Saturday, 6 November 2010

Review: New Walk Magazine Issue One

In the current climate of e-zines and blogs, the launch of an ambitious, beautifully presented print-based poetry journal is a significant event in the U.K. poetry world.

As such, Issue One of New Walk magazine is arresting even at first glance. The artwork is excellent, implicitly exploring its own relationship with poetry, as in Claire Blyth's gorgeous back cover, while the layout of the poems invites the reader in, giving verse room to breathe on the page.

Edited by Rory Waterman, Nick Everett and Libby Peake at the University of Leicester, New Walk sets out its aims in the opening editorial:

"We want to reflect in our magazine as wide a range as possible of the ways in which contemporary poets respond to the challenges of freedom. This is why we are interested in modernist and experimental poetry but no less in so-called formalist poetry, which is not necessarily any more conservative nor any less daring in the freedoms it discovers".

The magazine's contents then set out to prove the editors' points, especially in terms of the precise order of poems. Contrasting poetic stances and methods are juxtaposed: Rob Mackenzie is alongside Andrew Motion, while Alison Brackenbury is followed by Peter Larkin. This editorial tightrope is successfully walked and provides a useful snapshot of a wide range of writing.

As would be expected from a magazine that boasts such a well-known line-up for Issue One (Hilary Menos, Matt Merritt, Grevel Lindop, Leontia Flynn, etc, etc...), the standard of writing is consistently high, but my personal favourite is Journey Home by Stephen Payne. This poem's achievement lies in enabling the reader to grasp a new truth that seems obvious once it's been revealed. That might sound cryptic, but you'll have to read the poem to see what I mean, as quotes would sell it short.

New Walk's reviews, meanwhile, further underline the magaine's editorial position: a whole gamut of poets are tackled, from Robin Robertson to Louis Simpson. Criticism isn't shirked, which leads to some uncomfortable reading, as in Nicholas Friedman's review of Mark Halliday's "No panic here". Rob Mackenzie has already discussed this review on his Surroundings blog, and I agree with much of what he states, as Friedman seems to knock Halliday for doing exactly what he intended! If this review were published in a stand-along context, I'd thus be very unsure of its value. However, in New Walk magazine, I do think it performs a useful function, implicitly encouraging the reader to consider and reconsider differing poetic stances.

The editors have done a terrific job with Issue One of New Walk. The magazine looks to have a very promising future on the U.K. poetry scene, especially if its delicate editorial balance is maintained, drawing together different poetic strands, comparing and contrasting them, showing how they can and should develop alongside each other.

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