Popshot magazine, a bi-annual UK publication championing contemporary poetry and illustration, was founded by Jacob Denno in 2009. His goal was simple – to reclaim poetry from the ‘clammy hands of tweed jackets and school anthologies’. Five issues later, Jacob has launched ‘The Print Shop’, an online store which allows you to buy limited edition prints of some of the magazine’s finest illustrators. ARTS THREAD caught up with Jacob to learn more.
ARTS THREAD: What inspired you to set up Popshot magazine?
Jacob Denno: Popshot was conceived when I was 21 with no background in publishing whatsoever. The inspiration for starting the magazine was born out of slightly arrogant innocence. After trawling through the shelves of Borders, I felt that poetry magazines were doing poetry a gross misjustice and I could do it better. So that’s where it started! I felt that by combining poetry with design and illustration it could become much more appealing and help give the art form a sense of context.
AT: Naming a magazine is always difficult, was Popshot your first choice?
JD: As far as I can remember, it was pretty much the only choice. The name materialised at almost the same time as the idea for the magazine. There was never any more discussion than that. It was only after I had bought the domain name and we started gathering poems for the first issue that I realised it was a porn industry term. Kind of adds to the charm, I think.
AT: How do you go about pairing the poets and illustrators for the magazine?
JD: First, we do a call for poetry submissions and of the few thousand poems that we read through, the best 20 poems are picked. We then pick 20 illustrators whose work fits with the theme. It’s kind of like a giant dot to dot but when you get it right, there’s this tremendous feeling that in a few weeks you’re going to receive an incredible illustration.
AT: The themes of each issue are always quite abstract, is this intentional?
JD: They definitely started off more abstract although in recent times have become a little more broad. I like the challenge of creating an issue that has a theme that most magazines don’t cover – although it can end up putting readers off. Few people would be interested in a poetry and illustration magazine that addresses the theme of waxed fruit so sometimes it’s good not to go too leftfield! Apparently magazines that are on the theme of Sex always sell at a higher rate than any other so that could be worth doing. It’s a shame that sex poems are usually so painful to read…
AT: A lot of creatives dream of setting up their own magazines, what advice would you give to them?
JD: Come up with a strong idea and execute it beautifully and clearly. Print magazines need to become more and more beautiful in order to create a tactile experience for the reader that they can’t get from their iPad or online. Also, make it obvious what the magazine is. There are so many titles that even after flicking through for 10 minutes, would be difficult to describe to someone. Quality editorial breeds word of mouth and that’s what makes a great magazine.
AT: What do you look for in an illustrator or poet who is submitting work to Popshot?
JD: In terms of poetry we look for writers who can approach a theme from an angle that casts a new light on the subject matter. Love has been a really difficult theme because it’s hard to be original about it. However, of the 20 poems that got in, there are some really novel ways of looking at love and its many facets. Oh, and it has to be beautifully written with either a strong message or some incredible imagery in it. In terms of illustrators, we look for more editorial image makers who are able to condense a whole poem into one perfectly summarised image. It has to be strong, bold and profound, that’s what I look for.
AT: Where did the idea come from to launch The Print Shop?
JD: It’s been mentioned by so many people over the last 2 years but I never felt the time was right before now. I think it has slightly grown out of the fact that there are so many amazing illustrations that grace the pages of Popshot, that really deserve a bigger format platform. Illustrations come into their own when you blow them up and print them onto fine art papers and I wanted to take some of my favourite images and transform them into art that can hang on a wall. They’re utterly mind blowing when you see them in the flesh so I’m thrilled that we finally decided to do it!
AT: Do you plan on including more artists in The Print Shop?
JD: Depending on how well it goes, I would love to add more Popshot illustrations to The Print Shop in the future, and maybe even go beyond the work published in Popshot. There are some incredible illustrators out there making utterly stunning work so I would be really up for helping get that work onto people’s walls. Watch this space!
Popshot Magazine Website