Thursday, January 21, 2010

Angus Calder, Chapman Issue 110

Well, this is the first day in the past week in which I’ve actually felt positive about a new day. I haven’t been well and this will be my third day on anti-biotics, which do seem to have kicked in this morning. Not out the woods yet, but much better. I am now behind with everything – work, emails (sorry, everyone), blogging, reviewing, poetry (I had plans to write poems for one or two specific projects and haven’t written a word) and everything else.

Firstly, I was delighted to get my copy of the new Chapman, issue 110 (the website is still well out of date). Chapman has been over several decades one of Scotland’s central, important literary magazines. This is the first issue for about three (?) years, due to various reasons explained in the magazine’s editorial. The hope is that Chapman will be published again every six months - I hope so too. It contains the usual mix of poetry, fiction and reviews, some of which I liked and some of which I didn’t – the same would go for any issue of any magazine. There’s a very moving set of “memories and reflections not ‘tributes’!” of writer and poet, Angus Calder, which are fascinating in that they seem to talk about a real human being, not a sanitized version. I liked the anecdote on the value of the arts, from Alan Riach. Riach asked Calder whether the one person without whom the 20th century would be unimaginable was Hitler. Calder became passionately angry:

“No,” he said. “Because I care about Stravinsky, I care about Picasso, MacDiarmid, Joyce, Shostakovich. These are the people who make the 20th century possible to live in.”

Some people, probably the majority of people, will disagree with that. You know how it is when public money is allocated to fund a poet-in-residence rather than something useful? The tabloid newspapers go crazy and you’ll find no end of outraged people to complain about it. But the gap between expediency and value grows over time and if we neglect what’s truly valuable, the next century may become increasingly impossible to live through. It’s hard to measure the contribution that, say, Picasso, has made to our lives, and even to the lives of people who have no interest in his artworks. But without him and others of his great creative vision and skill in fields of art, poetry, film, literature and so on, somehow we would all be diminished, life wouldn’t be the same.

I have more to say about the Chapman issue, but this will do for now.

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