Friday, May 12, 2006


Well, it's cricket season again. And England still seem to be winning...

Anyway, interesting discussion that gets a little heated over at is there sexism in poetry publishing. Well, I guess for me the answer is, "yes and no". I don't think there's anybody out there actively discriminating against women poets, any more than I believe that there's anyone actively discriminating against black poets.

But what do we expect when we read a poem? I was reading something that Sheila Murphy was saying in an interview in Binary Myths (published by Stride a few years ago) the other day, and one of the things she looks for is "surprise." How many editors are looking for "surprise", rather than for something which is familiar to them, which will fit into preconcieved notions of what a poem should look like or sound like?

That's where the discrimination comes in: somewhere at the level of expectation. If you expect a poem to sound like, say, a regular anecdotal half-pager, rather than, say, one of those very tight but incredibly full poems of Lorinne Neidecker, or if you expect a poem to be full of clever show-offy metaphors, then that's what your choices will look like. I suspect that the editors of most of the mainstream poetry publishers are not looking far out of their chosen boxes for work.

But personally, I'd rather have a poem that surprises me than one that confirms what I already know.

1 comment:

michaelf said...

stephen - i was surprised to see youd been reading the sheila murphy interview: i read it the other day too .. i think probably most editors wd say theyre looking to be surprised: the difference is in what different editors think of as surprising. some will be more surprised by some metrical innovation that i wouldnt notice than by a bucketload of more experimental work. speaking of cricket &c, did u see the quote by one of the models photographed having sex with shane warne: 'hes a stallion & very experimental'!!!? u mentioned david prater in another post so i guess u might know cordite ( they publish books including 'covers' by nick whittock - actually conceptual/experimental poetry about cricket .. btw will link u v soon