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A Few Dos

It’s been quiet on the Lighthouse blog, for mostly good reasons. Since we opened for submissions, members of the team have had to keep things ticking over while working full-time, organising academic conferences, getting married, moving house, having children. Nonetheless, the journal is coming together in the spare moments between.

I have been reading submissions on my lunch breaks, train journeys, and in the quiet wee hours and I want to thank those of you who have taken the decision to submit your work: it’s a bold move, not least because we haven’t explicitly stated what kind of work we’re looking for and there are no past issues to go by. To some degree it would be unprofitable for us to say – there are five poetry editors and two prose editors, all of us with different tastes, backgrounds and prejudices.

For the record, this Christmas I’ve asked for books by Rosmarie Waldrop, Ron Silliman, George Oppen and Matthew Welton, but that’s not to say the rest of the poetry team have a similar reading list this year. What we want is good work. We are open to plural definitions of exactly what ‘good work’ is and, furthermore, we hope that through reading and taking time to get an understanding of the various types of writing arriving in our inbox, we expand our tastes. We want our magazine to represent the diversity of writing practices we see – in universities, in writing groups and elsewhere – but that are less frequently published. This is the reason we’re only publishing ’emerging’ writers, those at the beginning of their careers who are more apt to experiment and play.

Since it is both difficult and not particularly useful to define good writing, editors can be tempted to talk about what sorts of writing they don’t like. I don’t feel there is much to be achieved by polemic and I am not about to start sketching out my poetic stance in negatives. However, I have noted recently (not just in one or two submissions but in more established writers too) a lack of attention where lineation is concerned, bringing to mind Ezra Pound’s A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste :

Don’t retell in mediocre verse what has already been done in good prose. Don’t think any intelligent person is going to be deceived when you try to shirk all the difficulties of the unspeakably difficult art of good prose by chopping your composition into line lengths…

Don’t chop your stuff into separate iambs. Don’t make each line stop dead at the end, and then begin every next line with a heave. Let the beginning of the next line catch the rise of the rhythm wave, unless you want a definite longish pause.

The issue is examined in a contemporary context by Marjorie Perloff in her excellent essay Towards a Conceptual Lyric. But this is as close as I’d like to get to a grumble; gentle suggested reading. It’s nearly Christmas and I won’t waste both our time dwelling on Don’ts and Humbugs. So here are a few Dos:


Posted 9 years ago

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