Salt Publishing and Roddy Lumsden have come up with a British parallel to the well established Best American Poetry Series overseen by David Lehman. The first editor is Lumsden himself, to be followed by Sasha Dugdale next year. While the initial volume is a largely mainstream selection (with, strangely, not a prose poem in sight), it possesses greater energy and range than the annual Forward Book of Poetry, as evidenced in poems by Gillian Allnutt, Amy De'Ath, and Chris McCabe, among others. (Carrie Etter )
[A]n excellent collection, imaginatively and fairly edited, making it easily one of the books that every reader of poetry wanting to know about new British and Irish poetry should own. I already look forward to the 2012 edition. (Todd Swift Eyewear )
The Best British Poetry 2011, edited by Roddy Lumsden, is an anthology of meticulous compilation: after a year spent foraging in the various British literary magazines, Lumsden has gathered 70 poems—representing 70 poets. In a format openly indebted to The Best American Poetry series, each poet has in turn commented on their poem’s inception. Fundamental to the nature of this collection is the method of the editor; this is not an anthology of the most celebrated contemporary poets. Rather than being selected by virtue of reputation, each poet wins their place in this book by having a single good poem published in a magazine this year. (Aime Williams The Oxonian Review )
For poets, this is a useful anthology because Lumsden's choices are drawn from a wide range of UK poetry magazines and each poem is labelled with the source. In the back there is a handy alphabetical list of quality poetry magazines with their contact details. If you want to submit to these magazines you can read the type of poem the editors approve of. You can also find which magazines you'd like to subscribe to, and let's not forget how much these journals need our support! (Angela Topping Stride Magazine )
… what would do we learn about contemporary poetry from this collection? Well, first, the standard is high. All of the poems are at least competent; clearly there are very many people who devote their lives to the art of poetry, and this is borne out by the results on show here. (Alan Baker Stride Magazine )
Identity Parade is an anthology which clearly achieves its objective of introducing its audience to a broad-church of today’s talent. (Phil Brown Hand + Star )
About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The poems presented in this volume were selected from UK-based poetry magazines, literary journals and online publications issued between spring 2010 and spring 2011. The main purpose of this volume is to celebrate the thriving scene of literary magazines and the developing sphere of literary sites online. For the past year, I have been reading these publications as they appeared, seeking poems which struck me as enjoyable, rewarding, accomplished … I could continue with such adjectives but, in the end, I was not looking for poems to tick boxes; I merely read, with a mix of personal taste and an attempt at a consensus of opinion, and selected the pieces which brought an instinctive ‘yes’ when I reached the poem's end.
The format of the book owes a debt to The Best American Poetry series of anthologies which was founded in 1988. Similar volumes appear each year in Canada, Australia and Ireland. We have not previously had such a book in the UK, partly because of the existence of a similar series, The Forward Book of Poetry, which has been appearing annually since the early 1990s to coincide with National Poetry Day and the Forward Prizes. The Forward series does a good job, but its main aim is to select from published books and only a handful of poems from magazines now appear each year. At a time when print publications are threatened by funding problems and the recession, and when online publications are becoming more common and more attractive, it seems right to gather some of the best work from these sources, to showcase the strength and breadth of what is appearing there.
Now let's deal with the B word. We have decided to go with the familiar branding in other countries of such books as ‘Best X Poetry'. All of these books, at some time, have been questioned on the use of the debatable word ‘best'. What best? Whose best? The word irks some people who feel that the subjective nature of selecting and editing a book like this is at odds with such an objective word as ‘best'. I can see that, but there is no manifesto behind the word, no ulterior motive. If it really bothers anyone, a cup of tea and a nap might help. These were the poems I felt were best, of all the poems I read. Someone else would have made a different selection, and next year, another editor will do so, as I retreat into my capacity as Series Editor, leaving much of the decision making to my guest editor who, in 2012, will be the Carcanet / Oxford poet Sasha Dugdale.