Tuesday, October 28, 2008
LISTENER TO REVISIT DECISION TO CUT POETRY
Since early this morning, Tuesday October 28, The Bookman has been fielding phone calls and e-mails from irate poets and poetry readers about the Listener's rumoured axing of their regular poetry publishing.
Three poets, two in New Zealand and one from Australia confirmed they had received back poems which had been previously accepted with a note to the effect that they ( NZ Listener) was no longer going to be publishing poetry.
Talk about the you know what hitting the fan!
This remark from a publisher was typical of the many that poured in - publication of single poems in the Listener, as you know, has always been something poetry volume publishers look to along with other factors as a means of determining the potential saleability of a volume to the market.
And from a poet - Some of us will likely stop buying The Listener. I have bought it for over 40 years and what attracted me in particular was the fact that every week it published a story and one or two poems.
And from another poet - and the literary world is downgraded again. Not Somerset's fault of course; but it's sad if you think of the great Listener tradition under Duff and Holcroft, and the great poems by Curnow, Glover, Baxter, Louis Johnson etc that appeared
Two others suggested it was time to start a new magazine but generally there was just a widespread sense of grave disappointment with many commenting thet the Listener was the only mainstream magazine with serious literature coverage and poetry was an important part of that literature.
Oops I thought, with this level of criticism and concern flying around the digital waves it was time to contact the man in the hot seat, Guy Somerset, Arts Editor at the Listener, and see what was really going on and what he had to say.
Here then is his somewhat encouraging response to my enquiry:
If ever there were proof that New Zealand is a nation of poets, it is the correspondence the Listener has received since we suggested on Friday that we would have to stop running original poetry in the magazine.
The decision had not been taken lightly – it was an agonising one, given the rich heritage of the magazine’s poetry, of which all at the Listener are proud. The Listener is winner of the Montana award for best book pages for the past two years running, and its commitment to New Zealand literature is second to none. We remain just about the only part of the mainstream media where you will find substantial reviewing of New Zealand poetry, and this will continue to be the case.
However, as we head into global recession, the Listener, like other media, is having to rein in spending in order to weather a downturn in advertising. Painful as it is to make such choices, it was thought there were other areas in the arts and books section that needed to take priority for both money and space: book reviews, music, art, etc. The Listener has an obligation to cover all the arts to the fullest extent it can – not just literature.
We were also mindful that poetry was not something readers had spoken of in any of our recent surveys. However, in light of the comments since Friday, it is clearly something we underestimate at our peril. We are heartened at the response of our readers and welcome further comment on the matter. In the meantime, we are revisiting our decision in order to see if we can find the necessary savings elsewhere and perhaps a more secure regular spot for poetry.
Whatever happens, the Listener will honour the poems it has already accepted, and will publish them over the coming months. Who knows, as many of you have pointed out, one of them may be the next James K Baxter or Allen Curnow.
Arts & Books Editor
New Zealand Listener
The Guardian has a poem each week, here is this weeks selection.