So, here it all is, 16 issues of a poetry magazine spanning the years 1978 - 1993, and it's a stagger down memory lane for me and I hope it's an interesting and pleasurable something for you.

I should say at the outset that the idea of putting the entire run (such as it is) of canoes online was not mine. It sprang from the brain of my eldest son, Tim, which goes to show that even idiots can have genius offspring. (I have two, in fact, which goes to show that even idiots can have genius offspring twice.)

I read somewhere recently that the canoe is seen in some quarters as "legendary", which is very complimentary. I'm in no position to judge whether the magazine deserves that compliment, but it's very pleasing that some people think it does. It should go without saying, given that some of what is here happened more than 30 years ago (but I will say it anyway) there is some poetry inside these 16 issues that these days I probably would not publish, but since I'm guilty of writing some of it we should skip over that minor detail and concentrate on what's important. There is, thankfully, an enormous amount of poetry and writing here that knocks me out on seeing it again for the first time in many years and, I think, suggests that most of the time I knew what I was doing. Most of the time.

In what I call my mind, the canoe found its true and lasting direction after my discovery of New York School poetry and, with the help of Paul Violi, the establishing of friendships and connections with other American poets. Issue #8 is New York School, pure and simple, and from thereon I looked increasingly in that direction for poems (and reasons to continue living.)

Which leads me to a short explanation of what is on view here. The canoe began life as a mimeo magazine, produced on my friend Rupert Mallin's duplicating machine. With the help of some funding it was printed professionally, starting with #4. Four years (81 – 85) at university as a mature student somewhat interrupted things, and it was during this period that Keith Dersley edited the somewhat interim #7, which was mimeo'd. This period also saw the cheapo but very important #8, produced on a photocopier. I also around that time somewhat  rebelliously rebelled against financial assistance from the regional Arts Council, until I later less rebelliously changed my mind and the canoe became a larger, thicker beast, appearing just once a year. I note that some of the issues used blue ink. I don't think I'd have used blue ink if I'd known we would be doing this 30 years later. But if some of what is here is a little difficult to read because of the colour of the ink or the somewhat primitive method of production, believe me, it's usually worth squinting a bit.

Is joe soap's canoe legendary? I have no idea, but I'm very proud of it, and there are some great poems in it, from world famous poets like John Ashbery, and from people who I have no idea what became of them, and lots of people from in-between those two ends of the spectrum. One thing I'm pretty sure of is that nowhere else in the UK was doing the New York thing back in the late 80s and early 90s, though plenty of people now seem to claim some kind of affinity with the New York School even if the evidence of their own writings doesn't appear to support that claim. So it goes.

Why did it end? Well, 16 issues may not seem many, but 15 years is 15 years. I figured it was done. Or I was done with it. Or something. All I can really remember is I didn’t want to do it any more. I think probably I wanted to concentrate on my own work rather than other people's, which sounds selfish but, as anyone who has ever edited a poetry magazine will know (well, anyone with a critical brain and good taste, that is) sometimes the whole thing just sucks, and it's no fun having the wonderful aspects of poetry publishing constantly sullied by morons and moron-induced tedium. Mind you, avoiding morons in poetry world is more or less impossible, but having them send constant reminders to your house of just how bad poetry can be – well, it's okay for a while but you don't want it to go on for ever. Long story short: it was good while it lasted.

Finally, there are some thanks to be delivered, especially to my old friends, Rupert Mallin and Keith Dersley, who were there at the very beginning, working the duplicating machine with me, and have always been hugely important in my poetry life. Other people helped along the way, including Mark Hillringhouse, who gave me the entire set of his interviews with leading American poets, of which I was able to use only a few before I called it a day. I would also thank Paul Violi for his support and assistance were he still with us. He is greatly missed.

Thanks go also to those who helped us gather together all the issues of the magazine: to Rupert and Keith (again), and also to Bill Zavatsky, who helped track down the elusive but very important #8. British libraries have it, but their having it did not mean they were prepared to make a copy of it for us. But the University of Wisconsin had one, and Bill contacted the library there on my behalf. As a result, special thanks go to Susan Stravinsky at the Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison. In short, she saved the whole project.

Thanks are also due, of course, to all those who contributed to the magazine over the years, and whose work is resurrected here. Without them there would be nothing. As for those who on occasion felt mistreated or abused or insulted during those same years … well, whatever. The reviews section, when it existed, was always a lot of fun.

Last but not least, thanks to Tim who, in addition to having the idea to do this in the first place, then also did all the technical stuff. Even miserable bastards like me can have wonderful offspring, apparently.


Martin Stannard
Zhuhai, China
April 2015