This issue was put together during a period of significant global change. Brexit was sold to the public with a two-word slogan, “Take Control”; Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election, surely the most grotesque political event of modern times, was driven by four words emblazoned on a baseball cap. In a hacked email made public by WikiLeaks, we discovered that Hilary Clinton’s campaign rejected 84 potential campaign slogans (including “No Quit”, “Building a Better Tomorrow”, “Fairness First”, “Renewing America’s Promise”) before finally settling on “Stronger Together”. And as millions of people were energized by these slogans, millions of others were asking, “But what does that mean??” When Theresa May declared “Brexit means Brexit,” these political language games reached an apogee of stupendous banality, good only for joke material.
As we honour the Scottish poet Alexander Hutchison in this issue, we honour the continuing struggle to make sense of the world in creative, honest, and in-stressed language. Richard Price shows how “living poetry” has emerged down the centuries from Sappho to Goethe to Hutchison himself. We commissioned six passionate advocates of poetry to articulate how poems can bring fresh perspective in the face of socio-political crisis. Our reviewers don’t just recommend books (or otherwise) but further a discourse on what makes poems vital.
Throughout the issue, we have scattered poems that made us think, feel or laugh and often all of those at once. They raise words which connect bone with breath and dance across the razed, airless spaces in which we are otherwise left inarticulate. It’s at those times when we feel most like shutting down and hiding in our bunkers that we come to a poem like Charlotte Mew’s ‘The Quiet House’ and Cate Marvin’s astonishing poetic response to it in our ‘Inspired’ section. We agree with her assessment: “If there is one thing you can count on in this duplicitous world, it’s that poetry will tell the truth.”
Rob A. Mackenzie and A.B. Jackson