In case you missed it the other day, we finally worked out what it was that we wanted to do as far as reviews go and added our ‘Review Policy’ to the site, somewhere over There.
I won’t rehash that, but one of the things I keep wittering on about is that I feel that poetry journals, due to the rest of the world’s ‘media’ largely ignoring poetry, really must do whatever they can to spread the word. (Assuming that we are part of the media and what a weird idea that is.) As one of the key ways of doing this is by reviewing as many poetry collections as we can, we are really honour-bound to do just that.
See, I got there in the end. This is all pre-coffee.
Like everything else we do, I really want it to be an open and transparent process, so we’ll be listing any books or pamphlets we receive on the site as we go and linking to the author’s or publisher’s pages. I know that isn’t much, but there we are.
No, I don’t know why I bring it up either. I think maybe that coffee could be a good idea after all.
One thing we’ve found over the last few weeks since we embarked on SS Arfur is that there is very much a lot of ‘making it up as you go along.’ Not that we hadn’t spent months (and in truth, years) thinking about all of this, but once you are ‘on the ground’ the world looks a lot different from the adrenalin-free blue sky perspective.
The most obvious case of this is probably the one that we had thought was the simplest – how you go about dealing with the problem of Maria submissions?
Now we did worry about this up-front;
Would we get enough?
Would they be any good?
Would there be too many for us to deal with, as we found ourselves buried in them?
And luckily none of those has been a problem, but we are well aware that despite the fact that we were more than happy for people to submit their work elsewhere whilst we also held on to it, it doesn’t seem fair to hang on to work that maybe isn’t for us.
All of which is a long way around saying that we have started sifting the poems that have already been submitted and that whilst we haven’t definitely chosen any yet (actually that isn’t true, there are a handful that I know will definitely be in the first issue – not least because one of them made me cry) but we are definitely getting to a position where we can start a longlist and then, over time see which poems that subsequently arrive replace those on it.
So, whilst not hearing from us doesn’t mean that you are definitely going to see your work in Arfur#1, there are still some poems we haven’t read at all, we will now be starting to let people know if their work wasn’t for us this time, as it seems the fairest thing to do.
The truth of it is that we are really only looking for 40 poems, or rather forty-ish poetry-filled pages, and from there it is only matter of taste. And as my reflection in the bathroom mirror regularly asks me,
‘What the hell do I know anyway?’
Submissions are still open – HERE – until the 15th January, and every poem will be read and right up to that deadline we will be comparing and finding which are the ones that talk to us most. So please do submit your work if you fancy what we are trying to be about.
We are all rather smug today as we had some great news as far as Arfur, our worryingly imminent imaginary magazine is concerned, as it seems that a certain Mr A.P Middleton of somewhere in the frozen North, is joining us.
Which is many kinds of rather good news, as A.P, as he allows himself to be called in the more relaxed portions of social occasions, is the compiler of rather fiendishly tricky crosswords.
Now I’ll be quite honest, I am hopeless at such things, but we do have a rather crossword addicted member of Team ‘Hog, and she is verily excited by this.
As for the crossword itself, the plan is for us to feature one of A.P’s torturous creations in each issue of Arfur (that sounds wrong somehow) and of course there will be a prize of some sort. (Don’t ask me what now, all I do know is that A.P thinks nobody can beat his best, and that we should plan to ‘roll-up’ the prize until somebody flukes it a few years down the line. So there is a challenge.)
More seriously, we are very pleased to have A.P along for the ride, and we are sure that you will be too.
When we first put the ‘Hog web site up, at the last minute we realised that we needed a cover for our magazine, ‘Arfur’, and for the ‘The Road To Clevedon Pier’ anthology.
Being a little third division on the Photoshop front, we scrambled around, nipped out with the Box Brownie, and managed to put something together in about 27 minutes, with only a quick espresso along the way.
In fact the ‘Pier’ book is perfect and that is destined to be the final look of the published artefact, as it were, but the Arfur one was only ever meant to be an example, a placeholder until we quickly got the proper design together.
Needless to say, at that point we immediately forgot about the whole thing and opened another pack of Hobnobs and that it is only now, all these weeks later when I have suddenly realised that I need to get finished cover files to our delightfilled printer, for some ‘mock-up copies of the magazine we can photograph and generally coo over, that I am inspired to, well, do something.
So by the end of the week I am hoping to have at least three possible cover images, and I would deeply be pleased and chuffed if you good people (assuming anybody is reading this drivel) wouldn’t mind casting your eye over them and voting for the one you like best.
Obviously, I only write this on here to force me to do it.
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.