August 8, 2010 by Tracey S. Rosenberg
The Anon launch was held in the Scottish Poetry Library, which isn’t just bursting with poetry books, but actually has poetry embossed/etched/otherwise built into the walls. There were pretzels and crisps, there was wine, there were fresh new copies of Anon for sale (please buy some, or there will be no Anon 8, and that would be awful). It’s one of those magazines that’s lovely as a physical object in addition to having lots of good text.
It’s standard for launches to involve people reading, of course, and the Anon 7 contributors who were able to attend did indeed read…but not from their own work. Co-editor Colin Fraser asked us in advance to choose poems of other contributors, and then went round assigning them.
In one sense, this felt very odd. On the other hand, it really did take some of the pressure off. I was lucky (?) in that, unlike other people, I wasn’t reading the poem of a person who was standing right behind me on the SPL balcony, so at least the standard inner monologue (‘Am I reading too quickly? BREATHE! Oh hell, that word isn’t prounounced that way in this country; idiot!’) wasn’t supplemented by an extra helping of wondering if the writer would condemn me afterwards for not reading it right. But there was no condemnation at all.
One of the poets later commented that reading each other’s work made us feel more like a community, and I like that idea. So often, the other contributors are just sharing pages in the same volume, but you never meet or interact with them; it was nice to bring us together and cross us all over each other.
The New Writing Scotland launch focused a bit more on individual authors, as six of us were selected to read and we each had around ten minutes, so (to my surprise) I was able to select other work in addition to ‘The Painter’s Wife‘.
I ended up with a brace of poems about Great Scottish Men and their wives (I use that phrasing deliberately) – the second was ‘Carlyle Alone’ – and a pairing of poems from my ongoing illness/medical narrative/identity project, one of which is ‘Cancer Villanelle‘, now published in The Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine.
(That title, hmm. It’s a bit ‘does-what-it-says-on-the-tin’ but I like the rhythm and never thought of a better one.)
The NWS launch was more formal – guests sitting in rows of seats at Blackwell’s instead of mingling on the ground floor – but had the irrepressible Alan Bissett (co-editor) as host/compere, and he did an amazing job, and I don’t only say that because he a) selected my poem and b) absolutely loved my rainbow braces (Amer: suspenders).
I was later told that one of my poems had made someone tearful, and also that some of what I’d said in a preamble was dangerous. I consider these both Very Good Comments. (I do have to think carefully about the issues surrounding the latter comment, though.)
I enjoyed both launches, and they seem prophetic, given that my career feels as though it’s starting to reach that moment when the airplane is just lifting off. (Though, as popular wisdom tells us, takeoff is the most dangerous point.) Hopefully I can say a bit more about that soon.