It rained. Part of the building had fallen off. The bar was heaving with Carphone Warehouse partygoers. But The Rialto launch last night was a small haven of poetry peace amidst the chaos.
Although I got there indecently early (I had the silly idea that it was starting at 6.30) Fiona Moore made me very welcome and I was soon joined by Sarah Rudston, Nancy Campbell and Davina (D A) Prince, all contributors to this issue. There was plenty of chat about publishing, Stanzas, workshopping and the like. Michael Mackmin arrived with a huge bag of magazines and pamphlets. We had readings from five poets including Fleur Adcock and Stephen Watts, and although I had to leave soon after the readings and speeches to get a 9pm train, the room was still full and animated.
I found it a really nice and non-intimidating event. As well as a launch (the first time The Rialto has had one in London) it was also a celebration of the Assistant Editor programme as Abigail Parry and Fiona Moore ended their ‘apprenticeship’ which they had clearly enjoyed. I was also thrilled to finally introduce myself to Michael Mackmin after my last aborted attempt!
I’ve talked before with poet friends about how The Rialto just seems to have a particular appeal in a way that other magazines, however brilliant, don’t quite have. Is it the production values – the size, spaciousness, paper, typefaces, beautiful covers? Is it the personable and down to earth editorials? The submissions guidelines that manage to be firm without being school-masterish or snitty? The twenty-pound note that falls from the envelope when you’ve had a poem accepted for publication? The poetry itself? What we usually agree on is that it’s Michael Mackmin’s personality and particular style that seem to be the key. The Assistant Editor programme has been interesting. I was slightly disappointed with issue 79, I can’t say for sure why but it felt like the range of poetry featured had narrowed. What I’ve read so far of issue 80 I’ve really enjoyed. Fresh eyes and fresh ideas are surely a good thing for any long-running project, but as long as Michael is still around it’s unlikely The Rialto will undergo any major overhaul. And would anyone want that anyway?
Latest acquisitions: Earlier in the day I had been at the London Review Bookshop round the corner from the British Museum. The downstairs room is a lovely space with an acre of poetry – and whose book should I spot but Jenny Lewis’s Taking Mesopotamia. Jenny was on the Ty Newydd course last October and this is her new collection from Carcanet.
I picked up a copy of Paul Muldoon’s Horse Latitudes. Paul read at the Charleston Festival a couple of weeks ago and I regret not seeing him. He’s a poet I’ve not read so this was my ‘canon’ purchase. Then I spotted Josh Ekroy’s new collection, Ways to Build a Roadblock. His is a name I know well from magazines, so I was intrigued enough to buy a copy, much to the pleasure of the chap on the till. Later on at The Rialto event I was impressed by Michael Mackmin’s talking up of ‘A bad influence girl’, Janet Rogerson’s pamphlet, so that was my third purchase. So lots more lovely reading.
Submissions: ‘Send us some poems!’ said Fiona Moore as I left. When I told her I already had some out to The Rialto, sent in February, she looked puzzled. ‘You should have heard by now.’ Oh no – the words I dread – alarm bells ring, has it happened again, did my precious submission not arrive? Am I the only one this happens to on a regular basis? Lost poems, poems accepted for a magazine but then left out, poems accepted then same poems rejected by the same magazine… my submissions seem to be dogged by problems. Almost wishing for a short, sharp rejection instead of facing another nails-down-the-blackboard ‘black hole’ scenario. We’ll see.