Saturday, September 17, 2005

the emperor's new clothes

BLADE 6: The Emperor’s New Clothes Summer 1997

It’s been a while since I was closely involved in the small press scene, so I’ve been trawling the net with considerable interest over the past few months, looking at which poetry magazines are still afloat and which have folded, which have sprung up out of nowhere and which have changed hands or allegiances, as well as spotting various names of poets who were promising newcomers a few years ago and are now regulars on the festival circuit or celebrating their first - or even second! - full-length collections.

I took time out from poetry to start a new family, which I don’t regret, but I feel that the ground shifted while I wasn’t looking, that the view is no longer the same. Or perhaps it wasn’t the ground that shifted, but me; poetry is the same-old, same-old. I’m the one who has changed.

Blade was my creation, a critical poetry magazine that came out of a desire to get my hands dirty and my name known at the same time. It ran to nine issues. Looking back at its demise, I know that I screwed up, that things went seriously wrong and I handled the situation badly. I should have taken a step back, maybe let someone else edit the magazine for a few issues while I sorted my head out, but I was exhausted and pissed off, and the person doing the administration side of things went awol towards the end - the only thing that wasn’t my fault! - which meant subscribers’ and contributors’ addresses disappeared into the ether along with the bank balance, and I decided enough was enough. So Blade never made it to Issue Ten.

People were disappointed. That was inevitable and difficult for me to handle. It was a time I remember with little fondness, being a sort of King Lear moment in my life where I teetered on the brink of madness and was only saved by the few people I still had around me - my oldest friends and my family.

BLADE 6: Back Cover. Click on the image to enlarge.

In spite of those problems, I’m still proud of what I achieved with Blade in its heyday. It was forthright and challenging and bold for its time.

I produced the entire first issue myself - hand-printing, collating and stapling 100 copies of a 44 page magazine with a card cover. After that, I gave up the home-made look and it went to the printers. But Issue One is still one of my favourites, a little over-enthusiastic and naive though it may seem in retrospect, but featuring some marvellous poems by Brendan Kennelly, Martin Stannard, Geoff Hattersley, Maura Dooley, Mario Petrucci and Amanda Dalton, amongst many other talented poets. Not bad for a first issue edited from the Isle of Man by a complete novice.

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