I’ve been writing and thinking a great deal about poetry magazines lately, and part of the reason for that is we seem to be going through something of a literary Golden Age as far as literary journals go. Certainly up here in Scotland, anyway, where there’s been a real proliferation of magazine start-ups attempting to cater to a different sort of audience. I’m thinking about mags like The Grind, The Poets’ Republic and The Write Angle, magazines with a DIY ethic/aesthetic, superb writing and, most interestingly of all, a definite regional identity. By this I don’t mean simply that they’re ‘parochial’ – what I’m getting at is that these kinds of magazines are at the heart of a particular local scene, whether it’s that of Falkirk, Glasgow or Stonehaven.
That interests me, principally because no such magazine exists in the Borders, or ever has, as far as I know. There are many possible reasons for that, most of which are too depressing to contemplate, but what I’d be most interested to find out is which way round these things are apt to happen – does a thriving local literary scene bring about the existence of a magazine, or is the magazine itself the prerequisite for bringing together a viable writing community?
This is not, by the by, a rhetorical question. If there’s anyone out there who has some thoughts, I would love to hear them. You see, I’ve been having a wee think lately about setting up a Borders equivalent to the kinds of magazines I mentioned above, and the idea, to me, seems like a good one. There’s definitely a ton of great writing out there which is currently going unpublished – I don’t think for one moment that the market is saturated quite yet. But a magazine would also be a great conduit for linking up the Borders writing scene with that of the rest of the country.
The Borders has a great deal to offer Scotland, in literary terms; there are some fantastic individuals writing out of here. And there’s a lot going on, albeit in an often piecemeal kind of way. But there isn’t really much in the way of overall cultural structure or strategy. A literary magazine could not only serve as a kind of focal point around which to cohere a community, but it would also open up the two-way conversation we need to be having with the rest of the country (that’s you guys out there) about what we could be bringing to your party, and what you could be bringing to ours.
So, that’s the plan. You’re probably safe to go away now and get on with a few things. Do the washing up. Get the mould out of the windowsill. But, you know. Somewhere along the line. Watch this space.