Monday, 27 July 2015

Slow Summer: The Rialto issue 83 launch

Cover = beaut

The Rialto do things properly. Their magazines, their pamphlets, their launch events. All are carried off spectacularly well. I’d been trying for years – yes, actual years – to get a poem between their esteemed covers, and now I’ve managed it: between the pages of this beauty, in fact — number 83, co-edited by Rishi Dastidar and Holly Hopkins.

Last week’s launch event was the stuff dream poetry nights are made of. From the venue (the upstairs of the King and Queen pub in Fitzrovia, London, complete with assorted brewery memorabilia, cheap pints of St. Austell ales and an anachronistic but no less imposing view of the BT tower, hallucinating away in the semi-darkness of the balmy, summer evening) to the other poets (John Clegg summoning the ghost of spooks past; Rachel Piercey declaring her love for captains; Alex Macdonald re-imagining Hagiwara’s philosophies) there were four more of them, equally as captivating, had me wanting to find out more, or revisit their work.

Revisiting seemed like something of a theme for the evening, personally. Several of the poets reading and in the audience were familiar to me, for one reason or another. Holly and I met on an Arvon course in Shropshire a few years ago, as did John Sayers, whose poem features in the issue. Hannah Lowe, one of the other readers, I know from Newcastle, despite the fact that she’s lived back in London now for ages. But new friends were made, too; new poetries discovered; new connections forged over dregs of ale, old ones rekindled over talk of poetry and its ability to bring people from around the country – from around the world! – in to the function rooms of pubs, to celebrate words.

This latest issue of The Rialto carries the addendum ‘slow summer 2015’, and it certainly feels like a slow summer, post-election. I’ve noticed, in my early delves into the vast repository of poems in this issue, some recurring themes, but I never thought that fat, or grease, would be an image threading together many of the narratives in a poetry magazine! John Challis’s poem (and John is a good mate from Newcastle, so this may read subjectively), uses it evocatively in his poem ‘B Road Lay-by’ (‘Wind down the window: onions fry in lard/a finger-thin beef burger whispers on a grill.’) which is neatly placed within the magazine opposite Mark Russell’s ‘Hitching Through Normandy’, which opens ‘Loic sliced onions and garlic so thin/they were transfigured, stripped naked, damp’. The reverberations between these and other poems are subtle, but they do quantify something that both Michael, Rishi and Holly mentioned during the evening: that pulling together a poetry magazine is a lot more intricate, and often a lot more serendipitous, than you might first think.

I’m looking forward to finding more threads and associations as I read through this slow summer. I was chuffed to be asked to read in London for the launch of such a great magazine, and even more chuffed when the acceptance note that came through to say that they wanted my poem. ‘Siegfried Sassoon at Formby’ will appear soon in my new pamphlet, so cheers, Rialto, for incubating some of that work for now!

In fine comapny

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