Updated: May 7, 2021
A review of Reach Poetry issue 266
This is the first Reach Poetry magazine I have read, so in that sense I suppose this is a review of not just this edition but Reach Poetry in general. The first thing I will say that even though I ordered it a while ago now, I remember how friendly the purchase was. Very welcoming and inviting, and that is the whole ethos of Indigo Dream Publishers, who produce it and the two siblings Sarasvati and The Dawntreader.
I gather Indigo Dream Dreams is Ronnie Goodyear and Dawn Bauling, and in compiling the Bobandpoetry.com website their names and magazines kept popping up in the best of ways. This magazine insists that Dawn Bawling did not use to embrace social media, but they are not only very easy to find online in general, but also not one of those sites where you have to bash away the adverts which almost hold you to ransom before you dare to leave.
So to the magazine itself. Nearly all the magazines I subscribe to (and this isn't one yet, but I am contemplating it) I call my favourite magazine, they all have something unique to them, which is to say, something I most admire for the most. For Reach Poetry it is that feeling that you are not just a reader of the magazine but a part of its club. You are encouraged to send in two poems, and once you have read the magazine you are further encouraged to vote on the poems in it, so that they can compile a top four reader's favourites. The prize - a decreasing number of free issues towards your subscription, presuming you are subscribed. (Well the winner gets £25 cash as if the honour of being first was not enough.) What a neatly compact idea.
More than this, I would say that Reach Poetry most closely feels like being a part of a poetry reading group of any publication I have read yet. Not just because of the friendliness, the sense of community , and the encouragement to write, but for the poetry on offer, too. The poets here turn up give you their poem, and sit down knowing that the others will admire them for their efforts. I don't know who edits the poems, though I suspect it must be Ronnie and Dawn, and they have very good tastes.
What I notice is absent is the list of what prizes everybody won, and for which University they are the Professor of English for. One of biggest collective downsides of the larger publications is the almost desperate need to insist a poem must be good because the pedigree of the writer is good. Well as most of the poets are giving each other the prizes they are all eventually bound to end up with one. This is not to deny that the prizewinning authors are not the best, they are, and I hold them in awe, but how wonderful to have a monthly magazine where this does not matter.
I will not dodge the question. Is the standard of poetry as high as, say, The Poetry Review ? Well of course it depends on your criteria. I had fewer moments of barely fathoming how anyone could write a poem that astonishingly powerful, but then I had absolutely zero moments of thinking, 'well what the bloody hell was that all about?', either.
It's a big World and there is a lot of room for all poetry that one can imagine and even that which people have not imagined yet, but I honestly believe The Poetry Review would be a stronger magazine for having a section where you could see the best of the poems that you would hear in a poetry group, and here there is a magazine stuffed with them. For what it is worth, for me ,The North is a magazine which gets this balance perfectly right.
So I will play the game. Which were my favourite three poems? ' Four Part Setting' Gillian Henchley was my first place. Six verses of ABA and a seventh ABAA, from which this review gets its title. (Leaves a gap for someone to fill in what type of form this poem is!) The way the poem returned to the same phrases again and again, felt like a piece of music where a melody is revived. It read like I was listening to a string quartet. Well maybe a string quartet playing musical chairs, as slowly the number of players disappears. There does appear to be some fighting for position going on throughout. The great thing about poetry groups is you get the setting of exactly what the poem is referring to, and I do not have that here but it is intriguing.
Next up by the tiniest of margins I put 'Unspoken' by Chrys Salt. Last year my father died and I wrote a poem in which end of life 'practicalities' were a metaphor for love and loss. This poem was very much more concise and readable than mine, I will try to not be jealous. It's the opening verse I liked it took me straight in before I knew precisely where we were going.
'Her lips would hover over syllables,
flicker over words like moths
pale presences, just visible.
then in the evening shadow, lost.'
The poem covers the frustration of their mother not saying words of love to her children, witnessing their mother die, then reading a letter in which their mother finally lets known her feelings.
It's so hard picking a third, thus immediately making everyone else at least only fourth. I should just say I only read the magazine once, perhaps several re-readings would have brought to the fore a poem I accidentally skipped because the CD needed changing half way through.
'Lunch' Clair Chilvers . I believe I enjoyed it because it perfectly captures a moment like a short story. Simply that, I was there in the moment imagining the scene. I cannot believe it was not a real moment at the end due to the authenticity of the final verse.
'From a white china bowl,
he fills my daughter's hands
with wild strawberries.'
Not in my top three (sorry!) but the poem I reacted to the most to was 'Forming Hurricanes' Wendy Webb, whose 'sestina with variations', did make me laugh. (It was meant to.) It had the killer last verse:
'The crane is dead: I'm not insane,
to mourn it where it is in Swanwick shire.
Please kiss my parse: this (free verse rhyming) sestina is nice.'
Are we allowed to use 'nice' in a poem? Well Wendy Webb just did, excellent.
(To reading the magazine and writing the blog.)
1) TV On The Radio 'Return To Cookie Mountain' - more Brian Eno connection.
2) 'The Hunger' Original Soundtrack - David Bowie connection.
3) A first, an entirely classical music CD, but resolutely non-high brow.
' French Discoveries: musical treasures revealed'. Classic FM Magazine no.80.
It was 33.3 (recurring) p from a charity shop!