THE SHOp sought to put good Irish poetry before its foreign readers, good foreign poetry before its Irish readers. The title of the magazine is a reference to the last line of W.B. Yeats’ poem ‘The Circus Animals’ Desertion.’ He says, in effect, that true poetry must begin ‘in the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.’
I must lie down where all the ladders start.
In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.
Each issue of THE SHOp contained work by established poets, both Irish and foreign, and also poems by talented newcomers, some of them never previously published. The magazine considered poems in any form, on any subject, though not if they reflected racial or gender bias. THE SHOp pioneered the practice of grouping together poems on similar themes. A group of half a dozen poems on the subject of love, say, or death, demonstrated the variety of human response to universal experiences, and also the variety of formal methods available to poets.
Each issue contained one or more poems in Gaelic, with English translations. THE SHOp also published occasional essays, including ‘Writing for Nobody’, in which Gabriel Rosenstock explained why he chooses to write in Irish.
The editors believed that good visual presentation is essential to the appreciation and even the understanding of poetry. THE SHOp has been praised as much for its look and ‘feel’ as for its content.
Among the artists who supplied cover images or black-and-white illustrations are Paula Rego, Basil Blackshaw, Ana Maria Pacheco, Janet Mullarney, Hammond Journeaux, Brian Lalor, Frank Russell, William Blake, Theo Wakeman, Jeanette McCulloch, Luis Fanti, Giorgio De Chirico, and Pat Connor.