This edition of Oxford Poetry comes to you with a beautiful map, although I’m not sure it would get you anywhere. This map is an accident; resisting editorial tyranny, we didn’t set a theme for this issue. But our reviews have sailed back to us with thoughts of travel and distant lands. Laura Marsh, writing from New York, reminds us of Charles Simic’s ‘shifting, émigré life’ in post-war Europe. His New & Selected is shaped by a travel at the mercy of paperwork and postage-stamps. ‘Poetry-cartographer’ John Gallas explores European poetries in his new Carcanet collection – reviewed here by Evan Jones. Crossing the Atlantic, Alex Niven sketches the ‘coordinates’ plotted between late-modernist verse and the contemporary avant-garde of Flood Editions. Hugh Foley, meanwhile, dislikes both posturing and psychogeography, preferring ‘imperial misadventure’ instead. Colette Sensier retreats to fairytale worlds, and, totally unrelatedly, Adam Crothers thinks about C.K. Williams’s failure to die.
If maps are a thing of certainty and direction, it seems understandable that when either are lacking we return to maps for routes through. There are obvious points to be made about the various crises we share as a globe. And the tenuousness of our theme perhaps matches the growing sense of maps not as navigation, but as exploration. Certainty seems ever more irrelevant.
‘Map me no Maps, Sir, my Head is a Map’ – Politick, from Fielding’s Rape upon Rape.
MAP: The word covers much more than the little ‘table napkin’ from which it originated: heads, poems, websites…all spaces for concentrating and celebrating the data of lived experience.
And a magazine is no exception: forgive us, Politick, but Oxford Poetry is a colourful sail of a map, charting dazzling lands. Some poems are rooted to this earth – Wendy Klein’s peas and the rare plants of Annie Freud. Others blasting beyond – Adam O. Davis’s ‘Astronauts’ and Mark Ford’s 'shifting / architecture of the clouds'. We encounter the 'strange knowledge' of human love, depicted by Niall Campbell and Jack Underwood, and the exotic trails laid by foreign words, thanks to Roddy Lumsden and Jamie McKendrick. Even further, as Aime has mentioned: the continent-skipping, generation-jumping range of our reviews.
Lastly, to remind us that cartography is as much a realm for visual aesthetics, we are delighted by Hannah Bagshaw's inventive map design, which makes this magazine a very pretty napkin indeed.
Enjoy the journey!
OP & the Internet
Welcome to the new Oxford Poetry website, designed and built by Kathryn Lewis. We hope our century-old archives, featuring interviews and the odd article, will now be more accessible.
Issue XIV.3 is currently with the printers and will be on its way to subscribers soon! If you're not a subscriber or you'd like to buy single issues of the magazine, you can visit our new online shop.
To 'edit' – e + dere – is to 'give out' or 'put forth', and so comes the editor's task of selecting poems to place in the spotlight. But where to start?
The magazine initially offered the poetry of young students "from one not very large University", as Gilbert Murray acknowledged in the Introduction. For our first issue as editors, we too have decided to 'strip back' to a selection of verse, narrowing focus on the poems themselves. Yet thankfully, OP now accepts work by poets of all ages and backgrounds. One of our contributors is an Oxford undergraduate, but we welcome many more: students from elsewhere, professors, editors, bloggers, international writers, the well-established and neophytes.
Murray admitted to holding "classic" preferences: "I do believe that a rose has as a rule more beauty than a cabbage, and a sunset lagoon than Baker Street in a fog." We meanwhile appreciate a "blackish rose" in a corsage and "dirty dishes"; what a sun "dipping" on holiday and a "Dunkin' Donuts parking lot" can portray.
We hope you agree, and enjoy what has been 'put forth' below – the illuminated, given space to illuminate.
I don't have a great deal to add to Lavinia's words, nor much to say generally — though the fact I'm saying anything at all (and prolonging this editorial) betrays the odd strength (we hope) of this latest OP, which exists as it does because of its editors' occasional and profound disagreements.
When a magazine is approximately 75 years older than its caretakers, it seems both ridiculous to impose change and impossible not to (although I can't help but think that the notion of us 'imposing' anything at all is miguided). That said, with the next issue we hope to carry reviews once more, while the following one (or perhaps the one after that) will celebrate 100 years of Oxford Poetry in its current form. Each edition will be covered by a different designer and so next time's 'inner leaf' artwork should look quite different to this one. When we seem the latest put-up-with pets of a strange tradition, perhaps the best we can hope for is enjoyable incoherence.