I’m sipping a McDonald’s Hot Chocolate (maybe it’s properly called ‘McChocco TM’ or somesuch (no I checked the website it’s just Hot Chocolate, Regular or Large)) up in the sky at the top of Norwich’s Chapelfield Shopping Mall. The glass wall faces north into the ‘landscaped’ (possibly also TM) churchyard of St Stephen and the church itself which has a short square tower – at a guess I’d say it’s Saxon, but Pevsner corrects me and says the ground floor of the tower is C14 and the structure above was remodelled in 1601. The interior of the church he counts as ‘impressive’. For me it’s the vividly remembered site of a church Jumble Sale where, when suffering harder times, I found a delicate silver mustard pot for a very few pence. Stephen, as you may recall, is/was the first christian martyr, stoned to death for not toeing the line – remarkably this method of execution is still practised two thousand years later. Pushing up behind the roof line of the church are the battlements of Norwich castle and the top few metres of the cathedral spire, famously climbed at one point in its history by a sailor for a bet. Beyond all that are trees on Mousehold Heath, where Kett’s rebels camped out and where now, with mild irony, you’ll find Norwich Prison. The sky is a clear clean blue. I’m here because I’m early for my acupuncture appointment just up the road.
What news on The Rialto? Nathan is in New York working on Part 2 of the Under 35’s feature. Other acceptances for issue 30 are going well – work by more than 30 poets, including Peter Scupham, Alison Brackenbury etc. By the way there was a bit of a debate in Acumen 65 about how magazines which receive Arts Council funding should be more open to open submissions rather than commissioned poems. On the lines that as Tax Payers are funding magazines they should be able to get their poems published in them. Nearly all the poems in The Rialto are from the post box. If I meet a poet whose work I like I will sometimes say ‘how about a poem then?’, and I’ve asked for some of the poems in the current celebratory issues. But anyone that’s feeling gripey may need to know that many quite famous poets send poems to The Rialto without being asked.
One of my favourite poems so far, which I hope you’ll like, is Robert Wells’ ‘The Coin Cabinet.’ It’s one of those list poems. Although they can go stunningly awry I like list poems and this one is a cracker. Mind you the coins are classical Greek ones, so I’ll be interested to know if they impact on readers free from knowledge of that mythology. I was accused recently of having a ‘classical education’ – the concluding lines of a new poem I’d written make an oblique reference to the famous Latin tag ‘sunt lacrimae rerum’ (Vergil, Aeneid Bk 1 line 462). I’m not sure that being sat in the back of Latin lessons for five years in bleak terror of being asked to translate counts as a classical education, but I liked the stories. And anyway someone was using ‘sunt lacrimae’ to console Cathy Perks in The Archers the other day – why did they remove Sid? Haven’t caught up with that tragedy.
Robert Wells is a true classicist. His fabulous versions of Vergil’s Georgics and the Theocritus’ Idylls are in his recent Collected (Carcanet), required reading I’d say, basic to any connection with Pastoral, a tradition that rambles through much of English literature – Chaucer, Skelton, Spenser, Milton, Thomson, Blake, Wordsworth, Arnold, Edward Thomas, RS Thomas etc., etc. The Rialto is currently in conversation with the organisers of a projected festival of Nature Writing taking place in February 2011 in North Norfolk. More news when we have it.
The Rialto reading at London’s famous Troubadour on October the 4th is taking shape. We have a headline reader, Fleur Adcock the great New Zealand poet, holder of The Queen’s Gold Medal, who has a new book out from Bloodaxe – and also poems in two recent issues of the magazine. There’ll also be some of the ‘Under 35’ poets that Nathan Hamilton has selected for the current and next issues. There’s still time to catch up with this important feature and buy the first part in issue 69 – easiest via PayPal on the website. And of course you won’t want to miss the next part so, if you haven’t already done it, please renew your subscription. N.B., if renewing via PayPal please put ‘Renewal’ in the ‘instructions to vendor’ box.
Aldeburgh Poetry Festival programme is out and you’ll see that we’ve continued our sponsorship of the Sunday Masterclass. Get your tickets now! We’ll once again be extending an invitation to the poets who are courageously on stage being mastered and classed to publish before and after versions of their poems in the subsequent Rialto. (See the works by Catherine Ormell and Meryl Pugh in Rialto 68 – a few copies still available…)
We are all very aware of the current climate of cuts and impending doom emanating from The Coalition as it wrestles with deficits and recession. It is slightly startling that the crisis has not been allowed to get in the way of Parliament’s long summer holiday. Still as far as support for the Arts is concerned we are, like everyone else, under notice of cuts. When they come these can be sudden and severe – we hope not to be annihilated. In the meantime we are scheming to increase our income. The team have decided that the inside back cover is For Sale as advertising space. Enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org Any further suggestions that you, readers and friends, may have will be very welcome.
Time to go and have the acupuncturist stick pins in me.
P.S. You might like to know that your editor was one of the three who first spotted the King Eider (only the sixth or seventh for Norfolk) in late July. I’d gone down to do a bit of sea-watching (if you go to the seaside on a windy day and sea a row of people with telescopes staring at the horizon that’s what’s going on). Richard and Phil were already there and muttering as I set up my ‘scope about a duck that Richard had seen fly in from the east and land on the sea. Richard had called out ‘Eider’ as it flew but it was quickly apparent that this was more than a bit different – smaller, rounder head/bill shape etc. Phil dared to name it and dashed off to phone for back-up observers. The bird dived a few times, caught what looked like small crabs, devoured them, and began to drift back east. We trotted along the promenade tracking it and, fortunately, the back-up team arrived and a ‘probable’ King Eider became definite.