PN Review

Special Collection

A collection to celebrate the two hundred and fiftieth issue of PN Review.


Foreword by Michael Schmidt, Editor of PN Review

The life expectancy of poetry magazines is often a butterfly’s span. Few reach ten issues, fewer still a hundred. To reach 250 issues over five decades is evidence of editorial tenacity and conviction. The twenty-five poems collected here are by poets who have been part of a long journey which has included an IRA bomb that destroyed the editorial offices in 1996, the turn of a millennium, the birth of the electric typewriter, the laptop computer and digital media, and much more. Four of the poets here featured in the very first issue of Poetry Nation (1973), and four feature in the 250th issue (November-December 2019). Paul Muldoon said, ‘It's been going so long that many of us have all but forgotten what the P and the N stand for. I think of them as opening and closing the word Provocation. And that's why I so love the magazine.' Here are poets who saw service in the First and Second World Wars and others who are relative newcomers on the poetry stage. Voices speak from the four corners of the Anglophone world. The poems celebrate risk and continuity. We celebrate with twenty-five memorable discoveries and epiphanies.

The Lost Woman

Patricia Beer

My mother went with no more warning

Than a bright voice and a bad pain.

Home from school on a June morning

And where the brook goes under the lane


Tara Bergin

I waited until everyone was out of the house.

I waited until there was nothing on the horizon;

nothing in the diary;

nothing in my notebook;

A Different History

Sujata Bhatt

Great Pan is not dead;

he simply emigrated

to India.

Here, the gods roam freely,


Alison Brackenbury

These are not (you understand) the figures

which send cold judgement into the backbone

which leave us, workless, shrunk at home

staring in a sky grown black with leaves.

On Not Writing As A West Indian Woman

Vahni Capildeo

If you get my drift. She –

not containing oceans,

nor a spice triangle,

won’t boast that cinnamon


Elaine Feinstein

Your old hat hurts me, and those black

fat raisins you liked to press into

my palm from your soft heavy hand:

I see you staggering back up the path

Elegy for a Soldier

Marilyn Hacker

The city where I knew you was swift.

A lover cabbed to Brooklyn

(broke, but so what) after the night shift

in a Second Avenue ...

Next Door Despised

Sophie Hannah

Next door despised

your city. The would much prefer a town.

Your tree – they’d like a twig.

Your oil rig,

Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era

Oli Hazzard

Marge, let’s send a sadness telegram.

I roamed under it as a tired, nude Maori.

No trace, not one carton.

Inscription for a Scented Garden for the Blind

John Heath Stubbs

Wayfarer, pause. Although you may not see,

Earth's bright children, herbs and flowers, are here:

It is their small essential souls that greet you,

Mounted upon the morning or evening air:

Rembrandt's Late Self-Portraits

Elizabeth Jennings

You are confronted with yourself. Each year

The pouches fill, the skin is uglier.

You give it all unflinchingly. You stare

Into yourself, beyond. Your brush's care


Mimi Khalvati

Beyond the view of crossroads ringed with breath

her bed appears, the old-rose covers death

has smoothed and stilled; her fingers lie inert,

her nail-file lies beside her in its sheath.

Blues for Titania

RF Langley

The beetle runs into the future. He takes

to his heels in an action so frantic its

flicker seems to possess the slowness of deep

water. He has been green. He will be so yet.

The Polar Explorer's Love Song

Bill Manhire

The goddess Hypothermia

came and held me tight

and as we kissed we drifted

in the pale, pure light.

Elegy of the Flowing Touch

Christopher Middleton

Almost anywhere there's a poem lying around

Waiting for someone to lift it up, dust it off,

For instance, the argument with a neighbour

About a large dog: was it a German Shepherd

What the evangelist should have said

Kei Miller

An American evangelist, preaching salvation,

said it was like being on one side of a river, Jesus

on the other, arms long as forever reaching

to lift you over. But we only knew hope river,


Sinéad Morrissey

A beautiful cloudless morning. My toothache better.

William at work on The Pedlar. Miss Gell

left a basket of excellent lettuces; I shelled

Soldiers Bathing

F T Prince

The sea at evening moves across the sand.

Under a reddening sky I watch the freedom of a band

Of soldiers who belong to me. Stripped bare

For bathing in the sea, they shout and run in the warm air;

You've Ruined My Evening / You've Ruined My Life

Tom Raworth

i would be eight people and then the difficulties vanish

only as one i contain the complications

in a warm house roofed with the rib-cage of an elephant

i pass my grey mornings re-running the reels

Rhapsody on Red Admirals

Edgell Rickword

That March the cottage was alive with wings.

They yearned for the garden, fluttered on the panes.

"Cannot you see there are no leaves yet,

and rime whitens the twigs?

Snakeshead Fritillaries

Anne Ridler

Some seedlings shoulder the earth away

Like Milton's lion plunging to get free,

Demanding notice. Delicate rare fritillary,

You enter creeping, like the snake

The Nondescript

Peter Scupham

I am plural. My intents are manifold:

I see through many eyes. I am fabulous.

I assimilate the suffering of monkeys:

Tiger and musk-ox are at my disposal.

The Usk

C. H. Sisson

Such a fool as I am you had better ignore

Tongue twist, malevolent, fat mouthed

I have no language but that other one

His the Devil’s, no mouse I, creeping out of the cheese

A Rose for Janet

Charles Tomlinson

I know

this rose is only

an ink-and-paper rose

but see how it grows and goes

The only confirmed cast member is Ook the Owl, who has been tapped to play the snowy white owl who delivers mail for Harry

Jane Yeh

Claw up. Claw down. Cut.

My fine eyes. My fine eyes are - Cut.

I was fluffed & plucked, like a beauty-pageant winner,

Between takes. Like a news presenter.