Something lovely today for all the poets out there. Poetry24 is an exciting online journal for news-related and topical poetry, jointly edited by former columnist and poet, Martin Hodges and Liverpool writer and poet, Clare Kirwan, who tells us more about it here:
So what’s the idea?
Poetry24 features poems inspired by recent news articles. It started when Martin wrote a poem on his blog Square Sunshine about last year’s uprising in Egypt. Someone commented: ‘I am reading your words and watching the News24 reports from Cairo…you might have invented Poetry24’.” That set the wheels in motion.
We knew each other via our blogs so he approached me to co-edit, and within a fortnight, Poetry24 was launched. I loved the idea of poetry capturing moments in history as they happen: I still remember when I was at school reading a poem written by a teenager about Jan Palach – the student who burned himself to death protesting the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia:
I am only a thought in your mind
A headline on the paper of your thoughts
By tomorrow I will be relegated to a side column
And then I will disappear.
Give us some stats
In 18 months we’ve published (and tweeted about!) more than 533 poems from 172 poets in 15 countries on a cornucopia of current affairs from ATOS to Zanesville Zoo. Some great examples are Sea Saw by Irish poet Helena Nolan on the Japanese tsunami last year, or more recently Paralympics from Stuart Nunn.
How do you work together as co-editors?
Living nearly 200 miles apart, all our contact has been online. We’ve never met or even spoken to each other but send numerous emails and collaborate over who’s doing what when. It works surprisingly well. We share a passion for making poetry more accessible, and believe Poetry24 helps to do this. With news reports touching the lives of people, around the world, they are the ideal prompts for the poet’s voice in all of us.
What is the biggest challenge?
Getting something out everyday is the biggest one – we want to keep up to date without compromising on quality plus the logistics of running a daily publication can be tricky.
How fast does Poetry24 react to current news?
As fast as our poets can get their work to us! Our record is posting a poem on the site within two hours of it being written.
While we will consider poems linking to news articles up to a few weeks old, and very occasionally a poem on the anniversary of a big news story from the past, we love hot-off-the-press reactions to stories as they happen… although we appreciate that this frustrates some poets who need longer to think things through and polish their work.
What do you reject, and why?
Apart from poems that don’t follow the guidelines: careless ‘unfinished’ work; stating the obvious in unoriginal ways; poems that just rehash a news story with line breaks. Occasionally poems we like but which get superseded by more pressing news when we have a glut of submissions, or are on subjects we’ve covered enough.
What about politics? Is that a difficult area?
We try to include a range of different views as long as the poem is up to it. When we asked for feedback from readers and contributors, one accused us of being lefty sympathisers and another said we were public school educated elitists brushing things under the carpet (we’re not!) – so we reckon we’re covering the full spectrum! Having said that, a lot of poets are socialists (or vice versa!) so we probably do lean more to the left.
Some do’s and don’t for contributors?
- Read the guideline! You’d be surprised how many we have to reject instantly because they are just not what we ask for
- Pay attention to detail – check your punctuation, spelling, grammar. A personal bug bear of mine is poems that can’t decide whether the first letters of every line should be capitalised so just capitalise odd ones.
- We love it when a poet really captures the spirit of something major going on, but we also love like poems which highlight lesser-known issues or new perspectives
- Don’t take rejections personally. Everyone gets turned down sometimes. Look at your work again, of course, but remember editors have to juggle multiple submissions and want to balance the work they showcase with a variety of themes, styles, voices.
What are the rewards?
We don’t make anything from this so we can’t pay for poems, but we try and foster a community feel between contributors from all around the word. We’ve had lots of positive feedback and have created a platform we’re proud of.
What’s the future for Poetry24?
I still think we offer a unique outlet for poets and response to the news so we would both like the site to grow. It’s a lot of work keeping it daily and neither of us have a great deal of time to promote it, but we’ll keep going as long as we’re getting good topical poems.
Clare Kirwan has had 60 poems published (MsLexia, Orbis, The Interpreter’s House, The Found Poetry Review etc). A former compere of Dead Good Poets Society, she has been Liverpool Slam champion and was second in Feile Filiochta International Poetry Competition 2007. She blogs as Broken Biro and is co-editor of Poetry24 – ‘where news is the muse’.