This first issue of The Flea broadsheets is intended to set the tone and style of the publication; to that end I invited contributions from some poets whose work exemplifies The Flea’s poetic ideals. The various poets were asked to send me some poems ‘vaguely Metaphysical in nature—whatever that means’; and so they did; and so I chose, regretfully discarding many fine poems, to arrive at the one poem per author to make up the desired range.
I used the word ‘Metaphysical’ as a very quick and rough guide to the nature and style of the poetry which The Flea wants to publish, but the term should certainly not be taken too seriously. I have tended to put quotation marks around it in my correspondence, seeking to indicate the problematic aspects of using the word at all. Whatever we think that Metaphysical poetry might be, most will agree that the possible range is very wide indeed. But for the purposes of The Flea, the term simply means that I will be receptive to good poems that might elsewhere struggle to win a hearing because of certain qualities which are perhaps unfashionable: I mean that I am not automatically prejudiced against (and indeed often positively enjoy) poems which include abstractions, ellipsis, “strong lines”, educated or even learned diction, archaisms, argument and wit, imagery from unexpected fields such as Physics, Maths, Economics or Epistemology, and so forth. And there are some topics which are often regarded as old-fashioned and passé, such as passionate love; I believe there is room in the mountains, fields and forests of the Muses for poems on such themes. I admit I am biased in favour of Formal verse (which puts me into a small minority of poetry editors), but I am not altogether unreceptive to well-written Free Verse either, so poems of that kind might occasionally appear here also. Ultimately The Flea just wants to publish good, challenging poems, many of which might not conform to the orthodoxies of the age.
This issue then is composed of formal poems, mostly, which demonstrate stylistic and thematic qualities that I will look for in future submissions. Philosophical and speculative poems are well-represented by very strong examples, though in future I would like to see more examples of passionate and witty love-poems: poems that might be contemporary equivalents of Donne’s ‘The Extsasie’, or Marvell’s ‘The Definition of Love’ (or even Shakespeare’s ‘The Phoenix and the Turtle’). In this first Flea, Ann Drysdale’s delightful ‘Perfect Binding’ bears the banner splendidly; I hope to include more such work in future issues.
The Flea owes a great debt to the poets represented here for their very kind contribution of work to a venue which they had not yet even seen; a contribution in faith, as it were. The Flea will always strive to live up to that faith.