This past Thursday marked the winter launch of The Poetry Review, the UK’s most widely read poetry magazine, published quarterly by The Poetry Society of Edinburgh. The Review was first founded in 1912 and has since become distinguished as a magazine for established and emerging poets alike, creating a welcoming and diverse literary platform for all writerly sorts. The Poetry Society hosted its launch in conjunction with the recently re-opened Scottish Poetry Library, just off the Canongate in central Edinburgh. This was a fitting collaboration not only in the name of poetry, but also because the library has been newly renovated and is enjoying its revamp by hosting a slew of events and functions open to the public. Indeed, the library has good reason to show off its new look; the space gives a delightfully cozy reading-nook feel to its tidy modern design, with a small loft section suspended above the well-stocked shelves of poetry below. The reception for the event was held on the main floor of the mezzanine and moved upstairs to give a brief introduction to the magazine, followed by readings from three of the featured poets.
Robyn Marsack, the director of the library, kicked off the launch by praising The Poetry Review for its unique critical aspect, reviving an analytical spirit within the world of poetry. Marsack gave the floor to the Review’s current editor, Maurice Riordan, an Irish poet who is a well-known figure in the poetry world, and has written three collections of some esteem and served as an active editor for various publications. He commended The Poetry Review’s encouragement of regional poets, giving a distinctive sense of place and linguistic locality to the magazine.
The first poet Riordan introduced was Frank Ormsby, a Northern Irish poet now retired from his teaching post at the Royal Belfast Academcial Institution. Coming from a rural, Catholic background, Ormsby incorporates many of these themes into his work, including linguistic aspects of Latin and Irish colloquialisms. Ormsby read his poems, “Altar Boy,” “The Confession Box,” “The Gate,” “My Father’s Funeral,” “Bog Cotton,” and his farmyard haikus, which play with the traditional haiku form in a humorous rendering of rural life.
Sam Riviere, a writer in residence at the University of Edinburgh, read a selection of his poetry, including “The New Normal,” “Postgraduate Finesse,” “Kim Kardashian’s Marriage,” and “Christmas in Berlin,” among others. Riviere’s poems deal inextricably with modern phenomena and the issues that come with them in a sardonic yet playful tone.
The last poet to read was Deryn Rees-Jones, a Liverpool-based writer with Welsh and Irish roots. Wary of self-identifying her writing with lyricism, Rees-Jones links her own mobility (in terms of place and origin) to the mobility of birds and their lyric qualities. She read her poems about the lyrebird and bowerbird, afterwards reading her prose-to-poetry translation of Rameau, entitled “Night in Hell.” Rees-Jones then shared her “I.M.” (In Memoriam) quasi-sonnets, which deal with the major themes of her overall work including nature, technology, and the body.
In summary, the launch was a success in showcasing The Poetry Review’s hospitality to different linguistic traditions, cultural origins, and poetic forms. The Review’s committed interest in variety and innovation is evident and the Scottish Poetry Library’s equal devotion to keeping the magazine culture alive in the literary world are both admirable pursuits and something to keep an eye on for future events.
Image by Elekhh