Saturday 19 January 2008

Anthology, part 1 of probably many

Late last August, I proposed an anthology of UK women's avant garde poetries to Shearsman editor Tony Frazer. My desire to edit the anthology arose from a personal desire to have one, to learn more about the range of these poetries and bring them together for sharing with students and fellow poets who had expressed interest in such work. While Maggie O'Sullivan's anthology Out of Everywhere: Linguistically Innovative Poetry by Women in North America and the UK proved an important starting point, I wanted to understand more about UK poetry in and of itself, and I wanted to update my knowledge of what was happening here.

I began by writing to poets whose work I admired and trawling the internet for other UK women poets I may not have heard of; I also wrote and spoke to other poets, female and male, to ask for recommendations. Then I came upon Juliana Spahr and Stephanie Young's "Numbers Trouble" (thanks to Chicago Review for making a PDF of the article available) and Catherine Wagner's forum, "Post-Marginal Positions: Women and the UK Experimental/Avant-Garde Poetry Community," which made me contextualise the work I wanted to do to an extent I hadn't before. Responses in Wagner's forum clarified the value of such an anthology for others in both the UK and US, while Spahr and Young's essay led me to reflect on the potential interpretations of such an anthology. For me, the result was that I realised I needed to develop an extended account of my reasons for the anthology's publication and contents, both for myself and for readers.

Now it's January '08, and I'm aiming for a February 2009 publication date so I can propose (and be ready for) an anthology launch reading at the AWP conference in Chicago, with a subsequent launch to occur in London. Of the established poets, Geraldine Monk and Maggie O'Sullivan have declined to participate, and I have not had any response from Denise Riley. Alternately, I am pleased that Redell Olsen, Frances Presley, Harriet Tarlo, Caroline Bergvall, and Wendy Mulford have all committed to the project, and such emerging or mid-career poets as Andrea Brady, Marianne Morris, Emily Critchley, Elisabeth Bletsoe, Zoe Skoulding, Frances Kruk, Isobel Armstrong, Carol Watts, Anne Blonstein, Claire Crowther, and others have also said yes (and I already have impressive selections from Bletsoe, Kruk, and Watts). Another dozen have work with me under serious consideration, and I am still trying to find a handful of others. I have also had a good number of open submissions from my calls on several listservs. This part of the process has been exciting, reading the range of work and feeling that the work in the anthology will be of high quality. It's a book I think others will enjoy reading, and that pleases me.

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