September 2011


Or bizarre, as several people said: the idea of a meeting of ideas.

Except, isn’t that exactly what the  creative and the academic are supposed to be about – putting ideas out in the world, letting them bounce off each other, seeing which find attractions, want to share their fundamental particles, create new entities.

This was an event at Sheffield University, with a community focus, a city-wide invite for creative people, academics and community organisations to interact and perhaps form new partnerships. I was a little sceptical, but thought that either with my academic mortarboard on, or my writerly fedora there might be someone to meet. With Rosemary, my co-editor (more truthfully, I am her co-editor) we decided to promote Antiphon (which, since you ask has so far attracted a pretty good trawl of contributions, but still nowhere near as many as we would like) and see what happened.

It was great fun. We were able to give away all our flyers and half our bookmarks. A few people played with the poetry dice. Many stopped to talk about poetry – although a disappointing number said “I used to write poetry”, somewhat apologetically – my feeling is they should really apologise to themselves, and find the time, make the space, pick up the pen. I watched a very clever magician, had lovely little chats with a fair number of old friends (not the object, I know, but pleasant to have the chance), got a little business done, saw some very interesting local projects and groups, met a designer who is looking to commission public poetry in Sheffield – which I would fall over backwards to be involved in for, as a native of the steel-soft city, it’s one of my lifetime ambitions to do create that permanent graffitti – Mum would be so proud –  met a wonderfully enthusiastic professor of all things Tudor, sonnet-like and manuscripty (someone said she was a “Tudor professor”, which would have been even more fun), encoutered a purveyeor of vegetable-based entertainment (which I can truthfully say was an absolute first), found myself the intermediary (that’s a big word for someone who does the work and gets nothing for it) between several people of my acquaintance who seemed to strike up interesting friendships, perhaps persuaded a few people to write, though I doubt it, and was amused by the “speed-dating” of exciteable artists and entrepreneurs, which they all seemed to enjoy like six year olds playing musical chairs.

Whether Antiphon will get more submissions or a bigger readership on the back of it, who knows?  I’d approached it with the cynical expectation of damp squibness, and actually experienced a real sense that Sheffield has creative projects on every streetcorner (not just Starbucks). We need more such events – but with a wider net cast. More poets please.

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A friend, Rosemary Badcoe, and I have just begun a new online poetry mag called Antiphon.  URL is: http://antiphon.org.uk/

Here you can submit work, read the magazine when we’ve compiled the first issue in a few weeks, and join a poetry discussion forum.

We’re looking for good quality work. We see the job of Antiphon as creating opportunities for poems that are not quite managing to find publication elsewhere, but nevertheless ought to be. The idea of Antiphon is that it should include contrastive voices, different kinds of work, so that it contains a hint of the richness of contemporary work, not just a single kind of poetry.

We also want to support small presses and pamphlet publishers, so we’ll be including reviews of such, and the forum contains a thread for such publishers to advocate and discuss their publication philosophies.