Thursday, August 12, 2004

by K.M. Dersley

A copy of Axcess, a magazine Carl hadn't paid for, dropped onto the mat. They said, 'We hope you will subscribe, but even if you don't, please write back and say what would make you wish to send off a cheque.'

After studying this production he pulled out a sheet of white 100gsm, dipped the steel nib in the bottle--then crapped out. He couldn't give an explanation, it would take too long. The magazine was unreadable. His study of it had confirmed that the very basics were faulty. The editors lived in a different universe to himself. Far, far away from this magazine were interesting writers he'd found a kinship and community of aims with, through the mails and the internet.

Amongst other hopeless projects Axcess were still pushing this former editor of the magazine who’d died in '97. He had been long dead as a writer in '97 did they but know it, though up until that date galvanised with misplaced, ignorant praise, attention at festivals, publication (if not sales), scholarships, fellowships and a weird sort of influence that he'd gained (partly through editing the magazine) in the largely enjoyment-free zone of British poetry.

They pushed Laurence Munt too. Static, stern, monolithic, quietly detesting himself. (You'd think these people were about 108 years old. No urgency or vitality. Why anyone should want to read the stuff--which of course they hardly ever did--was not a burning question.)

David Krustenvurst was another contributor, as well as Kester Procter. They got a lot of credit, just as a matter of course, for being true artists, vital and important spirits of the times. They wore the responsibility gravely. Surely no one, thought Carl, got fired up by the sort of stuff they printed year after year, grant after grant, residency after meritless residency? He knew how it went: Ah, it's Sean, is it, come in. Where's Jo? Ah, Matthew, there you are, dear boy. He could hear the door slam behind which they'd bestow drink, flattery and laurels on each other, confident in their own undemonstrated superiority.

He'd seen one of these 'bards' on a TV tribute programme, something like 'This Is Your Life.' The 'celebrated poet' when he was introduced came on like a library assistant. He'd only got in on it all because he was a brother-in-law of the subject. They played a couple of his lines through a loudspeaker. The impact was nil, but no one was surprised at that. Of all the guests this so-called poet was perhaps the most boring. This was no Orpheus making the stones and the very roots of trees stir with his numbers, this wasn't Whitman's fabled bard either, the man you wanted to follow so you could get close and learn to be like him. In our society the poet has lost the aura of personal magnetism. Nowadays it clings round actors and rock singers, who are the new and exciting lights in a disappointing world.

Perhaps, thought Carl, he should have accepted the invitation and sent Axcess a powerful statement of his views. He could have slagged off the contributors, but they would only have thought he was remembering how they had consistently rejected his own immortal offerings in the past.

The truth was, the scene had moved on. They might have had control of the ball game a few years ago (though that was doubtful--really and truly everyone knew they were small timers, deluded into seeing significance in their feeble utterances). But now on the internet Carl could find plenty of e-zines that published (amongst the dross) lively, sparkling narratives, poems and articles. Thunder Sandwich, Unlikely Stories and Zygote in My Coffee were three. Unlike that freebie print magazine, they contained many pieces of writing which were very much to his taste. These he often printed out to keep and reread. Plus the fact, e-zines often had a fresh issue monthly, sometimes even weekly. Also, they were (all broadband or dial-up charges being taken into account) free.

Not only that, the online mags showed more interest in Carl's own scribbles and squibs than those supporters of the old network of bores ever would. The magic slate of the VDU was the way forward, Jack.

What really surprised Carl was how the partisans of Krustenvurst and the rest found the energy to keep their Whirligig spinning, albeit feebly. Presumably they encouraged each other as best they could.

British underground writer K.M. Dersley's hails from Ipswich, Suffolk, England. His book of stories and articles, Sketches by Derz, is available at his website, along with more of his work, including the cd Derzology. His latest book of poems, Between The Alleyways At The World's Fair, was published this year by Feel Free Press. Contact him electronically at clapgate (whereit'sat) and postally at 43 Tranmere Grove, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 6DU UK.

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