“And I lived in the country of myself all my life.”
— Paul Hostovsky, My Country Isn’t
This issue of The Chimaera is divided, like Issue 2, into three parts: a selection of poetry and prose which engages with the theme of Belonging, a spotlight feature which focuses on the English poet Alison Brackenbury, and a selection of other poems and prose on various subjects.
Submissions for the general and themed sections were overwhelming in numbers, and we were pleased that they came from a much wider pool of contributors than previously. The huge number of contributions has greatly increased the workload of the editors, who must process vast quantities of text and make ever harder decisions about what work to include: in brief, there is an embarrassment of riches. But the outcome of this is that The Chimaera provides a nourishing feast of writing which will keep its readers entertained and satisfied for quite some time.
The section on Belonging and Alienation follows on from the theme of Expatriatism explored in The Chimaera’s first issue. Now the topic of living outside the country of one’s birth is extended to include a wide range of responses to notions of fitting into society, feeling attachment to a place, group, idea or belief, experiencing a sense of solidarity, connection and kinship.
But belonging implies othering: to belong is to define, delimit and distance that which does not belong. The theme of alienation provides writers with topics involving more inherent conflict (and therefore drama)than that of belonging; so literature often presents narratives and reflections on outsiders, lost and estranged, detached from society, and therefore capable of unusual and critical points of view. Maybe a sense of alienation is increasing in our times, with people objectified in a world where commodity fetishism has eroded human values. Mass movements, hypnotised by the media, are driven by group-think orthodoxies associated with patriotism, war, economic dominance, celebrity-worship, political correctness and various fundamentalisms; they seem to crush individual morality and integrity.
The Chimaera’s writers pushed in unexpected directions the subject of what we might or might not belong to, viewing issues of inclusion, exclusion and alienation from odd, personal and unique perspectives. There are some remarkable revelations here about what it means to fit in, or not fit in, to the world around us. Readers are in for some delicious surprises — and some disturbing ones.
It has been a delight to work with Alison Brackenbury on the interview for her feature section. Even if she were not such an accomplished and important poet, she would stand out as an exceedingly good person. Her good humour, kindness and energy made my job very easy and very pleasant, and the resulting interview illuminates the background to her impressive body of work. Readers will also find in this section, as a delightful bonus, a group of previously unpublished poems by Alison, as well as a review by Nigel McLoughlin of her latest book, Singing in the Dark.
Devotees of The Chimaera will need to cancel all but the most urgent appointments and commitments for the next month or so: they will be too busy feasting on the wide range of excellent new and reviewed writing — over a hundred poems, stories, reviews and interviews — stored within The Chimaera’s lair. Allow me to particularly recommend Fintan OHiggins’s investigation of the Goth Poet scene, Kajsa Wiberg’s odd and endearing insight into a rather odd culture, J.T. Clark’s explorations of Othering, Alison Brackenbury’s poems, of course… Read on, Dear Reader, while The Chimaera’s editors stumble blearily away for a well-earned rest.
Putting this extended issue together was indeed a great deal of work for the staff. Fortunately, as Paul has said, it is jam-packed with interesting content, which has lightened the labour.
I was bowled over by R. Nemo Hill’s short story “Tom Bowl”, a nicely written piece fitting well into the Belonging theme. A stand-out story — amusing, thought-provoking, and stylistically effective. Not that this is by any means the only entertainment and enlightenment to be had from our prose selection. It’s all good, as they say. But let me single out one more piece: Fintan O’Higgins is a droll fellow with a gift for the outrageously politically incorrect phrase (as some would see it) and I hope for his sake that no, er, amply proportioned, irate ladies manage to catch up with him any time soon!
On the poetry side, Michael Thomas got my attention and interest with his striking verbal inventiveness. In “By Down the Shoresea” Patti McCarty uses the paradelle, Billy Collins’s spoof mediaeval French form, to create a delightful poem, or song, whose repetitions and reversals seem to echo the waves on the seashore they celebrate. JB Mulligan’s work has grown on me — especially “fall of the serpent” (a single sinuous sentence) and the four times four quatrains of “Quartet for the End of Time”. And while I don’t fully “understand” Elizabeth Barbato’s “Dulse” with its eccentric punctuation, I find it oddly affecting. Janice Soderling’s “Medea’s Lullaby” is succinct and deadly.
Paul Hostovsky’s assertion that “deaf families /
are a kind of aristocracy /
where deaf is the currency” appeals to me. Rose Kelleher seldom disappoints; “Scrape” interweaves past myth with present reality, all aptly couched in a contemporary, conversational dactylic hexameter. Margaret Menamin shows again that she’s one of the best writers of traditional sonnets around, and I’m taken, too, with the lovely heterometric and rhyme pattern of her “Baucis and Philemon”, which is reminiscent of Christina Rosetti. Finally, although I’ve never owned a horse, or ridden much, for some reason I’m a sucker for horse poems and keep coming back to Alison Brackenbury’s “Rosie”. I look forward to reading more of Alison’s poetry.
Issue 4 of The Chimaera, scheduled to go online in September 2008, will include, as usual, a section with a miscellany of verse and prose on various themes. Our special Feature Theme section in that issue will focus on work deserving of the characterisation multum in parvo — much in little. Not mere brevity, but economy of effect will be the touchstone: how much can be said in a few words. So to be precise it’s a feature mode this time rather than a theme. We’ll be choosing, for this multum in parvo section, poems and prose pieces that impress us by being short in words but long in content or implication. This does not mean that we shall necessarily be publishing a huge number of haikus, say, or short-short stories, only those that we think stand out as examples of their genre.
If you are interested in submitting work to The Chimaera, please see our Submission page and be sure to read all the guidelines carefully.
Editors: Paul Stevens, Peter Bloxsom
Artist/Photographer: Patricia Wallace Jones
Paul Stevens was born in Yorkshire, but lives in Australia. He teaches Literature and Historiography. His recent poetry is in The Barefoot Muse, Worm, Lily, The Argotist, The New Formalist, The Centrifugal Eye, Shattercolors, Contemporary Sonnet, Sliptongue and Poemeleon. He is the Poetry Editor (with Angela France and Nigel Holt) of The Shit Creek Review, as well as of The Chimaera Literary Miscellany.
Peter Bloxsom has worked as a writer, editor, and publisher, and is now a freelance writer and web developer. His articles, fiction, reviews, essays, humour, poems and other writings have appeared in print and online. He makes affordable websites for writers and poets, among others. His own site is at www.netpublish.net.
Patricia Wallace Jones is an artist, poet, and retired disability advocate. More of her artwork can be seen at: http://imagineii.typepad.com/imagineii/.