Monday, March 07, 2011


It’s time there was a specific word for people singing the praises of The Dark Horse, which happens in spate roughly twice a year when a new issue comes out. It bills itself as the ‘Scottish American poetry magazine’ – the cover of the latest issue, number 26, contains a quotations from Dana Gioia calling it ‘Scotland’s finest international literary journal’ – but I prefer to think of it as simply one of the most elegantly readable English-language poetry magazines full stop. (It’s also one of the most beautiful – the same cover is perhaps the best yet, a block of typographical joy on a cream background.)

The Dark Horse is noticeable for the space given over to reviews and essays. It feels like an arena for intelligent, detailed literary discussion. For example, in this issue there’s a 20-page essay on Canadian poetry by Sean Haldane; a transcription of Dennis O’Driscoll’s StAnza conversation about Scots poetry with Seamus Heaney (and a reprint of Edwin Muir’s 1923 essay on Scottish ballads); two pieces on Edwin Morgan; and pieces on Larkin and Monica Jones, and Sarah Orne Jewett and Edwin Arlington Robinson. (Maybe Gerry Cambridge, the editor, was looking for Edwin-texts this issue...)

As for the poetry, no Edwins that I can see, just a typically interesting bunch of generally lucid and attractive pieces – so far I’ve been struck by those by Alasdair Gray, Matthew Sweeney and (unrhymed) Wendy Cope. I’m looking forward to the rest.

Website here (it doesn’t yet feature issue 26 as the current issue).


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