Monday, 19 March 2012

Poetry Magazines Balance

I've been going through my more recent poetry magazines on the back of this article and the apparent gross imbalance in Poetry magazines of men v women.

The selection is unscientific in that these are just magazines I've bought recently. But here's the lowdown

The Rialto - a premiere league UK Poetry Magazine.
Spring/Summer 2011 edited by Michael Mackmin
Includes Poems by Simon Armitage, Les Murray and George Szirtes (featured poet)
41 poets, 23 women.

The SHOp - a magazine of Poetry. Based in West Cork
Edited by John Wakeman and Hilary Wakeman.
Includes poems by John F Deane, Gabriel Fitzmaurice and Joseph Woods. I am very fond of this magazine.
50 poets, 19 women.

Fourteen - a magazine devoted to poems of 14 lines. I love this mag. Edited by Mike Loveday & Frances Spurrier. 49 poets, 20 women.

The North Issue 42 based in Sheffield.
Edited by Peter Sansom and Ann Sanso. Includes poems by Ian McMillan and Carol Ann Duffy.  42 poets, 20 women.

Cyphers 64 Edited by Leland Bardwell, Eilean Ni Chuilleanain, Pearse Hutchinson and Macdara Woods in Dublin 6. 28 poets, 10 women.

 Anon Three the anonymous submissions poetry magazine, editor Mike Stocks, external readers Tiffany Atkinson, Adam Smyth. Includes poems by Julia Deakin, Stephen Murphy and Gregory Woods. 26 poets, 9 women.

Interesting that the imbalance is judged without names here. I wonder what the proportion of submissions is like.

Poetry Ireland Review 103 edited by Catriona O'Reilly. Includes poems by Derek Mahon, Jean O'Brien, Mary O'Donnell, Paul Perry, Tom French, Nick Laird, Michael O'Louglin and me!

Poetry September 201,1 editors Christian Wiman, Don Share, Fred Sasaki, Valerie Jean Johnson. An establishment American magazine featuring Sharon Olds and lots of American poets I maybe should have heard of, only 3 who are appearing there for the first time.
16 poets, 5 women.

Boyne Berries 10 edited by Michael Farry, Orla Fay and Paddy Smith. A lovely production open to new writers. includes Peter Fallon, Kevin Higgins, Niamh Boyce, Brian Kirk, Susan Connolly, Liam Aungier and Peter Goulding. 40 poets, 18 women.



Emerging Writer said...

Anonoymous comment:
In the United States there is a tremendous effort to make men and women equal in all categories. A story made the news the other night that women are now graduating from college in greater numbers than men. This seemed to be taken as a good thing. Perhaps that is true.

With regard to poetry, however, has there ever been a time in history when female poets, in number, equaled or outnumbered men? Perhaps so, but I cannot think of any such period and I spent a few years acquiring a couple of degrees in English Literature.

Perhaps one of two things is true. Perhaps fewer women write poetry than men--or fewer women write poetry that appeals to literary magazine editors. Perhaps there is a third or fourth possible explanation but at the moment I can't think of any.

Over the years I have had the good fortune to have poems appear in print and online journals in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa. I have never bothered to notice the difference in numbers between men and women. It seems, however, that on certain online publications here in the States, women are more than holding their own in terms of the number of appearances. And their work seems no better or worse than their male counterparts.

Maybe it's possible that in some other area of the arts women outnumber men. I've always been mystified by the fact that more men seem to be celebrated as chefs than women.

Emerging Writer said...

My response:
Has there ever been a time when female poets in number equalled or outnumbered men? Well I think that is now. If you judge by the numbers of female poets who write poetry in workshops, on courses, on masters courses or in writers groups. Particularly the number of women who show up to readings. My concern is that this proportion does not appear to be reflected in publishing or competitions. Is that because fewer women submit? I don’t know. You’d have to have numbers for submissions to make that call. But why would that be? A confidence thing? A privacy thing? Do women typically write the type of poem that is less likely to get published or win competitions? Does a woman have to write in a man’s voice to get recognised? I am not convinced. There seems to be no noticeable difference whether the judge or editor is a man or a woman (which is good) Are judges and editors looking for more of the same? Possibly.

I'm only asking the questions.

Emerging Writer said...


You ask some interesting questions that I have not thought about since the subject itself has never moved me, perhaps because of my gender. Between 1965 and roughly 1970 I had more than a 100 poems published in print magazines. Not too many women, as I recall, were among the luminaries back then. After Sexton, Plath, Levertov and Gwendolyn Brooks, not too many names pop into mind. I then quit writing and submitting poetry for 35 years to feed and educate 5 kids, one of whom materialized as a Rhodes Scholars and the other four are normal. I resumed submitting poetry in 2008 after my wife bought me a computer and showed me where I had stored many boxes of unfinished poems. Since then I have appeared quite frequently in print and online journals. My general impression is that men by far predominate and I have no idea if it's quality or prejudice that is possibly the cause. I do think that male editors are likely to reject women more frequently than men, especially those men who believe Charles Bukowski was Shakespeare reincarnated. On the other hand, there are female editors, fewer in number, who may run all women and one man in some online issues. I can't speak anymore for the university journals because at my age I no longer want to wait 6 months or more to hear about a poem.

I don't think a woman needs to write in a man's vision anymore than a man should have to write in a woman's voice to crack certain publications. But I am not certain that if women apparently outnumber men at workshops and readings, this means they are poets writing at a level warranting publication. That could be, given the nature of some male editors.

As to contests, I am afraid I don't follow them, having entered only one in my life and that to support an editor who had looked kindly on my work and I wanted to pay the fee. He wasn't the judge and I got two honorable mentions and was beaten by a woman older than I am, someone, it is true, I had never heard of before.

Much "poetry"today does not deal with the true, the good and beautiful. Since the Beatniks and Bukowski, much of it is crud, in my estimation, and it is fancied by male editors who can write that stuff but not poetry as I define that art. I don't mind if crud is the subject matter as long as the execution of the language used rises above the subject matter. It seems that in U.S. publications, sex is the predominant subject. Sex is the easiest thing in the world to write but tough to write about well. Emily Dickinson's words come to mind: "how public like a frog."

I empathize with your apparent sympathy for the lack of female poets flourishing in the many venues. I will from now on, however, read more carefully female poets. My general opinion is that they are the equal of or better than the male crowd populating the better online publications. It's their subject matter that may limit their acceptance in that they don't wallow in the muck as much as men.