The London Magazine interviews Steven O’Brien, editor of The London Magazine ahead of their first general poetry competition.


The London Magazine have begun running more writing competitions in the past few years with the next one coming up in May. Why do you think competitions are so important?

Competitions are a crucial way of showcasing new and established poets. Since the process contains an aspect of anonymity the poems are judged solely on merit.

When selecting poetry for the magazine what do you look for?

Poetry that acknowledges the tropes of the past but offers something fresh in shape, structure and theme. Poetry that shows rather than tells. Poetry that is wholly alive to the possibilities of sensory language, cadences and vivacity of impact.


What should you avoid doing when submitting poetry?

Slack, telling poetry. Poetry that is dull and lacks the living chime of taut charged language. The long rambling line.


What poets do you admire the most and why?

So many, so many. Seamus Heaney, for his ability to conjure dancing poetry from the mud and slurry. Philip Larkin, for his keen ‘look in the mirror’ wit and lyricism. Keats, for his soaring ability to sheer through the fetters that tie us to the ground. Yeats, for his sense of generation and alarm and love. Edward Thomas, for his quiet foray into the heart of Englishness. Rumi, for his riddling, joyful Sufism. Ted Hughes, for his dark and feral gaminess. Moniza Alvi, for her elastic poems of colour and spice. And on and on and on…


What do you think forms a successful poet?

Read widely and deeply. Serve your poetic apprentiship, but do not be slavish. Write, write and write. Craft and redraft. Try always to be daring, and specific.


The London Magazine has recently recreated its publishing wing for the digital age as TLM Editions eBooks. What opportunities do you think this new venture offers?

There is an avid enthusiasm for writing, in all forms. By publishing eBooks The London Magazine is expanding its traditional role of promoting and curating varied and dazzling new writing. The possibilities are just unfolding, but TLM Editions will give the magazine a truly international impact.


Do you think there is more creative freedom with eBooks?

The eBook phenomenon is a spectrum. At one end there is an opportunity for essentially democratic vanity publishing. At the other, the large publishers have entered with all of their marketing and established names. The London Magazine will offer something different from both – a confident framing of poetry, fiction and memoir.


Is there anything you can tell us about what’s happening with The London Magazine this year?

We are publishing an edition of Edward Lucie-Smith’s collected poetry. We are launching a campaign to have Byron’s statue moved to a more accessible site. We have plans to publish two more eBook collections. And some surprises!

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