'Agenda': the long and the short of excellence in poetry

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The Independent Culture

If you enjoyed the recent Independent promotion of booklets on the "Great Poets", you should continue to keep at the cutting edge of poetry by subscribing to Agenda magazine. In her introduction to the new issue, editor Patricia McCarthy endorses the two kinds of art that WH Auden defined: "escape art", and "parable art" which "shall teach man to unlearn hatred and learn love". "Lauds" is another very shapely issue. Its engagement with celebrated poets is set by the sepia photographs from a private collection on the covers, confirming that Agenda always manages an original approach to even the most studied poetries.

Agenda will celebrate its half centenary next year, having been founded by William Cookson and Ezra Pound in 1959, and the recent centenaries last year of WH Auden and Louis MacNeice are celebrated in this latest issue . There are well-considered new angles on both poets by such critics as Peter MacDonald and Rüdiger Gorner, along with personal perspectives from Peter Mudford, who was married to Auden's niece, Rita, and Anita Money, another niece who worked on Agenda. The issue also highlights another poet and translator long associated with the journal: Michael Hamburger, who died in January this year.

There are deeply felt poems by John Greening, Steven O'Brien, Dylan Willoughby, Patricia McCarthy, Desmond O'Grady and Dennis O'Driscoll, inspired by all three of these poets, and lively extracts from a long poem written in homage to Auden, "To WH Auden in Heaven", by Nigel Thompson. Particularly apt are the little-known lithographs by Henry Moore from a series illustrating Auden's poems.

Agenda is one of the rare journals to promote the long poem. It would be hard to find a better example than John Kinsella's "Requiem", in this issue. The general anthology section contains a fine selection of poems by such well-known voices as Andrew Waterman, Norman Buller, Greg Delanty and Daniel Tobin; and fresh voices such as Diana Brodie, Anne Ryland, Alex Smith, Sue Roe and Kate Scott.

Agenda also continues to promote young poets, and sometimes young essayists, in every issue, and in the online Broadsheets – www.agendapoetry.co. The two young poets chosen this time, Caroline Clark and Adam Wyeth, both have strong, moving voices.

Agenda certainly manages to produce, in Louis MacNeice's words, many "a turning page of shine and sound". It is always a worthwhile read and deserves support. Subscriptions (four issues = one volume = one subscription) cost only £28 each (£22 OAPs and students) and £35 for libraries/institutions. Send your cheque, or pay by Visa or Mastercard, to Agenda, The Wheelwrights, Fletching Street, Mayfield, East Sussex TN20 6TL. Tel: 01435 873703. Email: editor@agendapoetry.co.uk For more information, visit www.agendapoetry.co.uk

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