A Note from the Poetry Editor
In the fall of 2012, I received a call from my friend, the painter Pat de Groot. She told me that Neil Astley was visiting her in Provincetown with the artist and filmmaker, Pamela Robertson-Pearce, and she asked if I wanted to meet them. Of course I did. I had admired Bloodaxe books for years, well before Neil edited the internationally best-selling anthology Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times. Since Neil founded the press in 1978, he has published more than a thousand books, more women poets than any other British publisher, and a substantial list of Caribbean and Black British poets. With Carcanet Press, Bloodaxe is the principal publisher of American poetry and poetry in translation in the United Kingdom.
The next day, I climbed the three flights of outdoor stairs to Neil and Pamela’s apartment on the top floor of Pat’s house overlooking Cape Cod Bay. During our conversation, I began to imagine how Ploughshares and Bloodaxe could join forces across the Atlantic in a mutual endeavor; soon after, I suggested to Ladette Randolph that Neil serve as a guest editor and she immediately embraced the idea.
The result is that, for the first time in its forty-three-year history, Ploughshares presents a transatlantic issue focusing entirely on poetry, a collection that exemplifies the qualities Neil has brought to his own publishing house: imagination, wit, gravity, and music. The reader will find here themes and strategies both kindred and contrasting. I was struck, for example, by the aural emphasis of the poems from the UK; the American poems seem set on common speech, often heightened in passages, but spoken words nevertheless. Above all, this selection of more than a hundred poets not only represents a diversity of cultures, but provides a forum where celebrated voices can be heard alongside those not yet well known.