Tuesday 3 June 2014

Changes at Poetry NZ [19/1/14]

Alistair Paterson, ed.: Poetry NZ 25 (September 2002)

This is the text of a post I put up on my blog The Imaginary Museum on the 19th of January this year:

I'm happy to announce that, at a meeting at Massey University's Albany Campus on 26th November 2013, an agreement was reached between the Head of the School of English and Media Studies, A/Prof Joe Grixti, Poetry NZ's managing editor Alistair Paterson, and production manager John Denny, for the future housing of the magazine by the university.

The new managing editor, in succession to Alistair, will be yours truly. I was featured in issue 22 in 2001, and I guest-edited issue 38 in 2009, which (I hope) qualifies me for such a task - though I don't pretend to claim that I could ever adequately fill Alistair's shoes: he's certainly a hard act to follow!

But what precisely is Poetry NZ? New Zealand's most celebrated (as well as longest lived) poetry journal has been appearing twice a year since the end of the 80s, when it was started by Oz Kraus, initially with a series of guest editors, but then - from issue 8 onwards - under the editorship of distinguished poet, anthologist, fiction-writer and critic Alistair Paterson.

In another, truer sense, though, one could argue that the magazine actually started in 1951, when Louis Johnson began publishing his annual New Zealand Poetry Yearbook. That would make it the country's second-oldest surviving literary journal, after Landfall, founded by Charles Brasch in 1947. Johnson's series stopped in 1964, but a bi-annual version of the (re-christened) Poetry New Zealand was revived by Frank McKay in the 1970s and 80s and ran to six issues, each helmed by a different guest editor.

Louis Johnson (1924-1988)

Poetry NZ, in its present form, has now reached issue 47, with a 48th (to be guest-edited by Nicholas Reid) promised for next month. Longtime publisher John Denny of Puriri Press no longer feels able to undertake the myriad duties associated with the production and distribution of the magazine, however, so it seemed like a good moment to re-examine Poetry NZ's future as one of New Zealand's very few journals dedicated entirely to poetry and poetics.

Alphabet Book (Puriri Press)

I will, fortunately, be assisted in my task by an advisory board including academic and editor Dr Thom Conroy; poet and academic Dr Jen Crawford; publisher and printer John Denny; poet and academic Dr Ingrid Horrocks; poet and 2013 Burns Fellow David Howard; poet and editor Alistair Paterson ONZM; poet and academic Dr Tracey Slaughter; and poet and academic A/Prof Bryan Walpert.

From issue 49 onwards, our intention is to revert to Louis Johnson's original concept of an annual poetry yearbook, approximately twice the size of the present 112-page issues, but retaining the magazine's essential characteristics, such as the featured poet, the reviews section, at least one substantial essay per issue, and - of course - a substantial selection from the poetry submitted to us by local and international authors.

I think that all three of us, Alistair, John and myself, feel that it would be a tragedy for New Zealand poetry if this journal were to cease to appear. Where else can such a substantial cross-section of our poets rub shoulders with writers from all over the world? Where else can we debate the important question of what (if anything) defines a national poetry (or poetics)?

Hopefully having a new institutional home will enable Poetry NZ to continue its already sixty-year-old engagement with such questions in the confidence that it will never become an in-house university publication. Like Landfall, so ably supported by the University of Otago, Poetry NZ will retain its proud independence, but also benefit from the resources of one of New Zealand's largest tertiary institutions (this year celebrating its 21st birthday here on our Auckland campus) ...

Existing subscribers will be sent a copy of the enlarged issue no. 49 at no additional cost. Thereafter, though, new subscription arrangements will have to be made. Full details will be published in issue 48, and thereafter made public on the Poetry NZ website.

The most obvious change for the moment will be the fact that we'll now be open to electronic submissions (with "poetry nz" in the subject line) via email text and MSWord file attachments - in fact, that will become our preferred way to receive work. More details on that, too, later.

Alistair Paterson, ed.: Poetry NZ 47 (September 2013)

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