A huge welcome to this, the first issue which will also go out in print. Dave Kavanagh and I feel that the magazine has come a very long way in a little over a year and we are very excited to be moving into this format, alongside our continuing e-zine presence at thebluenib.com.
Jane Simmons reviews Denise Riley’s Say Something Back and Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s Boom!
We also welcome a new member of the review team, Emma Lee, who is bringing an enormous amount to the magazine. In this issue she has reviewed The Becoming of Lady Flambé by Holly Magill, and she has also contributed poetry and has written about her role as co-editor of Over Land, Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge. These diverse contributions really demonstrate Emma’s varied talents. Her biographical poetry is so effective at conjuring personalities and situation and bringing Ella Fitzgerald back to life.
I have also featured L. Shapley Bassen’s review of Arcadia by Iain Pears while Simran Keshwani looks at issues of privacy and surveillance in her review of the movie Snowden. In essays Nigel Jarrett looks at memory and its vagaries in Forgetting to Remember, Samantha Maw looks back on her experiences as a teacher in Uganda, and Aurora M. Lewis writes of the discrimination throughout her life in her engrossing account, A Black California Baby-Boomer.
Now to poetry. What a joy it is to have so much room for these exciting poets. I have to say at this point that I have many fine contributions in waiting – submissions to the site and emailed submissions. Please be patient. I do read absolutely everything with close attention, so do be assured that your work is not forgotten! If you have made multiple submissions to other sites as well as The Blue Nib (which is obviously tempting though not altogether welcome), please do let me know if works have been taken! It is so discouraging to select an exciting batch of poems and to find that they have been taken for publication elsewhere, and it also consumes time and disrupts my plans for the issue.
So what about the poets I have chosen? Anne Walsh Donnelly, our Chapbook 2 winner, has submitted poems that have an engaging conversational tone and lots of energy. I am especially proud that The Blue Nib was the first magazine ever to publish any of Anne’s poems. (And see also Anne’s fine story in this issue). Tom Paine is a sharp and observant poet, with wide ranging subject choices and compelling narratives. As well as her fine review, L. Shapley Bassen has contributed poetry. Like Tom Paine she is also good at concise observations, written in a succinct and elegant style. Cathy Donelan has sent some delightful subtle and delicate poetry.
I am particularly pleased to showcase Nora Cornell’s work. Her poems are surprisingly mature for a High School student (she assures me that I am not being patronising). Her poems are so perceptive and thought-provoking.
Re: Individual poems – regular readers will know that I always like to have a bit of a pick’n’mix of stand alone work. Sometimes a set of poems doesn’t make the cut, but there is often one that stands out. Sometimes a poem is quirky, or maybe I choose a dialect poem which is interesting because it honours dialects. DJ Tyrer’s two short poems are acidic and amusing. Sunil Sharma gives us a frenetic Mumbai and what can I say about Arthur Broomfield’s surrealist poetry? A thought provoking and simultaneously completely baffling stream of consciousness that comes meditatively. I chose this one because there was enough cat imagery woven through it to appeal to my sense of order in the midst of chaos!
Michael A. Griffith’s precise and poignant poetry is always a delight and we are thrilled that his chapbook, to be published by The Blue Nib, will soon be available.
Jeremy Nathan Mark’s passionate You can take my water sits alongside his biting criticism of racism in Time pieces which begs to be read alongside A Black California Baby-Boomer by Aurora M. Lewis
Marissa McNamara’s poignant yet clear-eyed poems sit alongside Polly Richardson
( munnelly) ‘s passionate work. Nathan Fidler has sent sensitive and observant poetry and Roy Liran’s work is concise, thoughtful and full of ideas. We are also looking forward to publishing his chapbook in the near future.
And finally, two unusual poets. Charles G Lauder: I like the way he nails each piece, whatever the scale, and I was fascinated by the inexorable ‘rise’ of Kaplan. Stephen House: I enjoyed the overwhelming rush of these frenetic poems, and their edgy subject matter, dealing with sex, a lost father, addiction, anger and despair.
The next print issue is out on December 15th, so please send submissions by the end of November at the very latest.
Shirley Bell, Poetry Editor.
I am excited and honoured to be the new Fiction Editor for The Blue Nib. I’m delighted to be taking on the role as the magazine launches in print, as well as online, after 34 successful editions as an e-zine. I’m London-based and disappointed that I won’t be there for the much-anticipated launch event in Dublin. As regular readers will know, so far, the e-zine has focused primarily on poetry. The decision to include short fiction demonstrates the magazine’s ever-increasing popularity and the high quality of the work submitted to date. I’m very attached to print media, and I enjoy reading a physical object. Reading content online we are sometimes inclined to skim. Print has that appealing physicality and encourages us to slow down and savour what we’re reading.
It is the perfect time to begin to include short fiction, which is having something of a resurgence. The viral phenomenon “Cat Person” by US writer Kristen Roupenian was unexpectedly one of the New Yorker’s most read pieces of 2017. It was subsequently snapped up bythe Penguin Random House imprint Jonathan Cape, and has been published as a stand-alone work of short fiction this year. Somewhat less contemporaneously, in the 1800s Edgar Allan Poe (now underrated, but then a prominent literary critic) was a fan of short fiction. Poe felt that it was one of the literary forms in which “genius” was best demonstrated. (In his view, it was second only to rhyming poetry. You may or may not agree with that!)
Short-form fiction, designed to be read in a single sitting, demands full artistic control. Many writers feel that mastery of the short form is even more difficult than the craft of novel-writing. In a piece of short fiction, every word must earn its place. In contrast, the novel is permitted the luxury of digression and expansive character studies. Of course, it also has to engage the attention for that much longer.
The writer Paul McVeigh used the analogy of the composition of a photograph versus making a full-length film. Both take skill and observation, but their aims differ. A character sketch, a snapshot in time or a focus on imagery, compared with an expansive tale taking in generations or travelling the world. Where plot is the objective, the short story has to be extraordinarily tight. One example is the work of Jorge Luis Borges (for pure enjoyment I recommend his 1970 work of short fiction “The Gospel According to Mark”). As we all know, creativity benefits from reading widely. I’ll put together a list of a few of my favourite masters of the short form for the next edition, together with my reasons for recommending them.
I’ve enjoyed reading the short fiction submissions that have come in this summer. I have selected six very different fiction pieces for inclusion in the launch edition of the print magazine. “Betrayal” by Irish poet and writer Kate Ennals is an emotionally rich tale of family relationships. It encompasses themes of grief, alienation and unexpected connections, and beginnings and endings. The piece is written in lucid prose, and, to steal a phrase from Kate’s piece, has not a word out of place. David Butler is a prize-winning fiction and poetry writer. His work of short fiction “Still Waters” is beautifully described, and vividly drawn. This is a piece in which flood water itself seems almost to become another character in the piece. Lyn Ann Byrne is comfortable in the realms of both fiction and non-fiction. Her short story “Ruby Red Never Forget” is a fluently written, atmospheric and bitter-sweet work, which focuses on ageing and the complexities of personal memory. Poetry by another Irish writer, Anne Walsh Donnelly, is already published by The Blue Nib. With “Half-a-Boy” she has produced an evocative and lyrically written work of short fiction.
Writers from further afield are also represented in this edition of the magazine. US writer Molly Fennig has written a thoughtful and well-characterized piece. I took great pleasure in reading this work of short fiction, which is wry, refreshingly different and ultimately uplifting. Finally, we include a piece of work by Sydney-based writer Audrey Molloy, best known for her poetry. Her “Peacock Blue” is taut and acutely observed.
I hope you enjoy reading all the works of short fiction selected for publication in this edition of the magazine as much as I did. Do continue to submit your works of short fiction. We will be back in December, and I will be selecting another crop of short works then.
Imogen Gladman, Fiction Editor.