'Agenda': a transatlantic feast of poetry that matters
Friday 13 February 2009
The latest double issue of 'Agenda' poetry magazine, Atlantic Crossings, is an exciting one. It includes a 50th birthday supplement for the Irish-American poet Greg Delanty. A major portion of the 262-page issue consists of a party in verse from both sides of the Atlantic for Delanty. Originally from Cork, he lives in Vermont and has a Guggenheim Fellowship. This issue handsomely brings his innovative poetry to the fore. Essays by Christopher Ricks, Terence Brown, Fiona Sampson and others cover personal, literary and academic angles that illuminate Delanty's work for the reader, and show him to be an important voice for today and the future.
Along with straight talk and erudition, Delanty subverts, inverts, parodies, mouths mongrel and traditional lingos, and even makes up his own words. The introduction points out that this inventive and often cheekily outspoken poet "daringly mixes Cork slang, American drawl, classical allusions, mythological references, Biblical and liturgical language, Gaelic Irish and straight English, as well as puns and clichés into a linguistic hotpot". Dip into these pages and sample this self-confessed "young cleric at St. Brendan's door" who eschews "angelic" sounds in favour of "the common note of an open harp".
Not many journals can boast of two Nobel Prize winners in the one issue, but in this 'Agenda' new work by Seamus Heaney and Derek Walcott can be found. Other well-known poets are featured: Michael Longley, Paul Muldoon, John F Deane, Brendan Kennelly, Billy Collins, John Montague and Andrew Waterman, to name a few. Contributors hail from the UK, the US, Ireland, Canada, Australia, the West Indies, and also Egypt, the Czech Republic, Russia, Poland and Hungary.
The recurring theme of Exile subtly knits together an issue divided neatly into sections on exile/place through graphic poems in pencil, watercolour and chalk by Johnny Marsh. Meaty essays complement the poetry and give challenging insights into Delanty and other poets. The standard, as usual with 'Agenda', is consistently high and energetic, and gives much food for thought.
Two talented young poets appear as part of a series which heads the online 'Broadsheet 11' for young poets and artists. This time the 'Notes for Broadsheet Poets' series stresses education both for poets and their mentors/teachers. The 'Notes' comprise an essay by a former chosen young poet, Caroline Clark, on what inspired her to write poetry and gave her confidence: helpful stuff for young and old poets alike.
This year marks 'Agenda''s 50th anniversary. The magazine deserves support to ensure that it flourishes into the future, at the cutting edge of a poetry that matters. As one of the most famous and long-standing poetry journals, it is a vital part of the national archive.
Individual subscriptions cost £28, £22 for student/OAP, £35 for libraries and institutions. Send to The Editor, 'Agenda', The Wheelwrights, Fletching Street, Mayfield, East Sussex TN20 6TL; email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or subscribe online (and visit the vibrant website): www.agendapoetry.co.uk. Tel: 01435 873703
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