Sometimes, no matter how much you think about things, you still manage to mess them up and so I have to say I was really pleased when the fabulous Sarah Doyle suggested that maybe it would be a good idea to have a rethink about our Anthology competition.
She pointed out that we were charging a fee to enter the competition, but not paying prize money and basically (in a very nice and considered way) she painted a picture that even I could see meant that, well, I’d cocked it up.
Best laid plans and all that, but there we are. I’d gotten it wrong.
I won’t bore you with the angst and gnashing of teeth, but in truth I never mind making mistakes and I’ve always thought/hoped that it is how you deal with them that matters.
So after a night and a bit of thinking it through, we’ve decided to change the prizes, so that rather than the Leather Bound and very posh Journal we were all very impressed with, instead the winner will now receive £150 cash, with two runners-up getting £25 each. All three will also get subscriptions to ‘Arfur’ and all the other bits and bobs we’d already decided on.
If however the winner would prefer the posh book, that is cool too, they will get the choice.
OK, I have to admit that this is totally because I never got a Blue Peter badge. They didn’t give them out for watching TV whilst eating Custard Creams, apparently, and I was otherwise unqualified (and don’t get me started on ‘Jim Fixed It For Me’ necklaces or medals or whatever they were.)
No, I’ve had a lifetime’s lack of achievement that has somehow gone unrewarded, and so deep down somewhere or other there is probably a reason that I find myself talking about this.
But getting somewhere closer to the point, I am so very pleased that we have decided to have a ‘Hall of Fame’ – the (ahem) ‘Hedge of Glory’ – on the web site, where everybody that is shortlisted for a competition, or who finds themselves in Arfur’s tender clutches will see themselves in perpetuity.
Or for a long time anyway.
Or maybe until we get bored and change our minds.
Whichever happens first.
They will also, of course, get a very flashy ‘Hedge of Glory’ badge, which I very much doubt will look like the one up there as somebody far more technical and artistic than I will design the real thing, but a badge it will be. I’m thinking a silver foil ‘Hog, but then it is nearly tea time as I write this.
Over the last few weeks we’ve spent a lot of time trying to decide what to do about reviews, as far as young Arfur goes.
On one hand, we are really rather keen to have them. In a way you almost feel that poetry magazines have a responsibility to review new collections as let’s face it, the mainstream media aren’t exactly clambering over themselves to help promote them with a few kind words and however many cool magazines there are out there, oodles of books and authors still never get a look in.
So reviews we will have, but how to go about it?
Well, first things first, we need some books and pamphlets to review, so I guess I’ll get in touch with some publishers, that would work.
Again though, I always like to read around things, so if possible it would be nice to at least ask a couple of questions of the poet, to try and see where they were coming from. A review is just an opinion, and however intuitive the reviewer, you can’t beat talking to the poet if you want the real juice. (err, probably should think of a better description for that.)
That sounds like a plan then, why the devil not. I’m nosy if nothing else.
As for who will be writing the reviews, well maybe I’ll put a call out when we have something to review, but until then you are stuck with me, I’m afraid.
The nice thing though is that we’re not obsessive about everything appearing in issue one.
If reviews come later, such is life, it is hardly going to wreck anybody’s daze.
It is a month now since we ‘launched’, at least in a vaporific kind of way, The Hedgehog Poetry Press, and it has been a lot of things and we have spoken to a multitude of people, which has been on the whole informative if confusing.
In many ways it has felt like a series of questions or tasks to be answered, which luckily far-too-many-nights playing ‘Twin Kingdom Valley’ on an Acorn Electron back in the ’80s has left me fully prepared to cope with.
Apart from perhaps if I get stuck in ‘Watersmeet’ with no sign of a raft, but that is just something for my therapist to worry about these days, not thee.
As for the present, the issue on the table today that we are-a-pondering is going under the heading of ‘formats’ and is all about our magazine, ‘Arfur.’
And it is really eBooks that are the issue. On one hand I love the fact that I can walk around with a hundred novels to work my way through on a Kindle, I’ve had one for aeons now and I honestly couldn’t do without it, but however much of a Luddite it makes me, I can’t help but feel that poetry works better on paper. It isn’t just the fact that the format changes on an eBook – I realise PDFs get you past that – but I think it comes down to the fact that I read poetry in a different way to prose. Prose I eat by the pound, poetry is gastro-porn, it needs air and light around it so that it can creep off the page and into your brain like a wiggly worm.
But that is just me, I realise that, and whilst I would be happiest if ‘Arfur’ was only produced on Vegan-Society-approved ersatz calfskin, I realise that some people like paperbacks and others like eBooks and some like hardbacks too. Hardbacks with beautifully finished dust jackets, paisley-printed end-papers, cloth bound books with gold leaf embossed hedgehogs, casebound beauties that line-up perfectly on their shelves with little patterns that you only really notice when you have a good selection to ponder over as a group…
So what to do?
On one hand I know we should ‘keep it simple stoopid.’
A paperback is good enough and a fabulously produced paperback is a wonder of the world, both ancient and modern and if there is an eBook for the gentlest of modern folk, well it is hardly the science of upwards projectile firing.
In fact, I think eBooks should come free with paper ones, but that is something else entirely (apart from it isn’t.) In fact, eBooks to me are convenience food, if I’m buying a book or a magazine, I want to be able to hold the thing, I want to put it on a shelf, or in a pile, leave it in the glovebox of my car or lend it to somebody, or give it away via BookMooch or to a charity shop or leave it on a bus or in a waiting room. I want to put photos between the pages as bookmarks and forget about them until years later when I open the book again and memories flutter out at me, or maybe even the great-grandchildren I’ll never have met, who knows.
So there we are, as clear as mud, but I started writing this in the hope of coming to a conclusive decision, so I’ll do just that. I like to pronounce, pronouncements make you do things.
Therefore, we are pleased to say that:
‘A Restricted View From Under The Hedge’ will be made available both as a printed artefact and as an eBook, and whichever version you buy (or are given if you have your work ‘tween the covers) you will always get the other one free of charge. It will be the same when we publish books too.
I’m not sure whether you can thaw a phoney war, it is probably just me mixing my meta-thingies as usual, but it does feel that over the last few days we have started to see a little movement around here as far as ‘Arfur’ goes.
I think the main reason is that my rather hazy view of what our magazine will be is starting to get a little clearer, and the flurry of letters and emails I’ve sent over the last couple of weeks are starting to get us somewhere.
Because, I really don’t want ‘Arfur’ to just be a collection of poems.
There, I said it.
Don’t get me wrong, I love poems, poems are lovely things, but I have always been interested in reading around a subject and I guess we are betting that I’m not the only one.
So as well as having a glutton’s delight in the poem depot, we are also looking at articles that will make the magazine a right royal read.
To this end then, I’m pleased to say that we shall be talking ‘on-the-record’ to some really quite interesting people.
No names yet, but what I can say is that we will have poets, magazine editors, book publishers and even the odd musician (as I’ve always been interested in the song lyric/poetry crossover and, well, am quite nosey. Plus of course all hedgehogs are friends to the stars, so if you have the contacts you may as well use them.)
If I can find a reviewer or three we will probably have reviews too. Lots of reviews. I like reviews.
There are lots of other ideas too, but more of them later when the mists clear further.
Now that we are a couple of weeks into our odyssey toward wherever it is we end-up, things are starting to emerge from the fog and perhaps we need to shed a little light. Or something.
Either way, there have been some questions, so:
We don’t know where we will get with the Hedgehog Poetry Press, but we’d like to be honest about it.
So, to be clear, whilst we aren’t yet in a position to pay people who have work appear in ‘A Restricted View From Under The Hedge,’ hopefully we will one day. Until then, the least we can do is make sure that contributors get a comp. copy of the magazine. There may be badges too.
If we produce anthologies (such as the one we are aiming to publish based on the ‘Road To Clevedon Pier’ competition, again, everybody that is in the book will get a copy. You don’t have to buy the book to be in it. That seems to concern many people.
Over the last week, we have realised that in our enthusiasm, we seem to have confused people by having too many options available. So for now, we have withdrawn the Challenges. These will be back in the new year and I’ll be emailing everybody who entered the current one with further details.
I’d love to say that things are starting to warm-up here in the land of the spiny ‘hog, but in truth it is all a bit of a struggle at the moment. Not that it is a surprise as we fully expected it to take a while to get going and we are only a fortnight in, but there is a lot going on in the background that may (or may not) pay-off, but we will have to see.
In a lot of ways it is a classic Catch-22. As we start nobody knows who we are, we quite literally (in poetic terms) couldn’t get arrested if we tried and until we have ‘done something’, produced an issue of the magazine or a book, why would anybody take a chance on us?
So nobody knows who we are as we have done little of note, and yet we can’t do anything unless people take a chance on us. All of which leaves us wondering how to circle the square or suck the egg from the chicken, as it were, to move it all along.
Of course the answer is simple, set your stall out, be professional and make sure that when we do something we make it fabulous.
And celebrate any steps we take forward like it is 1999 and as some wonderful poets have already shared their work with us for ‘Arfur‘ and we’re warm and fizzy in the knowledge that the first issue come February will be something special, we should shout about it, if only a little.
So, enough gazing-of-navels, back to the coalface. And here is our current anthem.
Two nights each week, I sit alone for an hour, often in the dark, in a primary school car park.
There are words I never thought I’d share on the interweb and no, please don’t call the Police, I’m harmless. As I sit there in my car, my daughter is inside the school learning martial arts, I just can’t face sitting on the school benches, trying to make conversation with other parents as our little angels beat each other up.
In a lot of ways it is a good thing. A couple of hours a week to just think without distractions. Phone goes off and I either scribble notes as things occur to me or read something. This week it was a little of both as, being preoccupied with dreaming-up ‘Arfur,’ ( our vaporware magazine, ‘A Restricted View From Under The Hedge’ – you can’t buy it in the shops, or anywhere else, come to that) it was nice to settle down to read somebody else’s debut magazine, as earlier in the day I’d received Issue One of the ‘Eye Flash Poetry Journal.’
But enough of my babble, to the magazine.
From opening the envelope, it is obvious that ‘Eye Flash’ is a beautifully produced, highly controlled poetry journal of the oldest school. Just holding it you instantly recognise the quality of the production.
Produced in pamphlet rather than perfect bound form, it is the simplest of designs throughout, the unlaminated cover feeling beautiful in your hand and the interior pages being of a nice weight and quality too.
Speaking of the cover, the design is classic and the image is of a painting by artist Kitty Cooper which is quite charming, perfectly matching the achingly modern yet classic style of the magazine itself. I’m not sure if Ms. Cooper will be generally supplying the art for the covers, but looking at her work on Artfinder, if it were me she certainly would be.
Other than my swooning at the artist’s feet, the addition of a line from Daniel Bennet, cleverly taken from his poem ‘The Cormorant’, which appears in the magazine, fits the image perfectly and adds to the suspicion that a lot of thought has gone into the smallest of details with this production. This isn’t a line that would have been obvious as a contender to go with the painting, but works perfectly for entirely that reason.
Inside the covers, the spartan style continues. Poems are given lots of space to breathe on the page, fonts are classic serif and there are no kitchen sinks thrown into elongated editorials (must remember that if nothing else) just a short note from editor Charlotte Begg in which you feel every word has been weighed.
And that is the impression I get throughout the magazine. Charlotte knows exactly what she is doing and is doing it beautifully. Each of the nineteen poems would stand out in a lesser magazine, but there is a commonality of quality here where all of the poems have a certain ‘something’, that you can only wonder how many submissions Ms. Begg had to whittle down to find this many that are so very good. It reminds me of talking to a very good and experienced luthier and asking him how he knew when one of his guitars was ‘really good.’ He looked at me a little strange and told me that they are all ‘really good’ as he puts any where the wood doesn’t sing onto his fire.
As for the poetry itself, I am in love with Joanna Nissel’s magazine opener, ‘Perfect Happiness’, which is beautifully quirky and pulls at the threads of forgotten memories. Sometimes a short poem can say so much more than a long one, and that is the case here. Neil Richards’ ‘The Flood’ caught me too with its line about Noah ‘Discreetly sewing souls into ants’, as did Jim Zola’s ‘Dusk’ opening with, ‘You become home to your wife’s sadness…’ which resonates horribly.
In truth I could quote from all of the poems, but that really isn’t the aim of this, and more to the point I wouldn’t want you to be distracted from clicking on the ‘Buy Me’ button, because this really is a magazine that you will want to read and to own. I should also say that it doesn’t just work in sodium-lit car parks outside schools (I know, I’ve just read it again a few times) it is a genuinely beautiful production which will happily see you through to the Winter edition quite nicely.
You can find out more and order a copy at the Eye Flash Poetry Web Site.
It strikes me that starting a poetry magazine is something that, perhaps, a number of people would like to do, and that in doing it, it is a good chance to talk about what is involved. I’m sure we will make plenty many lots of mistakes along the way, but if nothing else making a prat of yourself in public is entertaining for the casual spectator.
Of course we have already decided a few things. The name, ‘A Restricted View From Under The Hedge’ actually came really early for some reason, and with it a certain perspective on what a poetry magazine is. Ours will have plenty of poems, but we want it to be a little ‘meta’ too, mainly because I’m one of those annoying people who always ask ‘why?’ when the ‘what’ is really what matters.
Other than that, making it a quarterly was an easy decision as, basically, I am ultimately lazy in my default state. And printed over pixels came down to the fact that I tend to have a pile of poetry books on my bedside table, and I’m always concerned that I’ll get electrocuted if I drop a Kindle in the bath. (I know I won’t, but you never know.)
One thing that I am pondering today, is about how the magazine will look. On the outside we obviously have an idea about design already, and I think matte lamination is the way to go too. But it is on the inside I am going around in circles, and I’m trying to decide whether it should be colour or monochrome.
Now to cover the obvious, there is a cost implication to consider. Colour costs more as you need posher papers and more inks, or something.
But in reality, for a book or magazine the size of a poetry magazine it may mean a £1 on the cover price, and if my old Economics ‘O’ level taught me anything, it was that sitting with all the other boys was no way to get a girlfriend.
The other thing, of course, was that when it comes to things like books and music, and maybe even poetry magazines, demand is inelastic in that if people really want it they will pay the price and if they don’t, it doesn’t matter how cheap it is, they wouldn’t spit on it if it were on fire.
I failed the exam, clearly.
So in many ways, the colour or monochrome decision is strictly aesthetic, and you may think that it would be easy – colour all the way, as that is how ‘normal’ magazines work, isn’t it?
But in truth, I really think poetry works better in monochrome, there are no distractions from the work and I can’t help but feel that colour poetry books remind me of those piles of cheap hardbacks you get in motorway services and garden centres, the visitor shop books with curling gold-foil rosettes shouting ‘Three for a Tenner,’ all very ‘Mary Berry Cooks Dallas’ and ‘Steam Engines From Hackney Wick.’
And yes, we could use beautiful photographs, or have an ‘art’ section, which admittedly I’ve thought about, but would it really add anything to the words?
I don’t think so, and ultimately that is the interesting part, the part we wanted to immerse ourselves in from the start and isn’t it better to avoid distractions?
So I think that is what we will do, and if that seems a little old fashioned, well I can only apologise, and perhaps we’ll keep digging out pretty photos of hedgehogs for the web site by way of an apology.
And yes I realise that it has nothing to do with anything at all, but to celebrate the unlikely event of my making a decision, here is a song from the Monochrome Set.
It was an interesting day today as we finally got our first look at the covers we are planning to use for the ‘Road To Clevedon Pier’ Anthology, and the first issue of our (rather spiffy looking) magazine ‘A Restricted View From Under The Hedge.’
These are apparently known as ‘Scamps’ or ‘Mockups’ or ‘Dollies’ (I made one of the three up there as I am a little bored with the buzzwords) but I would imagine that they will be somewhere close to the finished article come next year.
Both photographs were taken by our in-house snapper in Clevedon where we are based, as indeed are all of the landscapes on the web site and we are rather pleased with how they are working so far.
Smug Are We, as the saying goes.
I have to say that despite us not really trying to spread the word just yet we are starting to get a few submissions for the magazine (I’m calling it ‘Arfur’ from here on in to save typing-time) and already they are looking pretty good.
We have humble hopes, but they are rising already.
One thing – if you want to keep up-to-date about all of our goings-on, you can sign-up for our free (like anybody charges for such things) newsletter, using the form below all of this rambling.