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In praise of the ‘zine

Poetry zines

I love the idea of giving birth to an arts/literary magazine. I dream about it and go through possible plans for it, in the same way some people do kitchens, or dream homes.

Whenever I come across some quirky ‘zine I keep a copy, for future reference, in case there any ideas I can borrow from it. Every aspect is fascinating – size, paper weight/finish, typefaces, layout, colours, how many printed, distribution channels, who’s behind it, contributors, whether there are ads or sponsors and if so, who they are. And that’s before I even get to the actual content. I don’t have any system for gathering my research material other than a box file, and I tend to lose things so not everything makes it into the box file.

Some examples stand out, such as the very high spec (yet with an independent vibe) neighbourhood literary/arts magazine I came across when staying in Clerkenwell a few years back. Can I lay my hands on it now? No. And when I google it all I find is a somewhat shiny corporate version produced by a media company which just wasn’t it. Maybe the original idea got taken over.

Then there was the surprise of receiving a copy of Fuselit, with not one but two micro-magazines falling out the envelope together with three little fridge magnets and a mini-CD. Extraordinary attention to detail and surely many man- or woman-hours in the making. It was like a one-off.

More recently I was attracted to Belgium-based Miel Books’ 1110/7 micro-journal – I think I followed a link to the website and fell for the design – and I had it by my bedside for some time, re-reading its contents, mostly what I would call avant garde – certainly no villanelles or poems about dementia. I quite like a mixed diet, whether or not I respond to all the individual poems themselves.

And today (what prompted this post I guess) the first edition of ‘The High Flight’ arrived.  It’s a new ‘100% independent fanzine’ being distributed around Edinburgh and Glasgow mainly. I’m probably on the outer edges of their market (in all senses!) – I think I must have made a donation via Kickstarter, anyway my name is listed as a benefactor, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, and pleased to be supporting a bit of genuine grass-roots, lets-get-it-out-there, take-it-or-leave-it grunge-lit post-expressionism. I enjoyed it – some short pithy poems, one or two colourful and/or random graphics, an essay on why we need to start getting angry again, an amusing tale of pill-taking and a smattering of what my mum would call language – and applaud those who’ve got it off the ground.

I’ve too many other projects at the moment to think about launching a lit-zine, but one of these days…!

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Robin Houghton 2021
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