank you for the compliment of putting a line from my poem on the opening poetry section.
Hilary Mellon (Norwich)
I love the way you link the poems to each other by images rather than present them in a random manner.
John G. Hall (Wythenshawe)
Just got Orbis today; ‘some splendid gear in here’ I thought. And I was right.
Roger Elkin (Stoke-on-Trent)
Good to see Orbis looking so handsome, and will enjoy getting to grips with their contents in greater familiarity but love your editorials – so welcoming!
Deborah Poe (New York)
As I have been reading Orbis, it struck me why your publication had got my attention. Before I left Microsoft for graduate school, I was an international program manager working with Web site teams all over the world (including England) in order to have site consistency, both in design and content. Even in the business world, my love for cross-cultural work was clear. I appreciate that Orbis is reaching poetry’s arms worldwide.
Grahaeme Barrasford Young (Glenfinnan)
Re Cory Harding, while I’d be happy to accept that we should all struggle to illuminate, surely illumination comes from within a poem when a reader addresses it: however hard we try, it cannot be forced in. Besides, your illumination may be someone else’s truism. It’s one of the reasons an editor accepts a poem which another has rejected, or someone likes one I find flat and uninteresting. One wonders what Harding’s Pantheon is: even the greatest poets frequently do not more than give us pleasure. As for wine and comfort, I’m regularly out on the hills in 40mph winds and –20C temperatures, and I know where I prefer to do my agonizing – and I’m bloody certain I don’t do any less of it than Harding.
Poems certainly seem to make their way towards us mostly in their own sweet time and manner. I raised this point at a recent Orbis Forum in Winsford, with the idea of putting the emphasis on the importance of revising work. It was obvious that for most of us, that’s no cliché re perspiration and inspiration. But what intrigued me was how many poets have had the experience of 1 piece arrive absolutely complete, springing fully armed like Minerva from the head of Jove. Still, beats being inspired whilst immersing dishes in the kitchen sink or scrubbing floors.
Terese Coe (New York)
I’m honored to have Saint John’s Bread and my translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Lullaby appear in #131. Thought you’d like to know that I posted an appreciation at The Able Muse on their ‘Accomplished Members’ board:
Orbis is a little magazine with a big engine (and I don’t mean a search engine). In addition to prose and poems with verve and originality, Editor Carole Baldock has designed a publication with several unusual features of considerable interest to poets. There is a section of reviews of other litmags by Nessa O’Mahony plus a listing of current competitions and calls for work; a Readers’ Award, for which readers choose the best poems from the previous issue; letters which show Orbis has a literate and interested constituency; a feature called ‘For ‘em Or Against ‘em?’: a debate on Performance Poets; a section of well written reviews presided over by Rupert Loydell; a ‘Past Master’ feature highlighting a poem by Emily Bronte and short commentary by Sarah Wardle (including a description of her bedroom at Haworth where she ‘refused a doctor as she died’); and an essay by Anthony James suggesting that contemporary novelists return to confronting social problems in keeping with the tradition of the novel as it was written for so many years. James writes, for example: ‘Socially committed novels simply do not get published [today] and too many published novelists are too submissive to their agents and editors to attempt books which confront the society in which they live.’
Orbis boasts a lively dialogue with its readership that elicits a sense of community all too often missing from other litmags.
Rosie Livingstone (Felixstowe)
Nice to be reminded of Emily Bronte and her striking, short life. Her spirit and tough, private spirituality remind me of the other Emily - Dickinson. I also appreciated Anthony James’s unequivocating article. He’s right about the British novel I think - where’s the satire in particular.
Sam Smith (Ilfracombe)
Just had to write to you about Anthony James’ sweeping assertions in his comparing present day fiction with poetry, as well as with the state of affairs in Scandinavia, whose works of fiction can only boast, as with contemporary English poetry, a minority readership. To compare like with unlike is not a measure of what is being written today, only of what British bookshops have in stock (shelves, of course, bulging with contemporary poetry). I have three novels current that address contemporary issues - ‘Porlock Counterpoint’, ‘Sick Ape: an everyday tale of terrorist folk’ and ‘The Care Vortex’, all published and all available through Amazon - they can even be ordered through bookshops! And I’m sure that mine are not the only novels attempting to fulfill his criteria. That our books don’t get reviewed by the broadsheets is not the failing of the authors, or even of their committed publishers struggling to bring them to the public’s attention; rather it is due to rank commercialism, to a few publishing conglomerates being in the ascendancy. Bad enough that as practising novelists we are pushed to the edge, Anthony James then gratuitously abuses us.
Malcolm Carson (Carlisle)
Another good issue, particularly with the reviews of Eastern European poetry. And readers who were justifiably impressed with Nigel Pickard’s excellent, Being a Man, will find this poem and others of equal worth in his collection Making Sense (Shoestring Press).
Miles Hadfield (Manchester)
Excellent reviews section Unfortunately, it means my list of stuff to buy/read, already outstripping my pocket/free time, just got longer so not sure how grateful I should be.
With regard to the Great Performance Poetry debate, I wasn’t looking to slag off the entire oral tradition or anything. I was thinking more of straight ‘written’ poetry produced with an audience in mind, rather than performance poetry (a different ball game)and just wanted to make a personal response to Henry Shukman’s interview in which he said there’s a danger of playing to the gallery when writing for an audience; I can identify with that.
Raymond Humphreys (Bridgend)
I found myself in agreement with Anthony James’ central point: by and large, poets are more willing to make social comment than novelists. But his assertion that Britain is ‘a far worse place than it was 30 years ago’ is a bit sweeping. There were some things that were better then than they are now, but some were worse. The past of 30, 50 or 300 years ago was neither ‘better’ or ‘worse’: just different. As LP Hartley said, ‘the past is a foreign country: they do things differently there’. We should not try to look at that country either through rose-coloured glasses or darkly-tinted lenses. Of course, for some of us,, subjectively things were better - we were 30 years younger then.
I find myself in the purple-ish corner regarding performance poetry. The real thing is distinct from the kind of dubious showmanship Andy Craven-Griffiths talks about. Some poetry demands performance, so it’s essential that audience are able immediately to appreciate what the poet is trying to say. This doesn’t mean that the poem couldn’t also work on the page. I also partly agree with Mike Shields: much good poetry can be successful on the page or in performance. But this isn’t true of all good poetry: I’m thinking of some longer poems: some depend on the look of the poem, some, you need time to work out the wordplay etc.
The ‘controversy’ between the two of them was good fun - you should do this sort of thing more often. Suggestions welcome, and not as if there aren’t plenty of bones of contention rattling around: rhyme; copyright; competitions…
Gabriel Griffin (Orta, Italy)
Regarding competition anthologies, with Poetry on the Lake, we write first to authors, including proofs, for permission; I have received a number of letters from poets whose poems have been commended but not won a prize, stating that they prefer not to have it published. This leaves them free to enter another competition. And I have had commended poems appear in anthologies without warning when I would have preferred not to have them published; once or twice I didn’t even know, not having bought the anthology.
Personally, I am against the prevailing usage of permitting a good poem to be submitted/prized/published only once. This happens only in the poetry world; in other fields (books, films, music), the more prized, published and read, the better. Excellence in poetry is to be encouraged, not enclosed. As things are, poets have to ‘turn out’ numbers of poems then tie them up for an average of six months in order to comply with competition rules. We would have maybe fewer but better poems if this ruling did not apply.
Ann Froggatt (Castle Vale)
I didn’t include any of the Middlesex University winners in the Readers’ Awards though doubtless they were entitled to be considered – my view being that they’ve already had their kudos and cash, and one bite of the cherry’s enough. Otherwise, it puts the rest at a disadvantage. And what say you, dear Reader?
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