Orbis, the TLS, and Poems For Our Times

Posted by Expert Gadget Reviewer on Friday, 11 January 2008

First things first: Happy New Year to all Wasteland readers. Having spent the festive period in my hometown in the Midlands, I returned to Sheffield on a cold and quite miserable day, mercifully avoiding the cancellations that affected a fair number of journeys. And though its always nice to come home, I was a tad disappointed to find that the Royal Mail had somehow lost the copy of Jay Bernard’s first book, your sign is cuckoo, girl, I ordered, which was sent to me by the publishers, Tall Lighthouse, some weeks ago. Lost, or it’s journeying to me via the most circuitous postal route imaginable. I suppose I shouldn’t have wishfully thought it would be here in the first place, and should just be thankful that I've plenty of other stuff to be reading in the meantime (Jamie McKendrick’s new collection Crocodiles and Obelisks, Pascale Petit’s The Zoo Father, and Terry Eagleton’s engaging prose work, After Theory).

What did turn up, however, was the latest issue of international literary journal, Orbis. It’s a good issue, too, containing, amongst other things, some excellent poems from John Moran, Tammy Ho Lai-ming, Sophie Logan, Desmond Graham, and an interesting review of Peter Abbs’s Selected Poems by Surroundings blogger and poet, Rob Mackenzie. Though what’s best about Orbis in general, and worth the subscription, is its Lines on Lines pages: comments and discussions provided by the mag’s readers and contributors, making for much more than a letters page and giving Orbis the feel of a welcoming forum on all things literary. It’s something other poetry magazines would do well to emulate. There’s even a sort of competition in each issue, whereby readers vote via post or email for their four favourite contributor pieces, and the poem or story receiving the most votes wins a prize of £50 (plus the encouraging knowledge that their work is not only being published and read, but also enjoyed). It might be a little self-defeatist given I’ve got a poem in the issue, but I think a few of the poems are particularly good, so I’ll make my votes in the near future.

Other news comes in the form of another poem appearing in the TLS in the near future, and a phonecall I got before Christmas from the Off the Shelf literary festival organisers, telling me I’d won their ‘Poems For Our Times’ competition. I’m particularly chuffed as it was judged by T.S. Eliot prize-winning poet George Szirtes, whose extensive and thoughtful blog (which puts my bit of wasteland to shame) can be found here.