Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Acceptance: Ink, Sweat and Tears


Ink, Sweat and Tears has been offering well-wrought poetry since 2006, and is clearly an important and even crucial presence on the UK literary scene. The name of the journal implies intense struggle to achieve rare excellence, and this theme is deeply embedded in its fabric, perhaps in ways unintended.

I was struck by the Publisher’s bio:

Kate Birch took over the management of Ink Sweat & Tears in April 2011. She has never had any claims to be a poet. Indeed in response to her attempt to get on a poetry course at the University of Toronto in the 1980s, its tutor referred to her submissions as “doggerel” and “a complete waste of my time.” She survived this, at the time, rather traumatic setback and has spent the intervening decades researching and writing about subjects as varied as 18th Century politics, machine tools and tap dancing.

What a harsh and ridiculous statement from the tutor! This brutal story adds considerably, I think, to the pith of the words “ink, sweat, and tears.”

The bio of the Editor, Helen Ivory, is not quite so stark, but it is obvious she works very hard and faces a tough solo task, while being humble and intimately connected to the passion of writing:

Helen Ivory started as Deputy Editor at IS&T in 2010, and is now sole editor. She was born in Luton but now lives Norwich with her husband, the poet Martin Figura where they run the live-lit organization Cafe Writers.

Her fourth Bloodaxe Books collection is Waiting for Bluebeard (2013). She is co-editor, with George Szirtes of In their Own Words: Contemporary Poets on their Poetry (Salt, September 2012). She is an editor for The Poetry Archive and teaches for the Arvon Foundation, the UEA and for The Poetry School. She is also an artist and makes poem boxes, which she regularly posts onto her website.

The poetry at IS&T lives up to the ambience of assiduous struggle. In fact, I just looked over the September offerings again, and they drew me right in. My heart is still beating from the work of Geoffrey Heptonstall, Daniel Williams, Miklós Radnóti, and Rafael Ayala Paez. I had to scroll down a bit to find some women -- Lisa Oliver and Zara Raab -- and they are phenomenal too.

My favorite poems from the above are the one by Oliver, for its aesthetic yet keen study of identity, and the one by Radnóti, which is sheer genius in its dithyrambic fugue.

Ink, Sweat and Tears is a fantastic, emotion-gripping journal. You don’t want to miss the eclectic and cosmopolitan selection of poems, ranging from the philosophical to the feverishly passionate. I haven't felt this moved in a while, and I study poetry constantly.

It is a tremendous honor to be accepted. My impression is that Helen Ivory is a very special leader and source of inspiration in the poetry world.


PS: The poem taken is “To Be a Fly,” a mini-allegory of child abuse, which will appear sometime in autumn.


  1. Hi Chris, Congratulations. I also have a bit of 'doggerel' on IS&T but it's way back; even before the era of Ivory.

  2. Thanks for stopping in. It is always appreciated!

    I couldn't believe that discouragin "doggerel" comment by the tutor. Hopefully that extremely adversarial style is a dinosaur of the past.