Friday, April 30, 2010

WOW Awards Tonight

Just back from the Cavan launch of Noel Monahan's Curve of the Moon. A great night with a very large attendance, good speeches, nice music and Noel reading a taster from the book. Pic: Noel signing a copy for Boyne Writer Paddy Smith. The art exhibition by Padraig Lynch whose painting is used on Noel's cover was an added bonus. More on the book and the exhibition later perhaps.

I'm off to Galway for the WOW Awards this evening. I'm sure I've mentioned that I'm on the shortlist of ten for the poetry awards. The Awards take place in the Galway Bay Hotel, Salthill and start with a champagne reception at 7pm.

On arrival each of the shortlisted writers will be given their copy of the WOW! Anthology in a sealed (probably brown!) envelope with the request not to open it until after all awards are announced. Then the titles of the 20 entries will be read out together with a short piece about each writer in alphabetical order.

Next the three awards in poetry and fiction will be announced in reverse order and the awards presented to the relevant writer.

The poetry shortlist seems strong with Pete Mullineaux and Michael Massey the probable favourites. The fiction list has James Lawless who was a featured reader for us recently, Niamh Boyce who was published in the most recent Boyne Berries and blogger Máire T Robinson who must be strong contenders for those awards.

Anyway I'm hoping to get to Galway early for fish and chips in McDonaghs and a potter around Charlie Byrne's bookshop before the excitement!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Last Wednesday Open Mic

A couple of us from the Boyne Writers attended the Last Wednesday open mic in Cassidy's Westmoreland Street last night. This monthly session is organised by Seven Towers. We had two of their writers Oran Ryan and Ross Hattaway down for our Boyne Readings two months ago so we made the return journey last evening.

An enjoyable evening, a friendly crowd in the region of 25-30 and some excellent readings which included hip hop and a blues song. We even sold some Boyne Berries magazines. As usual at these events we meet writers who have been published in Boyne Berries. Declan, the MC, did a great job in keeping the evening moving along.

We heard two poems about Eyjafjallajokull, the Icelandic ash-volcano. One of these was by Eamonn Lynskey whose second collection of poetry, And suddenly, the sun, is to be published soon by Seven Towers. Plenty of prose as well, probably a greater percentage than we usually get in Trim and what a variety, extreme violence to memories of leaving Ireland in the 80s.

I read three pieces from my walking into Dublin long poem which seem to go down fairly well and I even had a request for my Auschwitz poem from Oran Ryan who heard it a couple of years ago in Longford.

Picture: Boyne Writer, Orla Fay reading at the Last Wednesday.

More poetry tonight in Cavan at Noel Monahan's launch - Busy Week.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Noel Monahan Book Launch

Noel Monahan’s fifth poetry collection Curve Of The Moon will be published on this Thursday 29th April with a launch at The Cavan Court House by Seamus Hussey and will coincide with the opening of an art exhibition by Pádraig Lynch who designed the cover for Curve of The Moon. Martin Donogue will provide the music and on Thursday 6th of May the book will receive its Dublin launch at The Unitarian Church on Saint Stephen’s Green.

Noel has been associated with our LitLab Cavan/Meath writers group for the past number of years. As co-editor of Windows Publications since 1992 with Heather Brett they have published several emerging writers and visual artists in their series: Authors & Artists Introductions. I was delighted to be included in the most recent Authors and Artists published last year.

Noel has a poem included in the 100th issue of Poetry Ireland Review published recently.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Poetry Ireland Review 100 (2)

A very interesting review in this issue by Justin Quinn of Paul Durcan's Life is a Dream: 40 Years Reading Poems, 1967-2007.

Durcan is one of the few Irish poets who has achieved wide public recognition. I got a selected poems of his as a present in 1990 and was delighted at poems such as Tullynoe: Tete-a-Tete in the Parish Priest's Parlour. Later volumes disappointed especially Crazy About Women (1991) based on paintings in the National Gallery and The Art of Life (2004).

The volume under review contains selected poems from four decades and the reviewer is loud in his praise for the ground breaking quality of Durcan's early work and its effect on the country. It's only fair to say that Durcan was an agent of social change in Ireland . . . He has helped to make their country a better place.

There's always the difficulty in deciding whether something like Durcan's poetry occurred as a result of the changing face of Irish society or was a cause of that change. More the former than the latter I would say.

Anyway having heaped high praise on the poet he then comes to the bad news and refers to what he calls Durcan's inability to develop beyond his early established style, method and subject matter: It is hard not to escape a sense of monotony: his method is so strong that he himself has become its prisoner.

Review of Durcan's book in the Irish Independent here and in the Irish Times here.

I notice that Pete Mullineaux, one of the ten poets shortlisted for the WOW Awards in Galway, has a poem in this issue of PIR. Surely that makes him favourite to take the Award on Friday evening.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Poetry Ireland Review 100

Poetry Ireland Review have just published their 100th issue guest edited by Irish poet Paul Muldoon. Most interesting as you might expect with a fine selection of poetry from the A to Z of Irish poets. B to Z actually since Muldoon arranges the poets in alphabetical order - Eva Bourke to Ann Zell. Most get one poem but Michael Longley gets four, Heaney two.

It includes some in Irish with translations, some by the poet, some by others. It always strikes me as a bit odd when such a publication publishes simultaneous translations of Irish (Gaelic) poetry.

Cathal Ó Searcaigh has an interesting poem included in light of recent controversies. It's entitled Labhrann Óivid (Ovid Speaks) in which Latin poet Ovid bemoans his banishment to the Black Sea shore. Gabriel Rosenstock translates Ó Searcaigh's opening lines:

A hundred curses on this place of banishment
this back door to nowhere by the Black Sea

The most interesting indeed controversial item in the issue is an article by Maria Johnston, who teaches in the School of English, Trinity College, Dublin and at the Mater Dei Institute of Education, entitled Reading Irish Poetry in the New Century which is a review of poetry published in the Review in the last ten years. Much of the article is scathing in its assessment of the quality or lack of quality of the published poetry.

There is, in the poetry published throughout this decade, a severe want of technical dexterity, of ingenuity, imaginative pressure, metaphorical energy, linguistic vitality, formal possibility and intellectual play. So many of the poems are devoid of any vivifying elements of surprise or disturbance, of dialectical force, from beginning to end. There is little or no attentiveness to the line break - the feature that distinguished poetry from prose - no feeling for the sound and movement of words and their syntactical arrangement.

Hmmm, could do better then.
But it's not this general criticism which has caused the controversy but the fact that she criticises individual poems published during the decade in the journal by established well-known writers. Seems a bit ill considered in an issue which should be celebrating achievement.

The article is available as a pdf here.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Drogheda Arts Festival and FringeFest

Drogheda will be humming with arts activities over the weekend April 29th - May 2nd, 2010. The Drogheda Arts Festival takes place over the May Bank Holiday Weekend, when this historic and vibrant town assumes the mantle of arts capital of Ireland. Full programme here.

A programme of music, theatre, dance, poetry, and visual arts, promises to showcase the best in national and international creativity, with artists from Britain, Russia, Korea, and France.

In addition this year sees the first ever Drogheda Fringe which includes a highly eclectic range of events and performances, including different genres of music, poetry readings, visual arts and lots more besides. Fringe website here.

The inaugural Drogheda FringeFest 2010 will compliment events and acts that are taking place over the May bank holiday as part of the Official Drogheda Arts Festival 2010.

As regards poetry I see that on Monday 3 May there is Poetry reading and conversation with Poet EILÉAN NÍ CHUILLEANÁIN, Café of Droichead Arts Centre, Stockwell Street, Time: 3.00pm, Tickets: €8

Also as part of the Drogheda Fringe Festival, the Viaduct Bards presents Write Now - readings from emerging writers including Ciaran Hodges, Maera Black, Margaret Costello, Joan Daly, Betty Glennon, Irene Bagnall and Emer Davis on Saturday 1st May at 3pm and Poetry Please - readings from established poets from the Drogheda area - Patrick Dillon, Susan Connolly, Marie MacSweeney and John O'Rourke at 4pm in the Cafe, Droichead Arts Centre, Stockwell Street. All writers and poets will be reading from their own work. All welcome to this free event

Friday, April 23, 2010

European Baskets at Draíocht

If you visit Blanchardstown Shopping Centre don't forget that just across from the Cinema entrance is Blanchardstown Library, one of the best libraries in the country with a great selection of literature among the others on its shelves.

Next door to that is the Draíocht Arts Centre which usually has an interesting exhibition which can be a wonderful antidote to walking the aisles in Penneys or Dunnes looking for shoes that are cheap, wide fitting, slip-on and black.

The current Draíocht exhibition is European Baskets featuring work by almost 80 of Europe’s leading basket-makers in materials ranging from wire to willow and includes both contemporary, sculptural work and traditional techniques. The curators of this travelling exhibition are Joe Hogan (Ireland) and Mary Butcher (UK).

Joe Hogan is the best known contemporary basket maker in Ireland and has written the best book on the subject, Basketmaking in Ireland, published by Wordwell in 2001. I was always interested in basket making, having worked with creels made of willow on the bog in my youth. When I spent summer holidays with my grandfather I "helped" him make baskets from willow.
More recently I attended basket making classes determined that I would make a creel to keep up the family tradition. Thanks to basket maker and teacher Kathleen McCormick I succeeded. Technically it's a pardóg rather than a creel.

Oh and did I tell you I wrote a poem about my grandfather, helping him with baskets and making my own. It was the first poem I had published, in Crannog 10.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Becoming Jane

Blogger Women Rule Writer, Nuala Ní Chonchúir, recently had a post quoting Roddy Doyle's advice in this Observer article about having photographs of writers over your desk. I won a copy of her Templar poetry book, Portrait of the Artist with a Red Car, by guessing that she had a photo of Sylvia Plath over her desk. The collection is a very well produced booklet containing an impressive selection of poems dealing among other things with relationships, pregnancy and childbirth in language which is deceptively calm and straightforward.

I looked to see whose picture I have over my desk. The sign above with the familiar silhouette of Jane Austen is close to, though not over, my desk. Part of the film Becoming Jane was made near Trim and during the film signs like this were attached to poles along the road showing the way to the cast and crew. Some remained after filming and I snipped one off a pole and it's now on the wall of my office/library/playroom.

As the original home of Jane Austen was demolished in 1824, scenes at Steventon Rectory were filmed in Higginsbrook House, a few miles off Trim in County Meath, Ireland (spring 2006). The house was built circa the first half of the 18th century and now belongs to Christopher Gray and his family. Apparently, Higginsbrook performed well, for later in autumn 2006, it appeared again as the house of the Morlands in Northanger Abbey (ITV 2007). (Wikipedia)

Picture of the house on this page.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Swift Satire Competition 2010

Details of the Swift Satire competition have just been finalised and have been added to the Boyne Writers website on this page. Details are much the same as the last two years. This years' topic or theme is 2000-2010: The Best Of Times, The Worst Of Times and entries will be judged on the basis of satire, irony, absurd humour, acute political insight, grotesque imagination, and lacerating wit - the hallmarks of Swift's best works.

Entry fee: 7 euro (or 5 pound sterling or 10 dollars) per entry. Length: Prose - minimum of 600 words, not more than 800 words. Poetry - minimum 30 lines, maximum 100 lines.

Prizes: 1st 500 euro, 2nd 300 euro, 3rd 200 euro. Closing date: Tuesday, 15 June, 2010

Entries (by email or post) will be judged by members of the Boyne Writers Group and a Guest Judge. This year's Guest Judge is a man with a keen sense of the ridiculous and a fine appreciation of satire: John Murray, presenter of the popular RTE Radio 1 programme, The Business, and a regular presenter of Morning Ireland.

This competition is being held in conjunction with the Trim Swift Festival, which will take place in Trim from Thursday, July 1, to Sunday, July 4, 2010.

Entries should be sent to Boyne Writers Group, c/o P Smith, 25 Saintjohns, Trim, County Meath, Ireland, OR emailed to (and please put Boyne Writers Competition in the subject line of the email). Online entrants can pay the entry fee by PayPal.

Prize-winning authors will be invited to read their entries at functions during the Trim Swift Festival (Thursday, July 1, to Sunday July 4, 2010). Alternatively, prize-winning entries will be read by members of Trim Drama Group or members of the Boyne Writers Group at functions during the festival on behalf of the authors.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Lake Garda - Catullus

So what book of poetry do you bring on holiday to read at Lake Garda? Only one choice really - Catullus. Who? Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84 BC – c. 54 BC) the Latin poet who was from the area. He was probably born in Verona just west of the lake and he or his family had a villa on the island/promontory of Sirmione at the southern end of the lake. The bust above is at the lakeside.

The large scale remains of a Roman villa at Sirmione (picture below) have been named The Villa of Catullus though there is no evidence that this was his particular villa.

In his poem 31 he wrote:

Sirmio, jewel of islands, jewel of peninsulas,
jewel of whatever is set in the bright waters
or the great sea, or either ocean,
with what joy, what pleasure I gaze at you,

One hundred and thirteen of Catullus' poems have been preserved and often translated. These include sixty short poems in varying metres, eight longer poems verging on epics and forty-eight epigrams. The most famous of his poems are those to the lover he named Lesbia. His love poems range from tender love poems, to sadness and disappointment and bitter sarcasm.

His poem 75:

To this point is my mind reduced by your fault, my Lesbia,
and has so ruined itself by its own devotion,

that now it can neither wish you well

though you should become the best of women,

nor cease to love you though you do the worst that can be done.

Catullus' poetry was deemed "modern" in his time in that it turned away from traditional topics and instead dealt with small scale personal themes. It can be erotic and indeed some translations in the past omitted lines fearing that readers would be scandalised.

Many translations available on the web including complete poems here and here. The volume I took to Lake Garda was the Oxford World's Classics edition.

Yeats and MacNeice are among those writers who have been influenced by or at least made references to the poetry of Catullus in modern times.

Below a street named after the poet in Verona.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Cathach Magazine

The Sligo online literary journal The Cathach is accepting submissions for its second issue. Full details here. Closing date for submissions is 14 May and it appears that submissions by email are accepted. The journal is an impressive production, superior in style to many web magazine.

The Cathach is an online literary magazine, published by Sligo County Libraries, with the aim of showcasing quality new writing in poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. While honouring the literary traditions of Sligo and the Northwest, The Cathach features work from both new and established writers in Sligo and throughout Ireland.

Sligo's first Writer-In-Residence Niall Williams was the editor of issue 1. He has since vacated the post and has been succeeded by Brian Leyden who was born in Roscommon in 1960. He has published a book of short stories, Departures (1992); and a novel, Death and Plenty (Dingle, Brandon, 1996). He has also published a memoir, The Home Place (Dublin, New Island Books, 2002). He will oversee issue 2 of The Cathach.

I was delighted to have a poem published in the first issue, one on the Destruction of Sligo Railway Station 1923. I was in good company with the likes of Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, Dermot Healy, Joan McBreen, Carlo Gebler, Dermot Bolger, Brian Leyden, and Jaki McCarrick

You can view the first issue from a link on this page.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Boyne Readings - Kate Dempsey

Our featured reader at the Boyne Readings last evening was Poetry Diva Kate Dempsey from Maynooth, Co Kildare. Kate impressed the discerning audience with her relaxed introductions, her polished reading performance and her unique take on everyday objects and situations.

She started with a poem about changing toilet rolls and from that on she had the audience hanging on her every word. Other highlights of her set were the poems about a single sock, good sherry trifle, I Could Lie about an unromantic (maybe that's not the right word) marriage proposal and Verbatim about cursing having been brought to Ireland by the British.

Her set was followed by an open mic which was as varied and as interesting as usual. Michael Shiels, The Sheriff from Navan, has returned from holidays and delivered two poems with his usual brio. Paddy Smith, the MC, finished off the night with a prose piece on some of his experiences as a regular bus passenger between Dublin and Trim. I read two poems from the series I wrote based on the film High Noon.

The night finished with tea, coffee, biscuits, chat and chapbook purchasing. Picture above: Kate with some of her fans.

More on the event from Frank Murphy here, and probably from Orla Fay here and Kate herself here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lake Garda - Riva del Garda

Just back from Lake Garda, Italy after a holiday there with The Travel Department. We stayed in the town of Riva del Garda on the northern shore of the lake. Wonderful scenery, good weather, a nice hotel, a very good guide, trips to Venice, Verona, into the Dolomite Mountains and around the lake. Still snow on top of the mountains there.

This area of Italy, once part of Austria, was a favourite haunt of writers. Who would not feel at home in a town where many of the streets are named after writers.

The poet Rilke made the first of many short visits to the area in 1897. He stayed in the nearby town of Arco. Franz Kafka holidayed in Riva del Garda in 1909 and again in 1913.

Heinrich Mann (1871 - 1950), the author of novels, short stories and plays, visited Riva on Lake Garda about twenty times over a period of about two and a half years. His better known brother Thomas Mann (1875 - 1955), winner of the Nobel for Literature in 1929, stayed in Riva on many occasions between 1901 and 1904.

Much earlier Dante visited these shores during his long exile from Florence while writing his Divine Comedy. We came across many references to him in towns along the lake and elsewhere in the area.

More on these dead writers later. Tonight we at the Boyne Readings and Open Mic welcome the very much alive Kate Dempsey as the featured reader. Eight PM in the Village Hall, Knightsbridge, Longwood Road, Trim.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

THE SHOp Poetry Magazine

The latest issue of THE SHOp poetry magazine from Schull, Co Cork has just arrived. The impressive cover art by Jeanette McCulloch is entitled Tara Hill. I presume this refers to the Hill of Tara, Co Meath and not to Tara Hill, Co Wexford.

An exceptionally well produced magazine, this issue 32 includes an interesting range of poetry. In issue 26 the editor, John Wakeman, did an analysis of themes which predominated in the magazine. This led him to ask for more poetry on politics, war and terrorism. This call has been answered and recent issues have contained a selection of poetry on these topics.

This issue continues that trend with poems by Odessa-born Ilya Kaminsky entitled 9a.m. Bombardment and We Lived Happily During the War, a poem by Monica Corish about her mother getting tipsy to celebrate the losing of his seat by a TD she hated and I Dream of Being Your Dictator on a County Council Ticket by Terry McDonagh which begins:

I am your bank. I made the map. I drew
all the boundaries, paid for lampposts,
cut down forests, wrote statutory laws,
saw to it that town limits
were protected by walls and spotlights.

. . .

I am in charge of your dreams.
I never miss a funeral.

Two poets we have published in Boyne Berries are included. Patricia Byrne has a poem which deals with Obama's inauguration and Synge's walking in the Mullet Peninsula:

In Washington and Erris
ancestors on our tongues.

Deborah Tyler-Bennett is also included.

Michael Longley and Paula Meehan are here as well. Paula's long poem is in terza rima, three lines stanzas with an interlocking rhyming scheme. Indeed, I notice that quite a number of poems in this issue are in three line stanzas though no other one seems to have asimilar rhyming scheme.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Boyne Readings - Kate Dempsey

Our monthly Boyne Readings and Open Mic continue on next Thursday April 15 at 8pm when the featured reader will be Kate Dempsey (above).

The Readings takes place monthly on the third Thursday in The Village Hall, Knightsbridge Village, Longwood Road, Trim. Each night features one or two well known writers who read from their work. This is followed by an open mic session where everyone is welcome to read their own work. Time is allocated according to the number of readers. Just come along on the night and sign in. Admission 5 euro, Tea/Coffee, Biscuits.

Attendance has fluctuated between fifteen and thirty and the event is well supported by our own members and members of Meath Writers Circle.

Kate Dempsey
is originally from Coventry and now lives with her family in Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Her poetry and fiction have been widely published in Ireland and the UK including in THE SHOp, Poetry Ireland Review, Boyne Berries, Abridged, Orbis, Newleaf and Revival among others. She has been nominated for, and won many prizes including The Francis MacManus, Cecil Day Lewis and Hennessy awards for Poetry and for Fiction.

Kate loves to blur the wobbly boundaries between page and stage, particularly with the
Poetry Diva Collective who read at festivals and events countrywide. Her blog is here.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Adultress - Noelle Harrison

I don't read many novels these days but recently read the latest novel by Noelle Harrison, The Adultress. Noelle has launched an issue of Boyne Berries for us and gave the Boyne Writers a workshop a couple of years ago so she sends us invites to her launches. I got the latest book at her launch in Dublin but only read it recently.

It's the story of two people who lived in the same house in Cavan, June Fanning who came there from England with her Irish husband in 1941 and Nicholas Healy who has come there in the present, escaping his wife who has had an affair. June's ghost haunts the house and Nicholas hears her story from a lady who had been her friend.

It's a complicated novel with many layers of meaning and suffering which are gradually revealed. What I liked especially was the way the novel was composed. For the most part alternate short chapters present the story from the points of view of the two main characters.

It has its moments of humour also. There is a great scene where a husband suspects his wife is having an affair with Nicholas (She isn't - yet) and arrives at the house one night with a chainsaw. He proceeds to attack and lay waste the apple trees in the orchard.

Irish Independent review

Sean Rocks talking to Noelle Harrison on RTE

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My Primrose

This has been a slow, late, old fashioned spring after the longest, hardest winter the UK (and Ireland) has known for thirty years according to this article in the Guardian. But at last my primroses have appeared about two week later than last year. If they were people the daffodils would be the showy, publicity- seeking, limelight grabbing ones, the primroses quiet shy dependable ones.

Patrick Kavanagh has a poem, Primrose, which starts:

Upon a bank I sat, a child made seer
Of one small primrose flowering in my mind.
Better than wealth it is, I said, to find
One small page of Truth’s manuscript made clear.

Whole poem here.
The poem is mentioned here in this article about the spirituality of Kavanagh.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Poetry Magazine USA

Just got the April issue of the US Poetry Magazine. Over the years I've subscribed to quite a few magazines but with the recession and retirement I've had to cut down the number. I like this one though. It doesn't threaten you. It doesn't feel like a "journal of record". It seems to publish a wide range of styles and indeed quite a few Irish poets have featured in its pages.

This issue is called The Q and A issue. I haven't seen a previous similar issue. The idea is that the editors ask the published poets questions about their poems and print the Q and A after the poems. It works well and makes a nice feature though I had to stop myself reading the Q and A first before I read the poem.

The questions are well thought out. Poets don't mind being asked about a poem so long as they are not asked What does it mean? or even worse What is this poem about?

None of the poets in this issue were familiar to me. The poem which interested me most was by Donald Revell and was entitled Homage to John Frederick Peto. Peto we learn in the Q and A was an American artist (1854-1907). The final stanza of the poem is, to my mind, striking with that quality of simple language and phrases expressing something not quite within reach:

Creation’s a funny word.
I think of noises rounding a corner
Becoming names, and then a child for each
Of the names climbs down the sun.
Creation’s the soul of haphazard.
I was old. I was young. I was old again.
Anymore Johnny, all I feel is fine.

The questioner did ask about the first and last lines of this stanza.

You can read the full issue here.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Painting for Good Friday

This is from the wonderful exhibition in the National Gallery London, The Sacred Made Real, which I saw in January just before it closed. This is Saint Luke Contemplating the Crucifixion by Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664) from the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.

From the exhibition website: A painter, with palette and brush at hand, stands before Christ on the cross. He is identifiable as Luke the Evangelist, the patron saint of painters. Zurbarán's dramatic composition, in which the figures are illuminated like actors on a stage, invites viewers to question whether Saint Luke is contemplating a vision of the Crucifixion, or looking at a painting he has just finished or even a sculpture he has polychromed.

One of the aims of the exhibition was to show side by side some ploychromed sculptures and paintings which were influenced by them. The highlights of the exhibition are still online here and you notice how difficult it is to tell whether each image is of a painting or a sculpture.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Gender Balance in Boyne Berries

Emerging Writer has an interesting blog entry on the subject of Sexual Imbalance in Poetry Competitions? It made me go and look at the gender balance in the recent issue of Boyne Berries. We published 49 pieces in the magazine, 28 by women, 21 by men. We got submissions from 109 writers, 46 of whom were women. So it appears that we may be slightly imbalanced in favour of women.

We had a team of four Group members (three male one female) who looked at the submissions and advised me (male) on publication or not. These did not know the identity or gender of the writers.

The issue of gender balance seems to me to be a minefield. Are there clearly set out rules? Should the percentage of each gender published reflect the percentage of submissions by that gender? Surely not. Should there be a 50-50 divide in the magazine? Surely not but a regular imbalance on one side or the other would surely indicate that something is wrong.

I seem to remember a recent controversy possibly in the pages of Poetry Review where someone either suggested that only women should review books of poetry by women or complained that books of poetry by women were only being reviewed by women.

It reminds me of a case some time ago when there was a review of gender imbalance and stereotyping in Irish textbooks. One publisher was criticised for having a scene where a father read a goodnight story to his son on the basis that the gender count was males 2, females 0. The publisher responded saying that they were deliberately trying to redress a gender stereotype by having the father read the story. Difficult to get it right.