So, quite a while ago now I promised Charlotte Henson I would review her brand new mag ‘Astronaut’ in return for a free copy. I’m always interested in poetry magazines and especially new ones. Poetry magazines were (and are) extremely important to me and my development as a writer. I feel part of a community when I read them (even if I’m not in it). I like meeting people that I have only previously known on the page. I like coming across new writers that I’ve not heard about before, but I also like seeing what more established writers are doing, and reading their new work. So, I was very happy to hear about a new, print-based magazine starting up.
Now, I’ve decided to be very HONEST and say I’ve been a bit slack about writing this review. I think there have been a couple of reasons for this. I’ve been busy, it’s been the end of term etc etc and also I had to go and pick the magazine up from the post office because there wasn’t enough postage. I get very grumpy about this – and I’m using the word grumpy because I think my reaction is over the top to this very slight inconvenience. So I decided to leave reading the mag for a few days until I’d stopped being grumpy. And then of course life got in the way, and now I’m late writing this – in fact Issue 2 (I think) is on its way, so technically Charlotte Henson (the editor) could be very grumpy with me back!
However, I figured it is useful feedback, because if I was a subscriber and I had to go and get the mag, I’d be even more hacked off. Or maybe it is just me. Anyway, on to the real review!
Astronaut has a fantastic website/blog at http://astronautzine.wordpress.com/about/ and I would urge you to go and check it out. The sole editor is Charlotte Henson, a young London poet, originally from Greater Manchester. The blog has some great tips about submitting and some nice work from submissions posted up there as well.
The actual magazine is very neat looking – the cover is black and white, it is staple bound but I think it’s really professionally done, and I would not be ashamed to have my work published in it. Whether I’d pass the criteria as a ‘young’ poet I don’t know – but Helen Mort is their featured poet in the first issue – so maybe I’d get away with it!
Anyway, I was very happy to see Helen Mort’s interview in the first couple of pages. She is one of my favourite poets, and I thought it was a well thought-out interview, with a good mix of humour and interest and it was a great way into the magazine. Helen also has a lovely poem in the mag, which was one of my favorites in the issue. I also enjoyed the poem ‘Scott’ by Betty Doyle which is next to Helen’s particularly and Jon Stone’s as well – I wondered if his poem ‘Benevolence’ was a disguised metaphor about writing poetry or blogging and opinion writing – , which Jon Stone, I think is known for – I often enjoy reading his articles which are always interesting and thought provoking. I could be on completely the wrong track. The poem starts
‘How easy it is to be kind to those you could trample’
and I suppose it could be about any sphere of life, which is why it’s a good poem.
I enjoyed reading the magazine and I found a lot of the work in it exciting and fresh. The production quality is excellent, and I would definitely recommend any young writers that I know to submit and subscribe. As for the larger question of whether we need a print mag aimed at young writers, I think we do. Young doesn’t necessarily mean new – as in the case of Helen Mort who is an experienced poet but I think it is a Good Thing that young poets have a place to meet, both on the page and on the pages of the excellent blog. Oh and one more thing that impressed me – Astronaut is linked up to Facebook and Twitter as well – and I think this savvy social media publicity will serve it really well in the future. I would like to wish Charlotte good luck with issue 2 and all the issues to come in the future!
I meant to add somewhere in here as well that Charlotte has been very modest in the mag and not laid claim to her role as editor in its pages! I hope she puts her name in big letters at the end of her next editorial and claims some glory….