Passion, curiosity, fury, wit – in editing the Act Your Age issue we were struck by the vigour and also the depth of poetic responses. We started this issue with a call for submissions inviting poets to “act your age” or to “defy it… boldly, slyly, fearfully, joyfully”. As we write this editorial at the spring equinox, we are more conscious than ever of how time moves, of age and, specifically, of the different dangers a tiny organism has presented to all – some ages more than others. We all know, as mortal beings, that we are going to die – but next week? next month? And what can we do with life in the meantime?
We had observed distance or divisions between age-groups and wanted to generate communication and explore some of the commonalities between poets of different ages! Age should not be regarded or even feared as an oppositional force.
Younger poets showed their commitment to exploring current and traditional poetic forms and writers; the humour of older writers continued to inspire us, as well as their brilliant askance perspective on experience. You will read poems by leading poets and poems which have a sense of performance and rhythm that here, enliven the page; and poems by writers with the long view taking conceptual and figurative leaps across landscapes and generations.
Our articles evolved collaboratively as conversations, enabling a range of voices and experiences to be heard. We valued the expanding nature of these conversations, which captured the clear and complex poetry of colloquial language and the insight and emotional reflection of different ages. We all know art doesn’t exist in isolation and these commentaries are testimonies of our recent poetic history.
Our interviews with publishers captured their new approaches and their commitment to discovery. The editors also spoke of their own influences, from the ground-breaking Virago and Women’s Press of the 1970s and 80s to the lively community of small and medium publishers, in this rich and fluid time for poetry publications. We were delighted to uncover a filament of female publishers in this issue, including John Greening’s Ageing: My Act, which alludes to the celebrated Gregynog press, established in 1922 in Wales by Gwendoline and Margaret Davies.
Poets are mortal, but poems remain, and in this issue you will find many poems that deserve a long life. They fix a moment of elation – run and leap with Thembe Mvula’s Umdudla – or consider ancestry and family and cultural heritage, with Maggie Butt’s Inheritances “migrant adventurers, / thugs, thieves and possibly poets”. Poems don’t pretend to stick to the facts or to one location. The Repeat Beat Poet’s Sick With Weight trembles, celebrates and grieves, “when celebration rose in harmony/even as the wailing Auntie held my hand”. Poems turn events into myths, and seize myths to embody events, as Warren Mortimer does in Nuclear Raven: “that Raven tale, /his white feathers scorched black…”
We are delighted to present Jamal Mehmood as our ‘Selected’ poet. His poems contain prayer, questioning and space. Many of you will have read, seen and heard his work, but for those who haven’t, here is a taste of his work to inspire you to know him better.
We are delighted too, that Liz Berry has written The Magpie for our ‘Inspired’ feature, where you can also read the poem by Kim Addonizio Good Girl to which Liz is responding.
It has been uplifting to explore and disregard some of the boundaries of age.
Gboyega Odubanjo, Selina Rodrigues and Christine Webb
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