Tony Frazer, Editor & Publisher
I have been editing Shearsman and Shearsman Books since 1981. Apart from this, I have edited the anthology A State of Independence (1998) for Stride Publications, and Roy Fisher's Interviews Though Time (Shearsman Books, 2000; 2nd edition 2013). I was also co-editor of the poetry selection in Chicago Review's special double issue New Writing in German (2002), and have been an occasional translator of contemporary German poets — although I have not done this seriously for a few years now, as time has been at a premium. Giramondo Publishing, Sydney, published a collection of my translations of Lutz Seiler in May 2005 as In the year one — Selected Poems (copies of which may be ordered in the UK from Shearsman Books). I was interviewed in 2006 by Tim Allen for The Argotist, so go here if you'd like to learn more than is shown on this page. There's also an interview I did in Dublin in November 2012 here, although that concentrates on matters related to translation and, above all, Hispanic poetry, as the venue was the Dublin branch of the Instituto Cervantes and the occasion was the launch of the Forked Tongues anthology, which featured poetry translated from Galician, Basque and Catalan. The interview itself is in English, although the web presentation is in Spanish. There is also a tribute site, created by several Shearsman authors and friends on the occasion of my 64th birthday in November 2015: this is, in effect, a huge one-off online poetry magazine, but also contains prose, video, an video interview with me that I'd never seen before (!), numerous links and is, generally, a rather wonderful thing, albeit both flattering and embarrassing at the same time. I'm hugely grateful to all who contributed to it and to the hard work of the six editors. The URL is here.
Born in England in 1951, I studied Art History at the University of Essex but continued to follow an interest in poetry while a student. I gave up writing poetry in the early 1970s after it became obvious that I had nothing to say that had not been said better a thousand times before by far more competent writers. I've seen little reason to rethink that position since. From 1974 I followed an international business career that was to continue until 1999, but also revived my interest in poetry during that time, becoming co-editor of the Hong Kong-based little-magazine Imprint in 1979. This magazine, co-edited with Terry Boyce and Hélène Li, published four issues before folding in 1981. Shearsman was then founded as a solo venture, starting with the unused manuscripts left over from the Imprint project, with everything being typed on an IBM Selectric typewriter and printed on a Gestetner machine. The magazine was in a vertical A4 format and, at its largest, ran to 100 pages. In its early days Shearsman also benefited from the assistance of three contributing editors: Carol Bergé in New York, Michael Bullock in Vancouver, and John Levy in Tucson. Sadly, both Carol and Michael have since passed away.
That first series of Shearsman consisted of six journal issues (the contents of which are now available in digitised form at the UK's Poetry Library magazine website, where copyright permits), and two issues which consisted of chapbook collections (issue 4: slim pamphlets by Martin Anderson, Philip Crick, Gustaf Sobin & Nathaniel Tarn; issue 8: two thicker, stapled books by David Jaffin), and was edited — with some difficulty — from Malaysia, where I was then working. A move from Malaysia to the Middle East then rendered further publication impossible, leading to the magazine ceasing after the eighth issue and being merged into a new London-based venture called Ninth Decade (subsequently, for obvious reasons, Tenth Decade). Ninth/Tenth Decade was co-edited with Robert Vas Dias, previously editor of Atlantic Review and Permanent Press, and the late Ian Robinson, editor of Oasis and Oasis Books, both of whom had also reached a point in the development of their respective journals that rendered continued publication difficult. Ninth/Tenth Decade continued until 1991 and then folded, after having published fourteen issues.
In 1991, Oasis and Shearsman magazines were revived by Ian Robinson and myself, respectively, and in similar A5 formats. Shearsman's format was in fact an imitation of the successful one initiated by Oasis, with size driven by the weight for postage — as usual, a significant cost factor for a little magazine. Design by now was being achieved through computer-based DTP, and printing moved from offset to photocopying. From 1991 to 2005 Shearsman published 62 issues in a resolutely minimalist, low-cost format. The first ten issues of this new series of the magazine are also available in digitised form at the UK's Saison Poetry Library, and some later issues may be seen elsewhere on this site. With effect from the double issue 63 & 64 (Summer 2005), the magazine changed to a book-sized format, running up to 108 pages in length, and appearing twice yearly in April and October. The rationale for this change was simply that it made sense to produce the magazine in the same way as the books the press was producing, but also because it was actually more cost-effective to mail out bigger issues twice rather than slim issues four times. Some (but not all) of the contents of these book-length issues also appears on this website. See here for more information.
In terms of the magazine's position with regard to contemporary poetry, there is a clear inclination towards the more exploratory end of the current spectrum. Notwithstanding this, however, quality work of a more conservative kind will always be considered seriously, provided that the work is well-written. What I do not like at all is sloppy writing of any kind; I always look for some rigour in the work, although I will be more forgiving of failure in this regard if the writer is trying to push out the boundaries. I tend to like mixing work from both ends of the spectrum in the magazine, and firmly believe that good writing can, and should, cohabit with other forms of good writing, regardless of the aesthetic that drives it, and regardless of whether the practitioners are happy about such cohabitation.