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PN Review turns 200 (or is that 39?)

  • Date: 22 September 2011
  • Area: London, North
Aerial view of table with wine glasses arranged in shape of PNR letters

Double celebration for 200th issue of PN Review. Credit: Courtesy of Carcanet

In a double celebration, the publication of the 200th issue of the poetry journal PN Review was celebrated both in Manchester, at the International Anthony Burgess Centre on 8 September 2011, and in London, at The Cartoon Museum on 12 September 2011.

PN Review was launched in Manchester 39 years ago by Carcanet, the independent literary publisher that made its home in Manchester 40 years ago. Young editors, and writers and commentators of all ages took part in a poetry celebration at the Manchester event at which Alison Boyle, Relationship Manager for Literature at Arts Council England, was invited to speak.

Patrick McGuiness, poet, critic and longlisted author in this year's Booker Prize and contributor to PN Review began with a lecture on Donald Davie, a co-founder of the poetry journal alongside CH Sisson and Michael Schmidt - managing director and editor at Carcanet.

The event provided fascinating insights into the debates conducted in poetry circles, including online forums. Patrick McGuiness proposed that integrity was a vital ingredient of being a good editor but that duplicity came in useful too. The discussion panel included Carol Rumens who runs a poetry blog for the Guardian.

The 150 guests at the London event included poet and translator Marilyn Hacker from Paris, poet and publisher Stanley Moss from New York, Michael Wood from Princeton, and poets, editors and readers from the UK and Ireland.

Kate Gavron, Chairman of Carcanet, welcomed the guests, and in addition to poetry readings Michael Schmidt summarised the magazine's history of 'resistance'. He said: 'The cartoons, from Hogarth to Marc, kept the celebrations firmly grounded in the real social and natural world where poetry, however high it climbs, is always rooted.'

The present Literature Director of the Arts Council, Antonia Byatt, and two of her predecessors, Gary McKeone and John Hampson, also attended the event.

Carcanet's launch of the complete digital archive of PN Review in January 2011 and a blogspot last month support Goal 2 of the Arts Council's strategy, Achieving great art for everyone, to strengthen the distribution of excellent art through touring and digital platforms. Readers and writers can access a rich resource of commentaries, reviews and the 300 or so new poems published every year in PN Review, both online and in print.

Alison Boyle said: 'When national portfolio organisations like Carcanet provide platforms for writers and editors to critique poetry and to debate with one another, they are making use of the tools of the day whilst looking to the future.'