Edited by Michale Schmidt and Eleanor Crawforth, reviewed by Nicholas Lezard. Don't you love the opening? Sets the tone. Sometimes I get so occupied with keeping track of local poetry events that I lose track of the other reason Picnic stayed virtual when IRL folded its tent: to read more poetry from everywhere. I may not be a legal Poetryland resident but am a fair dab at the lit game, informed consumer and trained reader.
These editors know their onions when it comes to poetry
Come off it, I can hear many of you cry. An anthology of new poetry – no, worse, new poetries – for £12.95? That's two bottles of OK wine, or a good main course at a gastropub. Like a confit of duck leg or something. I know, poetry is a hard sell. And I must confess that I picked this up with more of a sense of duty than of pleasure, and maybe a nagging sense of guilt that I had done, once again, absolutely nothing for National Poetry day.
But look at it this way: the pleasure afforded by even two bottles of wine, or a duck confit, is passing, and, in time, not even the memory of it remains. Yet the pleasure I have gained from William Letford's poems alone will, I am confident, stay with me for ever. I can honestly say that on reading his 14 very short poems here, I feel just as Keats did when he read Chapman's Homer: that a new planet has come into the sky. How can you not smile – or indeed, as I did, laugh out loud – at his poem "Moths", which begins with the word "moths" dotted about the page, like, of course, a cloud of moths (the title forming an extra-large moth), and then has, as its first proper line, the words "fucking moths"? Or "It's aboot the labour" whose central section goes like this:
Indeed, Schmidt provides a very good short introduction in which the work of a poetry editor is brought to life. "Editors who are not promoting a movement or a group, when they tear open an envelope or click an email attachment, hope to be surprised by the shape on the page, by syntax, by the unexpected sounds a poem makes, sometimes with old, proven instruments used in new ways. They might hope to find evidence of intelligence." (I love that bit.) "And they respect creative disobedience. Where there are schools they look out for the truants."
And so there will be something for all tastes here, and, as I have discovered, one's own tastes can be more catholic than one might have imagined....