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Norfolk-based magazine celebrates poetry

PUBLISHED: 11:47 13 May 2013 | UPDATED: 11:47 13 May 2013

Editor Michael Mackmin, centre, with development and special projects director, Helen Mitchell, and art director Nick Stone, from the Norfolk based poetry magazine called The Rialto. Picture: Denise Bradley

Editor Michael Mackmin, centre, with development and special projects director, Helen Mitchell, and art director Nick Stone, from the Norfolk based poetry magazine called The Rialto. Picture: Denise Bradley


The Rialto is said to be the country’s leading independent poetry magazine, and it is put together here in Norfolk.

Reporter Emma Knights finds out more about the poetry publication and the special event it is hosting tonight as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2013. Pictured: Don Paterson. Credit: Murdo MacleodNorfolk & Norwich Festival 2013. Pictured: Don Paterson. Credit: Murdo Macleod

“I think poetry is the most important art form we have in this country and that is because it deals with language, and keeping language working expressively. We neglect at our peril. The culture will fall to pieces without poetry,” said Michael Mackmin who edits the Norfolk-based The Rialto poetry magazine and lives in Aylsham.

For nearly three decades Mr Mackmin has been at the helm of the independent magazine which champions the art of poetry, promotes new poets, and publishes their work alongside more established writers.

Its success has led to it being known as the UK’s leading independent poetry magazine, and it has attracted worldwide interest.

It all started with an idea in 1983.

Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2013. Pictured: Hannah LoweNorfolk & Norwich Festival 2013. Pictured: Hannah Lowe

“The person I started The Rialto with was John Wakeman. We both wrote poetry, and his grown-up children were also writing and wondering where to get their work published so we said, ‘let’s start a magazine’,” he said.

“Our aim was to be an open magazine, hopefully making it easier for new writers of any age to get published.”

When the first issue was published in 1984, among the poems of lesser known writers was also work by Margaret Atwood and George Barker, and also a then not so well known Carol Ann Duffy who went on become Poet Laureate.

Nearly 30 years on – and having published more than 70 issues – The Rialto is still going strong and its quest to promote poetry continues.

Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2013. Pictured: Sophie HannahNorfolk & Norwich Festival 2013. Pictured: Sophie Hannah

About 1,500 copies are printed for each issue and it is estimated about eight people read each copy.

The magazine team now includes development and special projects director Helen Mitchell and art director Nick Stone, and Mr Mackmin said each week he receives poems from people across the world.

“People send me hundreds of poems a week. Currently I am waiting to read 800 poems which I have to get through in the next month,” he said.

He described The Rialto, which receives support from Arts Council England, as being like a “first stepping stone,” with many people appearing in the magazine early in their careers.

“Sam Riviere grew up in Norfolk and we published his first poem. He got taken up by Faber and Faber, and he’s moved from being a local lad to an important figure in the poetry world,” Mr Mackmin said.

As well as giving new writers a platform for their words, The Rialto also aims to encourage more people to enjoy engaging with poetry.

Mr Mackmin is passionate about the idea of poetry being for everyone, and for those who think poetry may be too highbrow for them, he adds: “If you listen to the lyrics of pop music, and if you tune into the words and hear what the words say, you are halfway to being interested in poetry because poetry is written about the same kind of things.”

He described The Rialto as being a magazine which included great variety with something to appeal to everyone.

“You may not enjoy absolutely everything in it, but I would be surprised if you did not find several things that really strike you, and you like a lot,” he said.

Boosting the profile of poetry and encouraging more people to take an interest in the written art form is one of the reasons why The Rialto is keen to host poetry events at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

For its Norfolk and Norwich Festival event this year, which is in conjunction with Writers’ Centre Norwich and ARC, The Rialto is hosting an evening at Norwich Playhouse tonight with Don Paterson, Sophie Hannah and Hannah Lowe.

Don Paterson, who was made an OBE for services to literature, has won many prizes for his collections of poems – including The Forward Prize, Whitbread Poetry Prize and TS Eliot Prize – and his work draws on the subtle links uniting us all and the quiet moments that turn out to be important.

Sophie Hannah, known for her best-selling psychological thriller novels, writes witty poetry which weaves profundity, grace and intelligence in among everyday incidents, and Hannah Lowe is a relatively new voice in poetry. Her first full-length collection, Chick, was published earlier this year and tells the story of her father, a Chinese-black Jamaican migrant living in London.

About the event tonight with the three poets, Mr Mackmin said: “People can expect a really good night of entertainment. They can expect to be quite deeply moved by some of the writing, puzzled by some of it, but also to find some of it very funny indeed.”

• The Rialto is £7.50 per issue and is available by subscription. Visit

It can also be bought from The Book Hive, in London Street, Norwich, as well as some other independent stores across the country.

• The Rialto and Writer’s Centre Norwich present An Evening With Don Paterson, Sophie Hannah And Hannah Lowe at 7.30pm tonight at Norwich Playhouse. The performance last about 90 minutes including interval.

• Tickets £12 (concessions £10). Half price tickets are available from Writers’ Centre Norwich by visiting and entering wcnhalfprice in the promotion code box. For more information call 01603 877177.

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