When I was updating magazines for my list (here), I added The Poetry Bus at the request of a reader. I wanted to know more about this magazine so asked editors, Peadar and Collette O’Donoghue to fill me in.
Can you tell me how and when The Poetry Bus emerged?
Hello, thank you so much for inviting us here to the poetry shed!
Back in the late 90s I (Peadar)was a compulsive blogger and the seed of PB was a one-off exercise among bloggers to write something at the same moment in time across the world to see if there was any, however ethereal ,connection in our poems, to see if we simultaneously tapped into some kind of zeitgeist. We didn’t, but it was fun and people really responded and enjoyed it, and enjoyed reading other people’s poems, so I decided to set a weekly writing task every Monday as a way of brightening up the worst day of the week. It really took off and got quite a following. It felt like people were going on a weekly journey together and the idea of a bloggy poetry bus was formed. Over the months the ‘Poetry Bus’ following grew and though most of the bloggers had never been published the quality of some of the work was pretty good. Peadar decided these people, these poems, deserved to be published alongside better known poets and so a terrible beauty was born! Issue Number One (Autumn 2010) was small and stapled and had black and white illustrations with a full colour pull out poster. It was a very special little magazine indeed!
What do you look for when selecting poetry?
It’s great having Collette on board in the last couple of years, at first as art editor but now she helps choose the poems too. It’s important to have not just a woman, but a reader of poetry rather than a writer of one, to give a perfect balance.
We look for something that grabs us, something that makes us read on willingly from line to line. If that happens to be in a poem that has a message, so much the better. We get so many submissions now that the appeal has to be almost immediate, a gut reaction as much as a cerebral one. We use our heads but heart and gut are where our favourite poems hit us. We usually get a yes or a no within the first few lines, ‘maybes’ are put to one side and re-read, sometimes several times!
So what we are looking for is simply a poem that interests us, and that can be almost anything, even a haiku. (Peadar is jokingly the president of PAH, Poets Against Haiku).
What turns you off?
A villanelle will really struggle to win us over! But we never say never, prove us wrong, send us a villanelle that we can’t resist! (Good luck with that!) Despite the presidency of PAH there was a sequence of 12 haiku in PB$, so we are open to anything good!
Having just mentioned trying to tap into a zeitgeist earlier, it is funny how there will be a common thread among many submissions, apart from old faithfuls like the stars etc. we have strangely noticed a lot of seagulls in poems, they seem to be on a lot of people’s minds lately! Who’d have thought?
It’s no mean feat now getting into PB, the standard is very high, George Szirtes’ poem ‘Like that Raw Engine’ from PB$ for example, was entered into the Forward Prize for best single poem and received a ‘highly commended’ from the judges. WE look forward to seeing it again in the 2016 Forward Book of Poetry.
How many issues do you do a year and what can a subscriber get from them?
Our ambition was to have three issues per year, in reality we are virtually an annual feast. Money (the lack of) and life (too much of) getting in the way of our heady ambitions. Issues one, two, three and five have sold out, but PB4 and PB$, both with accompanying CDs of music and spoken word, are available from our website and The Winding Stair Bookshop Dublin, Books Upstairs Dublin, Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop Galway, Alan Hanna’s Bookshop Rathfarnham.
You’ll get an eclectic mix of top poetry, flash fiction, graphic short stories, articles, reviews, full colour artwork in a top quality perfect bound magazine of 100+ pages plus an audio CD. All for €10!
I see in your shop you have pamphlets – can you tell me about those and any future plans you have in the medium?
Our first pamphlet, The Geometry of Love Between the Elements, by Fióna Bolger, was a bit special so we called it a grimoire. It was very exciting to publish our first solo production and Fiona was a great poet to work with, she made the whole process a pleasure. It is perfect bound with end papers and wonderful illustrations by Vani Vemparala and a few translations into Irish by Antain Mac Lochlainn, Polish by Aleksandra Kubiak, and Tamil by R. Vatsala. Copies are still available on the website, from Fióna herself, and in the bookshops mentioned previously.
Our next pamphlet will be DUB(H)LIN(N)20 Poems of the City, by Séamas Carraher. It’s an ambivalent punchy, earthy, downbeat and definitive prayer-song to the dirty old town of Dublin. We can’t wait to see it in print.
More exciting news is that we will be publishing Melissa Diem’s first collection, This Is What Happened. Melissa is also a talented short film maker so poems from her book will link to films that can be viewed online. The whole package will be quite something so we are really excited about this project and very pleased to be the ones to publish Melissa’s work.
With PB6 in the pipeline that’s about all we can manage at the moment, specially as Peadar is getting his second Salmon collection, The Death of Poetry, together. The goats are a great help so we are sure we will manage. Thanks again for letting us leave our shed to visit yours!