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December 17, 2010

PN Review Launches Archive

Writing about web page

Received an email from Carcanet recently, announcing the launch of their digital archive. Forty years of magazines right there, for the eye.

Almost: it comes for a price, of course. While resources like the Poetry Library's Poetry Magazines website (incidentally, you can read PN Review's predecessor there, Poetry Nation) have relied on generosity and the basic assumption that poetry makes no money most of the time, PN Review and Carcanet are essentially commercial, though both the archive's creation and the publishing house are propped up substantially by the Arts Council and other funding. (Corona beer features on the back of every issue: "The drink of poets everywhere!") Let's not begrudge them, or anyone else, trying to survive and thrive off poetry; they've maintained a strong editorial line and excellent standards over the decades, under Michael Schmidt.

Yet the part of me that has got used to getting my poetry fix for free online still begrudges coming up against the firewall. I'm working on crossing these wires with the part of my brain that likes to fling money at charities via online payment systems.

They offer generous rates for students, you'll be relieved to hear: £18 for online access and 1 year/6 issues of the print journal. That's 50% off adult rates! As a resource for learning about contemporary poetry, especially of the high-modernist descent, it's excellent. The prose I've found to be rigorous in thought and intelligence, leaning towards academic style (I don't want to typecast the whole, as it's impossible to generalise with any magazine, but sometimes I've found parts a little dull-edged, while at others very vigorous), generous and quotable material for researchers. I think our university library still subscribes, and we've a handful of sample copies in the Writers' Room if you want to take a look.

You'll also find, if you visit the website and click the relevant subject headings, that there's a wealth of free sample material - hundreds of poems, and, at a quick glance, a good fifty each or so of interviews, articles and reviews, plus a selection of reports. For example, this wonderful discussion about the New York School and New York in general, between John Ashbery and John Ash:

I like some of the Language Poets though I've no idea what their movement is all about.

-- John Ashbery, 1985

Carcanet's Full press release follows:


16 December 2010

Last night in the centre of Manchester an unusual celebration took place: the magazine PN Review launched, its complete digital archive, including more than 200 issues and four decades of literary writing.

The website, designed and implemented by WebGuild Media Ltd, the Cheshire-based web solutions company, makes more than seven thousand items – interviews, poems, essays, features and reviews – by 1625 contributors immediately available to subscribers, with much material open access, in an unprecedentedly easy-to-navigate and user-friendly form.

At the launch, surrounded by writers, subscribers and academic colleagues, Michael Schmidt OBE FRSL, editor of the magazine since its inception as Poetry Nation in 1973, said: ‘Considering what we have here, it feels as though we’ve achieved as much as a dozen magazines. The conversations with Isherwood, Genet, Beckett, Lennox Berkeley, four Ashbery and three Murray interviews, for example, the many now-famous poems first published here, a host of writers making their first appearances in our pages… modern literature has much to be thankful for, and it’s suddenly all here at our fingertips!’

Four years in the making and realised with assistance from Arts Council England, this major online resource reinforces the critics’ claims that PN Review is:

…the most engaged, challenging and serious-minded of all the UK's poetry magazinesSimon Armitage

…the premier British poetry journal... Marjorie Perloff

...probably the most informative and entertaining poetry journal in the English-speaking world. John Ashbery

…quite remarkably good – it must have a claim to be the best anglophone literary magazine there is. Sir Frank Kermode

…the most incisive voice of a vision of poetry and the arts as central to national life. George Steiner

PNR is a journal in the tradition of Criterion and Scrutiny. It combines discovery and appraisal of new writing with reappraisals, celebrations and advocacies. It is committed to modernism and its aftermaths and sets vital, alternative agendas for modern poetry. PNR champions the work of the New York School; the Antipodeans (Les Murray, Judith Wright and Bill Manhire); it stands up for experiment and keeps a weather eye on the poetries of Europe, Africa, the Americas and Asia. It is also a magazine of new writing: Andrew Motion, Blake Morrison, Sophie Hannah, Sujata Bhatt, Sinéad Morrissey and Jane Yeh are among those who published early in PNR. And it is a journal of re-discovery, in which W.S. Graham, Sylvia Townsend Warner and Laura Riding among many others have featured.

For further information about PN Review please contact:

Eleanor Crawforth at Carcanet on 0161 834 8730 extension 21

For further information about WebGuild Media Ltd please contact:

Angela Bent at WebGuild Media Ltd on 0161 428 1102

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