MPT is nearly fifty years old. It is one of the oldest poetry magazines in the UK and it has consistently published the very best poetry in the very best English translations. Over the last fifty years it has had relatively few editors – I’m only the third shift. Ted Hughes and Danny Weissbort oversaw its beginnings, and Danny continued to edit MPT until 2003. David and Helen Constantine took on the editorship in 2003 and relinquished it ten years later. It’s a congenial job. The submissions are exceptional and varied, the contributors and readers are modest, passionate devotees of world poetry, and there is a sense that MPT is vital for the poetry community’s well being – part of our common history. For such a quietly revolutionary magazine, its name is everywhere: I stumbled upon MPT in Dennis O’Driscoll’s marvellous book of interviews with Seamus Heaney only recently. It has been essential reading for generations of poets with an interest in the wider world of poetry.
MPT is changing. The spirit will remain entirely the same, but the shape and design of the magazine have changed to reflect the new stage in its life. We have moved to three issues a year, and, as soon as funds allow, MPT will become a quarterly magazine with a magazine-style distribution as well as subscriptions. This Spring MPT will be available as an e-book for the very first time (from May).
From now on each issue has a focus section. This issue’s focus is on Dutch poetry, and the extraordinary renaissance of poetry in the Netherlands. There are plans to look at Brazilian, Romanian, Polish, Russian and Korean poetry. In Autumn 2014 we will focus on the poetry of the Great War.
But the most obvious change is the change in design. We have been working with the University of Reading’s Department of Typography & Graphic Communication on a new MPT. Designer Katy Mawhood based the new design on back issues from the 60s, 70s and 80s: we’ve returned to the old bible paper, and simplicity of typeface. You may like to read her thoughts on the design of MPT.
Each cover will be a specially commissioned piece of artwork from an international artist. This issue’s cover is by Perienne Christian. Her drawing ‘Transmogrification’ is a response to Toon Tellegen’s new work, in Judith Wilkinson’s translation.
Toon Tellegen’s collection Raptors won the Popescu Prize in 2011 and for this issue I interviewed Judith and Toon to find out how this weird and haunting series of poems found its voice in English. The interview offers some lovely insights into the world of Dutch proverbs, illustrating small furry animals and the use of mutating expressions in place of a rhyme scheme. But it also sets out Judith’s very clear and careful understanding of the translator’s role, her persistent optimism that ‘what can be expressed in one language must somehow be expressible in another too’. Toon’s new poems are set alongside poems by Menno Wigman, translated by David Colmer, and Ester Perquin, winner of this year’s VSB Poetry Prize, in Paul Vincent’s translations. Ester gives this issue its title: Strange Tracks.
The issue opens with some playful but deadly serious poems about Mexico and the Narco War. These poems by Luis Felipe Fabre are intriguing not just for their provocative irony, but also for the way the translator Cutter Streeby has brought them into English, following Spanish punctuation and syntax in a visually striking way. Strange Tracks also features Chinese, Peruvian, Argentinian, French and Anglo-Saxon translations, and some versions by poets Frances Leviston and Stuart Henson.
You’ll find some brilliant poems in this spring issue of MPT – don’t be put off by the length of the new translation of Baudelaire’s ‘Le Voyage’ by Australian poet Jan Owen. It’s a tour-de-force translation of an important and rarely translated poem.
It is also pleasing that there are a number of new friends in this issue, as well as some MPT stalwarts like Cameron Hawke-Smith, for example, whose Rilke translations are as precise and monumental as the originals. There is much work to be done to increase our readership and make MPT a truly international magazine, but we shall not forget our touchstone: the continuing MPT community, those special people who believe poetry translation matters.