Here we are again and another exciting collection of poems, stories, essays and reviews has filled an even bigger magazine! I have enjoyed choosing the poetry for this issue, and I never fail to be surprised at the variety of subject and form that appears in The Blue Nib files. Thanks to you all for supporting the magazine and please keep on sending me your work.
In this editorial I want to look again at the controversy between the worlds of open mike poetry and online poetry and the “traditional” perhaps more academic poetry, written for the page. We wrote about this in The Blue Nib last year in response to the poet Rebecca Watts, who wrote a notorious article in the February 2018 PN Review saying :
“Why is the poetry world pretending that poetry is not an art form? I refer to the rise of a cohort of young female poets who are currently being lauded by the poetic establishment for their ‘honesty’ and ‘accessibility’ – buzzwords for the open denigration of intellectual engagement and rejection of craft that characterises their work.”
Wendy Cope, an award-winning poet herself, is quoted as saying that “Writing poetry that’s going to be any good does involve some kind of engagement with the tradition. There’s craft and technique.”
The Guardian Review on 16th February and the Sunday Times February 17th this year reopened this debate referring back to that PN Review essay. The ST quotes Nikita Gill, who has 52,000 online followers who read her poetry such as this:
I suppose/I love my scars/because/they have/stayed with me/longer/ than most people /have
These predominantly young poets, often young women, have shot to fame through online media, YouTube, and blogs, reaching out to an audience like themselves and generating huge sales through accessible poetry, dealing with emotional upset, angst, relationships. Compared to the the cash-starved world of traditional poetry they are having massive financial success and are garnering huge audiences.
I can see the consolation in reading this work compared to more challenging poetry. But this poetry loses the joy of finding the less obvious pleasures of entering a poem, following its journey through whatever twists and turns there are, and taking away something that may stay with you forever. There is a real joy in intellectual challenge.
I am particularly interested in this debate because of the concept of gatekeepers. The Blue Nib launched online last year and has become a successful and much read e-zine and now a print magazine with this, its third print issue.
As an e-zine, our magazine differed from the multitude of poetry sites accepting anything and everything that poets wanted to post. The Blue Nib’s USP has always been that it is edited. I have acted as a gatekeeper in that I choose or reject poetry on what I perceive as merit. I look for poems that have been edited and honed. I can often see that a piece has been poured out in a rush of feeling and I regret the fact that with an editorial pen, such poems could be reduced to the bare bones of what they are trying to say. Polished in fact. And with every line break, comma and full stop earning its place. It is those polished poems that I am looking for. I also want emotion and an acknowledgement of the pains and pleasures of life, but I want them in a way that has tried to tame the beasts.
What else – never using the first word, looking for richer phrases instead of clichés, re-reading, revising, showing your poems to like-minded people (see the Pimento Poets piece).But always maintaining heart and integrity, not mere shallow facility.
I am asking for a lot but I cannot express the joy of opening a file and finding work that makes me jump out of my seat!
Poetry Editor and Editor-in-Chief