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This review is taken from PN Review 250, Volume 46 Number 2, November - December 2019.

Cover of Tea with Cardamom
Rory WatermanWinners, All
Warda Yassin, Tea with Cardamom (smithdoorstop) £5
Faith Lawrence, Sleeping Through (smithdoorstop) £7.50
With the proliferation of creative writing courses and workshops, and the democratisation of publishing, has come a bloated generation of new poets – some rather good, many awful. In addition to a near-simultaneous growth in the number of magazines and other outlets in which they might publish (or ‘publish’), and the recent uptick in the number of small presses (the website Sphinx lists nearly one hundred active British poetry pamphlet publishers) there are now also more small prizes than ever catering for their hopes and, sometimes, expectations. Opportunity isn’t a bad thing, of course, but where is a reader to begin to make sense of it all?

He or she might gravitate towards the prize-winners. The myriad and often well-documented problems with poetry prize culture, and what it means, have increasingly been augmented in recent years by that most enterprisingly American of practices: the poetry publication prize, often targeted at the new and eager. The hopeful masses send in their Word documents, and usually also their money; those fortunate enough to be picked off rebranded slush piles can be heralded on front covers as winners. The presses certainly win, not least because demonstrating that you nurture talent appeals to the Arts Council, a major source of potential revenue. But so do the chosen poets: it looks good to be a winner, and all but the no-hopers who help to keep the boats afloat might have their turns one day, somewhere. At the pamphlet press I run, New Walk Editions, we haven’t succumbed to this model – ...

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