You can get the Sunday Times in full colour on your iPad and now read fiction on your android while standing in a bus queue. So why would you want to continue with print? But history is slow to change. The past in which new writers tried things out in the small mags and pushed the culture forward in back rooms continues. The small mag, that hands-on, anarchic, partisan and delightful invention of early modernism which you might have expected to vanish at the first sign of a free digital future is still very much with us.
If the system won’t make you famous then change the system. Rhys Trimble’s ctrl+alt+del does just that. This is a distinctly avant-garde half-way house between a traditional small mag and online equivalent. The magazine arrives by pdf and you print it out yourself. Folding instructions come via YouTube. How you read it is up to you. Issue Four has a couple of mainstream left field contributions from a relaxed Chris Torrance and a philosophical Johan De Wit. Torrance reruns his creative writing class experiences aided by “furtive slugs from a vacuum flask”. Is this a fresh Torrance poem or a cut up of his classes’ reactions. That’s the joy of the avant-garde, one is never sure.
Elsewhere the cutting edge runs to wilder places. Damian Sawyer’s Blast! Crossword with its arbitrary clues, Alys Conran’s new definitions of Wales – “wind cornering on two wheels”, and the editor’s Open String Field Theory As Projective Verse – concrete ambiguity and Miltonian particles. If you find that hard to understand see how you get on with the original. Available for free at www.cad.theabsurd.co.uk.
Down in Cardiff’s Richmond Road Nick Fisk has published the ninth issue of his magazine Square. Neat, in colour, and rich with illustration Square tracks the irregular, the underdog and the new. Martin Daws avoids the cracks, Michael Pedersen takes deep breathes while Fisk himself makes an amusing found poem from descriptions of the first ten emerging Chilean miners. And there are reviews too. Disarmingly honest, acutely unstudied and bearing elements of truth if you read between the lines.
Mike Jenkins’s Red Poets is bold, A4 and as left leaning as it ever was, even when aided by a Books Council grant. The radical hard core – Alun Rees, Tim Richards, Alan Perry, David Greenslade, and Herbert Williams are joined by Ivy Alvarez, Emily Hinshelwood, Alexis Lykiard and others. How red is it all? There are letters to Che Guevara, calls for Afghanistan withdrawal, complaints about bankers, politicians, warmongers and capitalism. There are memories of how it once was in industrial Wales, laced with regret and pain and glory. The whole thing is uneven but proud, unsettling but engaging, and certainly worth seeking out. £4 a copy. www.redpoets.org
An earlier version of this posting appeared as The Insider in the Western Mail. #185