Saturday, 28 November 2009

Will It Fit The Bookrack?

Publishing in Wales is nothing if not diverse. At the point where the demands of the market might have been considered uppermost – everything the same shape to fit the same shelves, the same size to fit the same racks and the same look so as not to frighten the horses – out come two new magazines that couldn’t differ more. In Bangor Sophie McKeand and Andy Garside, a pair of upstart poets and graphic designers, have set up the Absurd. What they like is the weird, the avant garde and the wonderfully creative. They organise cabarets, readings, put on bands, launch books, bring out albums and promote the kind of thing Ezra Pound would have loved, the ever turning new.

They also engage in a bit of publishing but being design adept and aware of what it can be like printing piles of things and then having them unsold under your bed they do everything online. Their ctrl+alt+del, is a free magazine that comes in the form of a pdf. You print it out, fold according to online instructions and find yourself holding what now looks like a traditional poetry mag. The content of the two recent issues is pretty wide-ranging. Richard Downing’s Jazz Haiku, Phil Maillard in the mist on a Sunday morning in Sully, a terrific piece of poetry history from Chris Torrance in which he recounts his early days at the core of the Carshalton mob and British beat generation. Ken Cockburn and Scott Thurston add a slice of twentieth century avant garde. Homan Yousofi encircles Jericho. Check for yourself at

By contrast and in Cowbridge, a place nothing like Bangor, Ric Bower and associates launch Blown, a magazine of cultural intelligence. The contrast could not be greater. This is a heavy 162 page full-plate and often full-colour glossy. It mixes a range of seemingly incompatible bedfellows – art, music, fashion, photography. Photographs play a huge part. Defining just what the mag does is intentionally difficult. A series of stunning photographs from Peter Finimore, Toril Brancher, and Richard Page are accompanied by tangential texts from Brennan Street, Catrin Dafydd and Diarmid Mac Giolla Chriost. John Beynon writes up the football casual. John Beynon snaps two likely lads at the gates to the ground and then screws his photos up and blanks out his subject’s eyes.

Elsewhere Michael Oliver deconstructs the language of council estates. Ed Pereira compares Scars with Basement Jaxx. Niall Griffiths goes to southern Ireland. Sarah Broughton interviews Sarah Waters. Ric Bower photographs the author and makes her look like a side lit elf. There’s a superb piece on the work of Diane Arbus accompanied by a raft of full plate reproductions. All this and more for £6.95. A new Wales. Get to Smiths now.

A version of this posting appeared as The Insider in the Western Mail of 28th November, 2009

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