Thursday, 5 July 2018

Back to the future: an update from editor Tom Sastry

A quick update from Tom Sastry, editor for our anthology of future poems!

We recently submitted our longlist for the Future anthology. We are reading blind so we don’t know who is on it but poets were contacted by Emma Press last week. The quality was high and the poems wonderfully varied. Decisions were not easy.

We have undoubtedly overlooked poems which would have improved the book. Many of the poems we have not chosen will find publication elsewhere. We will read some of those and wonder why we didn’t see their virtues more clearly. We look forward to being proved wrong many times.

In the original invitation, we tried to suggest different ways people might approach the theme. No single approach has dominated. The longlist contains poets who have addressed the future obliquely by showing the present as an arbitrary vantage point; poems about the near future set in a world that is recognisably our own; poems set in futures where life is very different to life today and (perhaps unsurprisingly given our preoccupations) poems about the end of the world or something very like it.

The thing the longlisted poems have in common is this: they inhabit their own settings. They show a willingness to leave the concerns of our time behind; to create rather than merely observe or comment. It is hard to do this – it is much easier to consider the future as an extension of our ideas about the present: an unfolding of events which will vindicate our hopes, fears and beliefs.

The poets we have longlisted have performed the essential act of imagination. The concerns of the present are there, of course, but there is something else: a distinctive take on what might be and a willingness to follow it into unexpected places.

At the same time they have produced real poems. It is one thing to create a convincing future world in thousands of words of prose; it is much harder to set a poem there without resorting to long passages of scene-setting or description. It requires a poet’s understanding of what the reader needs and what they can be left to imagine for themselves.

If you are on the longlist, it means we love your work and would like, if possible, to include it in the book. Unfortunately, we don’t have space for you all. The decisions only get harder from here.

P.S. November sees the publication of this. The poems in this book are the reason I was so excited to be invited to work with Suzannah on this project. They are extraordinary.

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