It’s really pleasing to see how Cordite Poetry Review has flourished since Kent MacCarter took the reins back in 2012. Kent has truly injected a new sense of energy to the journal, and has just published the journal’s 50th full issue, NO THEME IV, featuring 50 new poems edited by John Tranter and a whole swag of goodies including podcasts, films, essays and reviews.
What a great issue!
It’s also gratifying to see that what was really just a whimsical idea at the time—namely, a Cordite issue without a theme—has now taken hold and reached its fourth iteration.
During my time as Managing Editor, I was always adamant that we needed themes, and by and large they worked out (I especially loved our Zombie 2.0 issue, Children of Malley I and II, our Epic and Post-Epic issues and, of course, the behemoth that is/was Oz–Ko).
Nevertheless, it’s also cool that the idea of an issue without a theme has become a running theme in itself.
In his editorial, Tranter discusses his experience of blind submissions (I’m pretty sure Cordite was one of the first, and perhaps still one of the few Australian literary journals to insist on anonymous submissions of poems—correct me if I’m wrong). He says:
But what of this process of judging blind, new to me, where I am prevented from knowing the names or identities of the people submitting? It’s a good thing, of course, because the editor can’t play favourites, if that’s what it’s designed to do. But let me grumble a little. It often seems to me that readers want the editor to play favourites . . .
Only a modern arts bureaucrat would invent anonymous submitters: that way you are likely to get a lot of anonymous poems. But bureaucrats don’t live in the world of writers and readers, of course, and they think that anonymity means balance.
But what did I find sifting through this largely anonymous pile of some thousand or more poems? (largely anonymous, because a few writers insisted in adding their real names to their submissions … I wonder why?) In the end I found it refreshing, to be honest.
John Tranter, Editorial (Cordite #50)
I’m not sure if I should be worried about possibly being characterised as a modern arts bureaucrat—if that’s true, I want backpay for 12 years’ worth of unpaid labour—but in the end I respect the fact that not everyone will agree with the anonymous submissions policy.
Of course, those who don’t agree with Cordite’s policy have quite a number of other journals to which they’re very free (and welcome) to submit. I do, however, like the fact that JT found the process of choosing submissions ‘refreshing’ and have to laugh at the sneakiness of some contributors in insisting on putting their name in the document—it used to happen all the time when I was collating submissions for Cordite. I’d just delete the whole thing and send them a rejection note.
Anyway, enough about me.
Get thee to the index page and check out the poems in Cordite’s 50th issue, then listen to a recording of John Tranter and John Forbes in conversation from 1987 in which Forbes critiques both old Europe and his own social inadequacies, and reads a poem about Frank O’Hara and Actifed CC.