-Reviewed by Liam Jones-
Iota is a British poetry magazine at the forefront of discovering and showcasing new and established writers. Its reputation is second to none and for a while now I have seen it as arguably one of the best literary quarterlies in Britain.
It has recently changed editorial team, with the new team based at the University of Gloucestershire. The editor for the three poetry issues a year is Nigel McLoughlin, and the editor for the one fiction edition a year is poet and writer Jane Weir. It has also changed format to a larger size, with full colour cover, and at least 96 pages per issue.
Iota features more than enough poetry to get you through a rainy day, review of contemporary poetry collections, interviews with poets and other writers, and articles entitled ‘Issue’ which highlights the main talking points of the British poetry scene.
Seventy five pages of poetry is plenty for such a cheap magazine, yet all of the poems are full of qualities. The diversity in subject matter and form varies greatly from traditional stanza forms to more radical, experimental forms. For example David Dusncombe’s Insects takes a standard five stanza tercet format whereas Rebecca Perry’s Other Clouds employs free verse with a playful use of spacing.
I’ll say a quick note on a poem that stuck out from this array of talent. It is called Mersey Dancers by Arthur Haswell. The reason it rings out to me is that, being from Merseyside myself I know the city well. His portrait of Liverpool is excellent when he describes
‘…this stretch of river
full of sailing ships coming in on the tide, sailors
jigging on deck at the sight of steeples, inns…’
It creates an image for me of a long-lost Liverpool when it was a thriving port, and has poignant twangs full of nostalgia.
The review section features different poetry collections including Alice Oswald’s A Sleepwalk on the Severn and Hugo Williams’ West End Final, each providing insight or uncovering a new author.
The section named Issue is an essay that hopes to inform the reader of things that are occurring on the contemporary poetry scene. For instance, in this edition of Issue Paul Maddern, who is completing his PhD at the Seamus Heaney Centre in Belfast, talks of the vital importance of poetry pamphlets. He believes that the reason pamphlets are such a crucial point of poetry is that they retain ‘the philosophy, function and often the flamboyance of the amuse-bouche, while at the same time being affordable, direct and honourable.’ Thus, what we get with the poetry pamphlet is a cheaper way of getting our fix of poetry.
The magazine also offers interviews with poets and then a small selection of the poets’ work. It works well as you are introduced to the poet through the interview. You can get to know them a little better, then go on to read some of their poetry. In this issue the poets interviewed are Claire Crowther, who has two collections Stretch of Closures and The Clockwork Gift both out from Shearsman, and also Julie Boden, who has released three collections and two chapbooks as well as four CDs of solo and collaborative work.
This magazine is such value for money, full of great poetry from emerging poets that have something to say and say it excellently. It’s a definite recommendation if you’ve never dipped your toes in Iota.