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Transom:
American poets tend to take Pound’s dictum to “make it new” as a foundational principle, and as a result many of us have a short literary memory. The poetic culture in the UK seems far more conscious of the legacy of centuries of predecessors. What are the pleasures and challenges of contributing your voice to this chorus?

Lumsden:
The challenge is that if you are ‘making it new’ here, you are generally offering up your work to a niche readership. And if you are doing something new which does not fit into non-mainstream traditions, or working in a post-division mode (a term which is barely known here), you can easily become an outsider of sorts, neither fish nor fowl. Personally, I’m not too interested in national literary traditions or that ‘legacy of centuries’; my interest in the pre-20th century is limited. But the narrative lyric is still the dominant poem here, and it’s not difficult to trace some of our most ‘successful’ poets back to Wordsworth or Blake.

Transom:
What’s happening now in the UK poetry scene that you find particularly exciting – or frustrating?

Lumsden:
The most exciting thing is a genuinely ‘bigger than usual’ crop of very good younger poets. One recent development is the ‘project’ – themed, short term poetry blogs, themed multi-poet poetry events, the return of the zine, themed anthologies. New small poetry presses are exciting, and are fracturing the poetry market, but the downside of this is that they fail to develop into businesses, with staff, with budgets; their shelf life is limited. Salt (for whom I am Poetry Editor) has broken through that barrier. Others may too, but they will find it as difficult as Salt did, and will need to adapt and compromise. This means that much of the power lies with just a few presses: a couple of large government-subsidised independent poetry specialists (one of which is my publisher) and, as in the US, a few major (mostly international) publishing houses with small poetry lists. And in the last decade, nearly all the bigger presses, both independent and commercial, have slimmed down their lists, many of the commercials only publishing a handful of poetry titles each year, with very few first collections and even fewer risks. One problem is that the crop of young poets all believe they will pick up one of those rare spots. We have fine poets well into their 30s who could have put out a sparky debut five or ten years ago, but they are holding on for what will never happen.

Transom:
“Stockholm Syndrome” announces itself as a kind of love poem, but eventually reveals a truer exploration: that of the speaker's relationship to the “forever” of art-making. Are all love poems really experiments in ars poetica?

Lumsden:
I had to reread it – I thought it just a love poem. Or a pre-love poem, in that it is about the moment when you see that a dalliance is becoming a relationship. From the start of this relationship, there was caution, due to a sizeable age gap. The early weeks bring little mythologies, in-jokes, nicknames. One running joke we had was that, on weekends at my house, she had become my hostage, hence the theme of this poem. I see now that this poem is a bit of a patchwork, with things sewn in: “pretty paper” from a documentary I had recently watched on Roy Orbison, “vertraue mir” from the sample on the Bark Psychosis track “Rose,” the final image adapted from Joanna Newsom’s song “Colleen.” The potential reading of this poem as an ars poetica, I can see, stems from the line ‘see it written here on pretty paper,’ which could be seen as being self-referential, metapoetic. I’ve certainly done that sort of thing elsewhere, but here I simply referred to the idea of looking up the title phrase in an encyclopedia. As for ‘my especial art,’ well that was my potential ability to dispel the reluctance and pessimism we both felt at times about our involvement. The poem can be precised as ‘I’m feeling good about this, are you with me, girl?’

Transom:
You and Transom Co-Editor Kiki Petrosino first met at a reading in New York City, a location to which you travel frequently. What is generative, for you, about trafficking between our two countries (and literatures)?

Lumsden:
I visit the US perhaps every other year. Not just NYC though. I’ve visited and read in the Dakotas, in Vermont, Louisiana, Connecticut, Wyoming and Colorado, as well as Chicago and California. I’ve visited many other states as a tourist. Reasons? Various. It’s a foreign travel experience without (much of) a language barrier; I’m interested in US culture, social history and folklore; much of my reading for pleasure is US poetry; I’m especially interested in what has been happening in the past 15 years, the ‘post-division era.’ This (partial, I know) lack of divisions means I feel I fit in poetry-wise whereas, in the UK, I’m not much in step with what is going on – I’m certainly not ‘experimental,’ but my work doesn’t much fit into the mainstream either, wheras it seems to make more sense to an American audience.