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This report is taken from PN Review 251, Volume 46 Number 3, January - February 2020.

On a Shoestring
Poetry in the Blood: Celebrating 20 Years of Shoestring Press
Barry Wood
Small presses – like little magazines – have been essential to the health and diversity of poetry for the past century or more. They present a complementary and often counter culture to the products of mainstream publishing houses and are dedicated to the promotion of new and undiscovered talent and the revival of the work of forgotten and neglected older writers. They often depend on the energy and commitment of individual editors and reflect the editor’s taste and character. Looking along my bookshelves I realise how much they have contributed to my pleasure and education in poetry over almost sixty years. They rise and sometimes fall and occasionally challenge the hegemony of larger, London-based publishers; but mostly they nurture their awkward independence and keep on keeping on.

Shoestring – founded by John Lucas in 1994 – is one such press and Poetry in the Blood marks its first twenty years in successful operation. The book brings together a group of twenty writers – mostly with some association with the press – with an invitation to write an essay about a poet whose work has, in a phrase by Robert Hass, ‘gotten into their blood’ and to illustrate in a poem how the chosen poet has influenced their own creative and critical practice and approach. The results are varied and stimulating and give an unusual insight into the relationship between reading and making. To give some examples: Clare Brant and Christine O’Neill acknowledge a profound debt to Rilke, and Brant gives a particularly poignant account of how recovering ...


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