Well, it’s all over. The marks are in, and I ‘graduate’ next February with an MA in Creative Writing from the UEA. Scary.
Anyway, to Black & BLUE…
So I spent last week flicking through the first issue of Black and BLUE, a magazine I have previously seen only in passing. I’ve taken a good look at it and now I’m here to tell you what it’s all about – to try and give you an idea of what’s on offer in this interesting publication. Nevertheless, before I begin, I just want to say that I’m pretty new to these things myself. Sure, I have a good quantity of Ambit, Poetry Review and Popshot in my room, and my day job sees me flicking through other magazines like Granta, but I can’t say that I am in any way an expert in this field. There are weird rules in publishing – things that can be done, things that can’t be done, and things that can be done but that publishers are not really that keen to do etc. – and I don’t really know what goes where, what is and what isn’t possible.
It’s a pretty A4 thing. Tightly bound, colourful, smells-a-little-like-butter publication that contains ‘POETRY | DRAMA | PROSE | OTHER’. The second page in might give you a fair idea as to why I was drawn to it; ‘The piece of language that accompanies our first issue is ‘where it was, there we shall go’ | The phrase starts from Freud, who said ‘wo es war, soll ich werden.’ (where it [id] was, there I [ego] shall be) […] in our lives our desire moves through chains of objects and people. We find that we are never happy because once we have the thing we thought we wanted, we no longer want that thing but something else, something more. We become like hungry ghosts in our consumer age, tired and with no country to sail to.‘ Interesting, eh (their manifesto is also thought provoking). So after a brief introduction we’re in it. We’re inside amongst poetry and prose, drama and ‘other’, and lots of sex, apparently.
You’d expect it though. All the talk of ‘desire’ is basically a tip of the hat towards sex. It was an inevitability: desire, pleasure, happiness, ‘having’, consuming, hunger. Sex. Though it’s not all sex, which is good.
There’s some real fresh voices in here. Michael Rosen’s poem contains interesting moves between staccato and a kind of softness, the punctuation bustling up against one another like the commuters in the poem. I enjoyed James Meredith’s contribution – it has this lovely rhythm to it tha,t no matter how many times I read it, I keep falling into. Will Pritchard’s poem had some fantastic imagery in it and O’Donoghue’s ‘Travel Lodge’ had a real working class/Bukowski edge to it that I enjoyed. Some of the poems I found too thick to really get into – but that’s more personal preference than a problem of poetics.
There are a couple of prose pieces in Black and BLUE and, though they were pretty good reads, I wasn’t so pulled as I was with the poetry. I’m still in awe of those that manage to pull off a good story in such a small amount of space. The authors here do a good job and I think it comes down to it just not being my thing again. There’s some interesting images and turns in there, but they’re voices I can’t imagine in my mouth – a kind of colloquial-everydayness that maybe I don’t have – I’m not sure. There’s one script piece in the publication which is quite haunting. On my first reading I thought I hated it, but then I read it again, and I thought I hated it more but really, honestly, I think it was just one of things that haunt. I’ll read it again, and maybe again, to try and get to grips with it (and the fact that I’m reading it probably means that it’s really hitting the mark with me somewhere, I just haven’t worked it out yet!).
In terms of ‘otherness’ there are some interesting lists of obscure things – internet searches, advertisements glimpsed about town – but it’s all rendered into the style of the magazine so the original ephemeral nature of those things are somewhat lost – rationalised into the system of the magazine. As such, the OTHER included in the magazine feels other to itself, like it hasn’t quite found a place yet. Very interesting if implemented differently (images, etc) but, as it is, it’s sort of drowned out by the writing for me.
Stylistically, the magazine presents it’s pieces in pink boxes over backgrounds that switch every few pages. It keeps the eye interested but gets a little repetitive. We’re here for the words, so it’s no real issue (in fact, it’s pretty nice having something colourful instead of plain black-on-white), but it would be great to have a little more variation. Also, it would be great to see some poems that explore the page a little more. Maybe there were none submitted that hit the mark for the first issue, and poems that explore the page seem to be decidedly absent from a number of other magazines out there, but besides Christina Nguyen’s contribution there’s not a great deal of movement in the poetry itself. Perhaps the more concrete-style poetry is out of fashion now, but I find that sometimes the movement or placement of the line can really add something to the poem – both aesthetically and theoretically.
Had to laugh when I got to the end though. George Szirtes is there. I’ve been seeing him everywhere. Maybe he’s haunting me, or, more scarily, maybe he’s just everywhere?
Lovely publication, really want to see how they’ll take it forward – Issue Two: Fire is out now for a fiver, featuring some pretty big names (I’m looking at you Sam Riviere, Robert Montgomery and Simon Armitage).
Also, before I go – Emanations: Second Sight is now out in the UK! Please buy it – some very interesting things in there (my copy is coming from the U.S. so it may be some time before I can something about it…)