The subversion of the lyric mode

An interview with Sophie Collins

I'm starting this series with a poet currently based in Northern Ireland, Sophie Collins. Sophie edits the journal tender, and she's writing a dissertation on translation at Queen's in Belfast. I wrote to her out of the blue when I read a few of her poems on The Lifeboat, the webpage for a reading series in Belfast.

Sophie, to start, could you tell me a little about your magazine tender, which you edit with Rachael Allen? How it came about, what kinds of poets you hope to feature?

I recently wrote a blurb for tender, so I'll paste this in: tender—'a quarterly journal made by women'—is an online platform promoting work by female-identified writers and artists. Having launched in June 2013, the journal is now approaching its sixth issue, and to date has published work by contributors including Eileen Myles, Emily Berry, Emily Toder, Fiona Benson, Vahni Capildeo, Lisa Robertson, and Mary Ruefle. In her introduction to the journal for The Quietus, Katherine Angel wrote: "tender is grappling, I think, with Denise Riley's claim in Am I That Name that "both concentration on and refusal of the identity of 'women' are essential to feminism."

The journal came out of a number of frustrations. Firstly was a dearth of female-identified online journals in the UK—we were able to point to a lot of quality US-based platforms that were doing a fantastic job of showcasing writing by women, but felt there were no equivalents here. We were also reeling from the disconcerting gender stats in literary publishing as collated by VIDA, and fed up with the ways women were being represented in the reviews and the books and the poems.

So we were angry, and, as Lisa Robertson said in an interview with CWILA, anger can become productive. It can also "aerate the debilitating sadness that is another response to the rampant institutional misogyny that structures much public and commercial discourse." [Side note: while in the early stages of planning we were advised by a male poet to channel our anger into some form of physical exercise.]

Past issues of tender have offered a mix of diverse work by US- and UK-based poets. We don't have any prerequisites in terms of style, though looking through our archive I'm tempted to say that the poetry we've accepted and/or solicited has often been concerned—in a huge variety of ways—with the subversion of the lyric mode.

[Part two of the interview will come later this weekend.]