The world needs poetry, now more than ever. Reading poetry may not solve anything (it might, though) but it makes you feel – feel better, feel wiser, feel confused – but feel. It’s a pleasure to be able to lose oneself in some poetry, then, and the inaugural issue of Poetry Birmingham was the perfect panacea for the soul. The journal has been devised and created by three editors, poets themselves, who had a clear vision for a poetry journal that is Birmingham-based but which looks boldly outward to the world beyond.
The measured, serious tone of the Editorial indicates the extremely high standard of poetry inside. The editors – Naush Sabah, Suna Afshan and Olivia Hodgson – write of how they will ‘uphold a responsibility to lyric and her living tradition’, with ‘a duty to curate journal issues which illustrate the vitality of poetry today and the robustness of its criticism’. This is hugely encouraging, for Birmingham and for poetry and it’s lovers and writers. It’s all the more wonderful because the editors were once our students in the School of English at Birmingham City University, so to see their development as mature and discriminating editors, alongside their own creative talents, is a pleasure.
The journal is a thing of beauty, physically as well as intellectually. It’s Birmingham roots are celebrated in the cover image of Edward Burne-Jones’s tapestry; not only was Burne-Jones Birmingham born, but there are other nice depths to this choice. The tapestry chosen is The Attainment, from the Quest for the Holy Grail series. And this physical object does represent something attained, not just for the editors but for all of us who are interested in poetry. As the editorial points out, this tapestry (held by BMAG), is itself an intertextual work which draws on many literary and historical sources, able to act as a kind of literary portal.
Poetry Birmingham has very high production values, from the Baskerville typeface to the spaciousness on each elegant page, which encourages a leisurely stroll through the poems, to the (inspired and inspiring) Notes Pages at the back. And the poems are of an equally high standard, which is very encouraging for a first issue; from the well-known to the never-before-published (but still brilliant), there isn’t a dud among them. Some are experimental, some narrative, some brief but heart-rending; the variety of form as well as topic, from the Birmingham-inspired to the much further afield, is impressive. The launch event, in collaboration with VerseFirst and entertainingly MC’d by Adrian Earle, offered the opportunity to hear some of the poems read aloud, which was a richly rewarding experience, allowing us to hear different echoes and cadences in the words, as well as some illuminating comments from the poets about the genesis of their work.
You can find out more about Poetry Birmingham, buy a copy of the first issue or submit to the second issue, here.