*Disclaimer: Suggesting any of these are ‘frequently-asked questions’ is extremely misleading. In all honesty, I’ve never been asked any of them…
*Always bear in mind: “I think poets are not served by the existence of another mechanism of ranking, however sweet recognition may sound.” – Louise Glück (Introducing ‘The Best American Poetry’)
So, what is this?
As stated in last year’s intro, this is ‘a work of blatant sub-sanity that will offer little in the way of objective assessment.’ It’s also an attempt to address the mutterings about poetry cliques running the world of British publishing, a reading guide for anyone unfamiliar with contemporary poetry, and a way of satisfying my own urge to find out ‘who’s number one?’ (John Berryman’s question in the hours after Robert Frost’s death).
Where does the data come from?
Over the last few months, I’ve been looking through back issues of three major poetry magazines (Poetry Review, Poetry London, PN Review), yearly ‘best poetry’ round-ups in the national press, annual ‘best of’ anthologies (Salt’s Best British Poetry, The Forward Book of Poetry), and keeping tabs on the prize winners and nominees. Everything has been amalgamated together into one of the world’s most daunting spreadsheets, and I hope the result is a comprehensive overview of British poetry.
How far back does this go?
Because the survey is more comprehensive, I’ve decided to cover a smaller period than before. This year’s Poetry Premier League covers everything from the beginning of 2011 to the end of 2012.
Is this only about British poetry?
Not necessarily. This is a reflection of the poets who are being published in Britain and winning British awards; plenty of magazines are increasing their efforts to find new work from international writers, and awards such as the Forward Prize are (in theory) open to anyone writing in English. In fact, two of last year’s major prizes were won by Americans (Jorie Graham winning the Forward and Sharon Olds winning the TS Eliot Prize).
How are the points assigned?
Here comes the dull bit… The results are weighted so that, for example, becoming Poet Laureate carries a greater value than winning a major award, which in turn carries a greater value than being published in a national paper… and so on. It’s an imperfect system, but I think it’s an improvement on previous years.
For anyone with the tenacity to read to the bottom of the page, here are the complete points values:
PPL Points Values (2011/12)
90: Poet Laureate
80: Won Costa Prize (overall)
75: Won Forward Best Collection
75: Won TS Eliot Prize
70: Won Costa Prize (poetry)
65: Queen’s Gold Medal for poetry
60: Won National Poetry Competition
60: Won Forward Best Poem
40: Won Forward Best First Collection
40: Runner-up in National Poetry Competition
35: Shortlisted Costa Prize (poetry)
35: Shortlisted TS Eliot Prize
35: Shortlisted Forward Best Collection
30: Shortlisted Forward Best Poem
30: Third in National Poetry Competition
25: National press end of year recommendations (Sarah Crown/Adam Newey’s Christmas recommendations in the Guardian; Telegraph’s Books of the Year; the Guardian writer’s Books of the Year)
25: Editor of one of the major magazines (Poetry Review, Poetry London, PN Review)
20: Shortlisted Forward Best First Collection
20: Commended in National Poetry Competition
20: Coverage in The Guardian (reviewed, Saturday poem and/or appeared in video series)
20: Cover poet in Poetry London
15: Reviewed in Poetry Review
15: Commended in Forward Prize (included in Forward anthology)
15: Included in Best British Poetry anthology
10: Published in Poetry Review
10: Reviewed in Poetry London
10: Reviewed in PN Review
5: Published in Poetry London
5: Published in PN Review