This is the question I was pondering while reading the latest issue of New Walk (Nº8) last night.
First off, there's the role of the editor (Rory Waterman, Nick Everett and Libby Peake in this case). A decent analogy is with a commercial agent. Mediocre ones just offer loads of decent products to the buyer/reader, hoping that one or two might hit the mark. Good ones, meanwhile, help the buyer/reader to focus by following clear personal criteria and making an excellent, subjective pre-selection. This filtering doesn't mean that choice or taste are limited, rather that surprises are positive.
Secondly, I love encountering the combination of fresh work by poets I recognise alongside verse from names I've never seen before. Again, those commercial agents/editors are enabling the buyer/reader to make discoveries. Poetry magazines should feel sparklingly new, an exciting snapshot of the moment, never a two-year-old backlog.
In New Walk 8 there were pieces from Dan Wyke and Fiona Moore. I've previously enjoyed books by both these poets, so it was intriguing to get a hint of where they are heading at the moment.
At the same time, a new name caught my eye, just like Hannah Lowe's verse in The Rialto a few years ago or Stephen Payne's work in an early issue of New Walk. On this occasion, I loved James Davey's two poems. They were packed with textured yet restrained language that was cleverly yoked to its content and narrative drive. I'll be looking out for more of his writing from now on. Now that's what makes for a great poetry magazine!
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