Since I started putting together the first issue of Acumen thirty-two years
ago, the job of being an editor has become increasingly harder. For a start,
there is the increasing volume of poems which arrive on one’s desk. Poets
no longer have the fag of printing a poem, writing a covering letter,
finding envelope and stamp then popping it in a post box. A few minutes
at a desk, a few keys pressed, and poems can arrive anywhere in the world.
And with the rise of creative writing courses, degrees etc, it often seems,
as John Heath Stubbs once said, as if everyone now is an aspiring poet.
No wonder so many of the so-called ‘prestigious’ magazines commission
much of their work, making it evermore difficult for beginners to get
started. Yet reading so many poems gives an editor a unique glimpse (no
more) into the zeitgeist, into people’s concerns. When one finds a good
poem, the wonderful feeling of discovery makes an editor’s day.
Which leads me onto another point. Along with the rise of new
poets comes reading and thinking about the submissions. Because craft
is taught, the editor’s job now is to distinguish between competant, wellcrafted
poems which say something (even if trivial) and competant,
well-crafted poems which say something, and say it with feeling. As there
are fewer of the latter poems arriving on desks, an issue of a magazine is
often filled with the best of the well-crafted poems which appeal to the
And then there is keeping the magazine afloat financially. Over
thirty years, printing costs have soared, and now postal charges can cripple
a magazine. To send a copy of Acumen to some overseas subscribers can
cost more than an individual copy. Yet more and more poems by overseas
writers are being accepted, thanks to the internet. So Acumen would like
to acknowledge the support it has received over its long life from the Arts
Council, which helped overcome some of these problems.
This editorial probably seems like a good moan, but it isn’t. I just
wanted to pass on to the magazine’s readers some of the things which lie
behind the copies of the magazine which arrive through your door.