The Acid Tongue
Review the review
Selected By Toh Hsien Min
This issue's Acid Tongue comes from Orbis #138. Edited by Carole Baldock, Orbis is one of the better poetry magazines in the UK, which, in addition to some very good poetry, publishes an extensive range of commentary and response. One of their features is a review section dedicated to other poetry magazines, the aim being to give readers "a fair idea of each magazine before they purchase".
Now I find this section very useful, but also anywhere between courageous and dubious. It's a bit like one fund manager talking about another; given that they're both competing in the same market, does he say only nice things even if there are bad bits to be aired, or will there be more negativity than is merited? Orbis tries to sidestep this by saying the reviews are "based on personal opinion", but these questions pose themselves again with Nathan Jones's hatchet job on Scottish journal Chanticleer. Jones begins thus:
The latter is, prima facie, a valid accusation, and one of the reasons that other than the invariably hastily improvised editorial everything else in this journal written by a member of the editorial team passes under someone else's eyes before it's used.
Jones then goes on to take a quick pot-shot at Woods, whom, one suspects, only happened to be in the way, with a comment that the poetry is not "carnal variety" as described in Chanticleer but "naive mundanity", which damns both poet and review at the same time. His conclusion on the Woods's poem is cynically patronising: "Oh, god. How hopeful, how profound, how queasy."
Upon retraining his sights on the magazine, Jones then adds a "silver lining" line that simultaneously works as faint praise: "Having said that, there are some perfectly decent poems." But there's no keeping a good mauling down, as Jones reverts to theme with apparent spontaneity:
No argument there - Jones and Orbis show enough gutsiness in this review - although what he makes me wonder about is the quality of conversation in British pubs today.QLRS Vol. 6 No. 2 Jan 2007