Is 30 the official coming of age for a poet these days? Why 30? Has the long arm of the Eric Gregory Awards had an influence?
Unfortunately not. I think – and here I risk ranting again – there’s this expectation that in poetry you ‘work upwards’. You start off young and you write and wait and then you’re old and established. Reward is, staggered. I think that devalues the work you do when you’re eighteen and twenty eight, which is just as important as the work you might produce when you’re thirty eight or sixty eight. Young people, in this moment, are among the most undervalued and also the most precarious in society. We’re the first generation to have it worse than our parents. There are people like Laurie Penny in the UK who are documenting these effects, their emotional, physical, social toll. You hear things like ‘generation rent’ and it’s sad, and true. A lost generation! Except there’s less absinthe and, fortunately, less Hemingway. And the fact is that the upwards mobilization of people in this society no longer applies. We are expected to conform to those patterns of success, but denied the tools and privilege to achieve it. And we don’t necessarily want mortgages or families. Maybe we just want a little space, you know
The Eric Gregory is cool so far as it goes, but I’m more worried about the magazines and presses that say you have to have a track record when publishing. One even says, ‘don't even bother submitting if you don't already have a pamphlet and record of publication’. Why? Poetry isn't marketable guys! Do it because it’s exciting. A lot of these magazines just sound bored of poetry. They sound like the guardians of this decrepit temple that might collapse at any time and are tasked with having to bear its heavy load into the future. Art isn’t a time-capsule. It’s a current practice. Do it now!
I think this is also reflected in submissions requirements. Hard copy only submissions need to end in 2016. Yes, there are arguments for and against, but as I see it, and have personally experienced it, hard copy submissions aren’t accessible to people on low incomes, in precarious jobs, to poets who are overworking to feed families on the bread line, to people with disabilities. I think presses should at least offer an option for people to send email submissions. I think they'll find this easier to manage than it seems from the outside. By favouring offline submissions, there's a very real risk you're cutting yourself off from a vein of different poetry.