The newly launched Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry published by Gylphi bridges several gaps. Firstly it covers the weird and wonderful in British and Irish poetry, what ever you want to call it (Neo-modernist? parallel tradition? British Poetry Revival? postmodernist?), those that fall beneath and behind the mainstream Dylan Thomas and Seamus Heaney. As the introduction rightly points out, without an academic journal of their own, scholars in this area have to resort to blogging or the underground press, or give up. Whilst I am a strong supporter of the blog versus the newspaper critic, when it comes to the academic critic the lack of a peer review process means that as well as the poetry being underground, or parallel, the criticism is too. So blogging not withstanding, a properly edited journal is a must for any area of study. So, our first hurrah for Gylphi.
Secondly the editors have taken a bright, sharp line with their inclusions. The editorial is readable and not overloaded with theory, and whilst properly detailing the case for a new journal, is also accessible to the lay reader of poetry as well as the academic. The essays provide much needed attention for writers such as Veronica Forrest-Thomson, and J. H. Prynne who were/are both critics as well as poets. The essays in this first edition, whilst dealing in both theory and criticism or 'considering poetics as well as poetry', are also very readable. The essay by Ian Davidson on Prynne deals with 'Refuse Collection', Prynne's poem on Abu Ghraib, for example, and deals with concepts such as democracy, a concept of universal interest. Hurrah then Gylphi for bridging the lay and academic markets.
The last bridge then is that between poet and critic. The editorial notes:
Outside the growing circle of critics and scholars within this field, we expect to build up a readership for the journal within the very literary community that is being described, an opportunity which suggests that criticsm will possibly feed back into the poetry world and affect it, as well as sustaining the academic study of it.
Both Prynne and Forrest-Thomson wrote formal criticism, and Prynne and Denise Riley, the subject of another essay, held or hold academic posts. This two way poetics/poetic conversation seems then a necessary thing. A formal platform for consideration of innovative poetry codifies and clarifies and enables new poets to move forward from their innovative forbears as the more conventional new poets move on from their mainstream influences.
The Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry is not a light-weight read but it is well worth looking at to see more than the top strata of poetric society. The first issue is published now and annual subscriptions are £18. You can see Gylphi's page on the journal here and if you are in London next week there is a launch event at Birkbeck which you can read about here.