News from Ireland: according to the critic Sarah Lonsdale, writing in the Sunday Independent last week, the country is now enjoying a resurgence of interest in the “little magazine”. Several decades after the age of Seán Ó Faoláin’s journal The BellSeamas O’Sullivan’s Dublin Magazine and other noteworthy publications, Ireland may once boast more of a literary culture in “rude health”, thanks to established journals such as the Stinging Fly and the Dublin Review – but also thanks to some recent additions to the scene.
While making similar claims for being cutting-edge, breaking-down-boundaries types, these newer magazines are also making promising noises about their regional emphasis – Donegal, for example, in the case of the Pig’s Backand Cork in the case of the Four-Faced Liar. One of the Waterford-based editors of the Waxed Lemon (none of these titles is a belated April Fool’s gag) tells Lonsdale that, for a young Irish writer of the 1990s, leaving the country might have seemed to be the best course of action; His own patch of it now seems to be “more connected” than it was, and “more accessible”.
This isn’t the first time in recent years that the existence of such favorable conditions for new Irish writing has been pointed out. Only last year the Irish Independentthe Sunday Independent‘s sister paper, ran an essay in a similar spirit, celebrating the native little magazine. The demand was easily explained. “Irish people quote poetry”, an editor of the Stinging Fly reasoned. “You can be standing in a pub in Ireland, and someone will spout a familiar Yeats or Shaw quote; it’s not like that in other countries.” The Irish Times had, by then, already described the “literary magazine scene” as “thriving” in 2018. “There are”, said Brendan Barrington of the Dublin Review“more well-established Irish journals now than at any time since we started in 2000… It’s encouraging to see that new journals generally seem to be hanging on, rather than fading away after an issue or two.”
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, of course. Scepticism puts in its customary word of caution about accepting any such claims without the standard-issue pinch of salt. The Waxed Lemon has only published three issues as yet. And the first issue of the Four-Faced Liar won’t be published until the autumn, you know. Still, the profuse praise may make readers in England wonder if comparable claims may be made here any time soon – and if not, why not.
Our own contribution, for now, is merely to confess to having taken some pleasure in the magazines that have found their way to us, from various quarters, in recent times. These include the glossy Morocco Bound Review (which operates out of a bookshop of the same name in south-east London), the less glossy Exacting Clam (in the second issue of which Christopher Boucher’s story “The Literary Reading” has the narrator realize that everybody around him, attending a reading in a bookshop, is probably an author, and that the disease may be catching; “I went home and took a long, hot shower”), the impeccably designed Noon (which presses, as ever, on a single whimsical note, but it’s still a pretty good note to be able to play) and the 246th issue of Ambit (which is the last for its fiction editor Kate Pemberton, who first became involved with the magazine as an intern in 1996).
Lastly, there is the welcome return of Archipelago – the pick of the bunch. Some readers will recall that this is a literary magazine of which twelve issues appeared 2007 and 2019 (readers who don’t recall: see this column, November 12, 2021). Those twelve issues were edited by Andrew McNeillie, with a weather eye kept, at all times, on this “unnameable archipelago”, this “constellation of islands on the Eastern Atlantic coast”, even if the magazine’s vision was always, it was claimed, “by implication”, “global”. Now Archipelago has returned; Mr McNeillie had considered launching a fresh under the title thirteen, with a nod to the ominous Orwellian hour that seems to have come round once more. We are “well past the eleventh hour for nature”, apart from anything else. The second series of Archipelago absorbs this troubling notion while also picking up where the first left off. Issue 2.1 (£15) includes a verse by Michael Longley and Kate Bingham (“Here comes spring, too soon for its own good”) and prose by Kirsty Gunn and David Wheatley, among others. Apply to the Clutag Press (PO Box 154, Thame OX9 3RQ) for permission to come aboard.
Some TLS Readers will no doubt be anxious to learn more about concrete poetry after reading last week’s review, by Jeremy Noel-Tod, of Nancy Perloff’s Concrete Poetry: A 21st-century anthologyas well as a little more on the subject of concrete poetry in the TLS during the 1960s in a letter to the editor published this week (on page 6). Behold: here we quote a couple of “lines” from a concrete poem by the Brazilian Décio Pignatari (1927–2012). It was published in the TLS in the issue of September 3, 1964, amid other works from the concrete poets of the same country, translated by the redoubtable Edwin Morgan. Those other poems from Brazil are also worth a look. Using only a few dates and the word “goal”, “Brazilian ‘Football’” by Augusto de Campos laconically acknowledges that same year’s coup d’état. “Descartes à Rebours” by José Paulo Paes spreads the words “cogito/ergo/boom” over a pointedly wide area.
The “lexical key” to Pignatari’s contribution, meanwhile, reveals that the black circle stands for the footballer Pelé, the diamond for “the country in the amplified family (with television set)” and the rectangle for “at the end all is right.” . “The symbols by themselves”, as you will have spotted at once, “compose an allusion to the Brazilian Flag.” Attempt to translate the playful Pignatari out of his concrete form if you dare.
Correspondence. From Glasgow Alastair Sutherland writes to express his pleasure at our reference to the Lobster Pot in Blackness (March 18) – the pub that is running its own poetry competition – “but more elderly topers might from walking 19 miles from Edinburgh” to Blackness, as we overzealously suggested. A more “leisurely” alternative would be travel to Linlithgow, “with its excellent High Street bookshop”, before walking the five miles from there to Blackness. There is also a bus.
Regarding the subject of how people go about mentally mapping the world (March 25), Nicholas Cranfield of Blackheath has noticed that, at present, the Post Office publishes a color-coded map that assigns all of Turkey (not just the Balkan portion), the Russian Federation and Greenland to Europe. “Is this an undisclosed long-term objective of HM Government?”
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