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Wednesday 20 July 2005

Michael Schmidt's editorial from PN Review no.164

With the kind permission of Carcanet's Michael Schmidt we are publishing his editorial from PN Review no.164:

How far should the facts of a poet's ethnic or cultural identity impinge upon the editorial mechanisms that deliver poetry to its readerships? A different question: How far should the facts of a poet's ethnic or cultural identity impinge upon the programming mechanisms that deliver poetry to its audiences? The crucial difference is between poems in print and poems in voice, face, body, gesture, choreography. The answers to these two questions should differ: but much will depend on how informed about publishing, or event organizing, the asker is; and how page versus how performance-oriented. Editors are not generally aware of the ethnic or cultural identity of a new poet submitting poems, even when subject matter or diction suggests a specific background. An events organizer necessarily knows, and this knowledge is an element in the programming mix.

Spread the Word, a literature development agency, has been commissioned by the Arts Councils of England, Scotland and Wales to conduct a survey of all the Black and Asian poets in their catchment areas, to 'discover your experiences of the publishing world'. The research 'is focused strongly on achieving results, using the information we collect to produce strong recommendations to improve opportunities and support for poets in the future. These will be backed by all three Arts Councils and used to influence the publishing industry directly.' The 'industry' is implicitly defined as the magazine and book publishing industry; other, one is tempted to say more modern, forms of 'publishing' are hardly considered. Built into this research are a set of pre-suppositions and an implied mechanism of persuasion or implementation. Unease has been expressed among black writers themselves about the very terms of the research, welcome though it is in tenor.

[For all of Michael's editorial to PN Review no.164]

Posted by Mark Thwaite

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