- Jan. 25, 2016
-- Word Masala Not-for-Profit Project, helping South-Asian diaspora poets, recently carried out an analysis of six top poetry magazines in Britain to see how well they represent the South-Asian poets. The magazines examined were IOTA, The Moth, Ambit, Agenda, Rialto, The poetry Review, and Magma, on display at the Poetry Library. The scan was very disappointing to carry on further examine of more magazines as at a glance almost all were happy with their closeted approach.
Word Masala Project’s interest is limited to the South-Asian diaspora, so others from the BAME group were not counted into any analysis. In conversation, many diaspora poets have indicated that it is almost impossible to break through the barrier that exists.
‘In my early days I had been lucky to have been welcomed by poets like Roger Elkin when he was an editor at Envoi,’ says the director and poet Yogesh Patel. ‘Unfortunately, many editors now are very remote.’ In the sample, the Poetry Review, Ambit and Magma didn’t have any diaspora poet to feature, but even then, not counting the Poetry Review, rest of them had roughly a total of 124 poets featured, but out of that number only three were of the South-Asian Diaspora! IOTA which has been traditionally very open from the beginning had 5.25% representation of the diaspora poets. Rialto fared 9.09%, while the Moth stood at 4.55% and Agenda at 2.22% in a sample taken. When the total of 124 was taken for the five magazines, the average inclusion rate was 3.23%. Now, this can’t be seen as fix percentages and adhering as individual patterns. The figures only enhance the overall dire picture and perceptions about the state of affairs.
Nikesh Shukla recently said that publishing should be as “demographically representative as possible” to address diversity. He must have had a sensitive nature of the publishing industry in mind when he pointed towards needing to be “less defensive” whenever someone pointed out the aspiration for diversity.
The point Word Masala wants to raise is not about prejudices that may exist, or any inherent notions at play, but is rather about finding actions that can remedy the unintentional distortion. To that end, the project invites editors of the magazines and publishing houses to work with it and contribute to its efforts. ‘We have an event organized on the 22nd June at the House of Lords when poets like Daljit Nagra, Sid Bose, Debjani Chatterjee, Shanta Acharya and others will not only receive Word Masala Awards but will read their work. The event is by invitation only and many publishers have confirmed the attendance. It is important that more editors and publishers write to us and support us. The project requests them to contact Ygesh Patel.