Sunday, February 14, 2010

PENning the Warming World

The third edition of Scottish PEN's writing magazine is now online. The magazine's distinctive feature is to present the work of refugees and asylum seekers, who may not be professional writers, alongside that of members of Scottish PEN, who are. This is an important opportunity to hear these often unheard voices.

The theme of 'the warming world' elicited fewer submissisons than previous issues despite its topicality. This perhaps highlights the difficulties for art and literature of taking on issues which seem to require a political or ethical standpoint. An interesting article by Boyd Tonkin discussed these issues in the Independent in November. Poet Ruth Padel was quoted, insisting that the tradition of nature writing rests on sensuous artistry and not sermonising in verse: “Literature, whether a poem or anything else, doesn’t work unless it’s literature first.” The article also quotes Robert Macfarlane, and Ian McEwan both of the opinion that: “We have a word for literature whose political outcome is pre-meditated, and it is propaganda.” Tonkin says of writers in response to the threat to nature: 'a nagging ache about the fate of beloved places and creatures throbs behind their work, as it has since John Clare recoiled from the cruel badger-baiters and rapacious landlords of 19th-century Northamptonshire'.

The next theme for the Scottish PEN magazine is PENning Journeys, to tie in with the theme of this years' Refugee Week, and the details for submission can be found here.

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