Antiphon issue 16

IMG_3269David and I have been reading through the hundreds of poems that have been steadily drifting down to land in Antiphon‘s Submittable account, and we’ve already snaffled quite a few for the next issue, with many more under serious consideration. But there’s always room if we see something we really like – and we might make this issue even bigger and better than before. Let’s say all submissions for issue 16 in by the 10th September, please. The guidelines are here – and we’re always pleased if you add a note in your covering letter about what you think of Antiphon.

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  1. Dear Rosemary Badcoe,
    A couple of weeks ago, I received four rejections from journals over a period of five days – one out of Antiphon. I appreciate well-aired discussions on unwieldy submission figures and make no comment on those but would like at least to raise with you the question of legitimacy.

    A few years ago, I picked up an interview with Roger McGough during which he was asked who was going to be the next biggest name in poetry. He said he didn’t know which I found interesting. Did this remarkably savvy poet really not have a clue despite all of the prizes, competitions, commissions, book choices, articles and promotions? Despite recommendations, journals or magazines, poetry portals, programmes and publications?

    As a reader of contemporary poetry and subscriber to Dark Horse, I almost cancelled my subscription recently after finding the selected poems in the twentieth anniversary issue universally dull. Gerry Cambridge was considerate enough to reply saying that reactions to poetry were notoriously unpredictable and that mine was an anomaly given other, overwelmingly positive feedback.

    You, as editor select poetry for Antiphon as does Gerry Cambridge in his editorial role at Dark Horse but your choices have a homogenous end result. Out of elegant, graphically top notch productions come samey, irritant poems that sound like poetry but which omit content. By and large, English poetry has musculature and drive even say, in the work of Thomas Hardy. What do these friable, quaking packets that drag-net notional insights which they never really arrive at before their ubiquitous, abrupt endings amount to and why are poetry magazines publishing them in such vast quantities? I honestly think that if you swopped the names of National Poetry prize-winners on the Poetry Society webpage going back to 1978, you would not be able to tell them apart – stylistically.

    Gerry never addressed the issue of legitimacy in his response. As editor he can publish what he likes. You both can. Fair enough. But with the precipitous collapse in hard copy poetry sales and the likelihood of poetry like this going forward as representative, this is very relevant. I really value your work and commitment but how far are you and other poetry editors between you willing to go in finishing off poetry’s fun and potency? To be legitimate, poetry journals need to contain broader selections.

    Damon Moore
    North Brewham, Somerset

    1. Dear Damon,
      You raise some interesting points. I too often see published poetry that I find uninteresting and uninspiring, or perhaps well written (within the tenets of contemporary poetry style) but without much to say. There is also a lot of good work out there.

      The poetry Antiphon publishes is constrained by two things only: the submissions we receive, and what we like. We receive no support from anyone (bar one small donation from a reader!) and so don’t feel obliged to publish anything that doesn’t interest us. Many poems we receive do follow a rather formulaic style and concern rather familiar subjects – unless these have something extra that holds our attention, we don’t publish them.

      I’m not sure what you mean by legitimacy – that seems to imply we have some sort of moral authority over what gets published and what doesn’t and should be held responsible for that. Since Antiphon is not supported by or beholden to anyone, I can’t see that there’s any ‘should’ about what we publish. You could, I guess, argue differently about those journals that receive public money – but even there, surely, you wouldn’t advocate public bodies dictating what was published?

      If by legitimate you take a rather more fuzzy meaning of ‘how can you expect to be taken seriously as a publisher of contemporary poetry, publishing the stuff you do?’, then I think that does come down more to personal taste and what we each consider good writing, and I can only point to the number of people who submit, and to our wide readership. If you feel there is excellent work out there not being published, please encourage those writing it to send it. If it knocks our socks off we’ll be happy to publish it, even if it’s not what you think we might normally take. I think most mags do have particular styles of writing they like, and they also demand a control of language which isn’t easy to achieve. I don’t believe there is any sort of cartel deciding what should be published, and that all mags follow that same line. There are a relatively small number of people involved ‘at the top’, but how this influences what is published, I’m not sure. We’re big fans of fun and potency, and looking back at what we publish, I believe we do seek out the interesting, the unusual, the musical. I’m sorry you disagree. Do you have examples you’ve seen of the type of work we’re overlooking?
      Rosemary

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