UK literary magazines, 2002

This article (written in December 2002) describes changes in the last 2 years or so following on from my My dealings with UK literary magazines and The Short Story, UK, December 1999 articles.


These are no easier for magazines to obtain. The situation's less stable, with policies and Arts Council structure undergoing change. As a consequence of the policy to concentrate resources, a few magazines get a lot of money while others (e.g. Rialto) suffer cuts even though they don't ask for much. For 2000-1 the most supported magazines were London Magazine (£27,500), Poetry Review (£25,000), PN Review (£17,500), Wasafari (£20,400), London Review of Books (£14,050) and Ambit (£11,200).

Depending on prevailing policies grant money should go towards: promotion of local talent; payment to poets; production of web pages; marketing (i.e. production of leaflets). Some magazines that don't like the strings attached to grants don't apply for them even if they used too. Poetry Scotland claims to be much more successful since going independent.

Magazine changes

There's no sign of a general decline. Thumbscrew's going, which is a shame. Some other magazines which looked to be folding (London Magazine, Stand) seem to be on the way to recovery. There's a trend amongst the smaller magazines (Other Poetry, Staple) to include more critical material. Envoi has recently invited poets to add a few pages of prose if they want. More magazines have magazine reviews (Poetry Nottingham International, etc). PQR (Poetry Quarterly Review) has comparitive studies of magazines (M/F ratios, grant status, page allocation, etc). Magazines are looking smarter - covers are more likely to be glossy and illustrated (e.g Acumen, Iota). Also more magazines are setting up pamphlet publication on the side.

Editorial changes

There have been some notable changes of editorship. Poetry Review's longstanding editor Peter Forbes has made way for David Herd and Robert Potts whose first 2 numbers have sought to bring the avant-garde into mainstream view. Poetry Review is by far the highest circulation poetry magazine, so this is a significant move. The smaller Staple, Iota and Orbis have been run for years without a change of editorship until recently. In the case of Iota the magazine has changed beyond recognition. Roy Blackman's death in November 2002 is bound to affect Smiths Knoll.

Short Stories

As a genre it's sinking ever further from view. I think London Magazine, Stand, Ambit and Staple are the only magazines with circulations over 300 who accept non-genre unsolicited contributions from anyone - that's maybe 30 published stories a year. MsLexia, QWF and Writing Women accept stories only from females. World Wide Writers is a magazine that publishes competition entries. Interzone is a monthly short-story magazine available in newsagents, but it's Science Fiction only.

Online Publications

The impact of online publications isn't appreciable - I think writers groups have been more affected by online alternatives. Several of the magazines have an online presence (more for marketing reasons than anything else, though Iota's site encourages some feedback). New Hope International has online reviews of paper magazines.


Below are some online references. For further information on these and other UK magazines, see my magazine listings.
Updated December 2002 with help from HN.
Tim Love

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