A bigger splash: new Ambit editor promises more emerging poets, and more art

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A literary and art magazine’s first new editor in 52 years has spoken of the direction that she wants to go -  back to its roots.

Briony Bax, who replaced the long-standing editor of Ambit, Dr Martin Bax, earlier this year, said after the launch of Ambit 214 at Notre Dame University, just off Trafalgar Square, last night: “We are taking Ambit back to where it began, which is to seek out new voices.”

She added: “Over half of the people that we have published in 214 are new to Ambit and for at least three of them it is the first time they have been published in print. It is very exciting to help emerging poets and writers in this way.”

Ambit is quarterly, and publishes prose and art as well as poetry. Bax said:  “We've also taken the decision to expand the art section so that instead of it being purely illustrative we are featuring full colour spreads of work that we admire. I like the idea of giving poetry, prose and art equal weight in the magazine.”

The magazine appears lovingly produced and costs a tenner, which may seem expensive, but when you take into account the inserted artwork and overall look, seems much less so. Last night’s launch was aimed at attracting subscribers, friends and angels to help support it.

Bax said: “In these times of frustrating bureaucracy in governmental arts funding I think that seeking funding from supporters in terms of subscriptions, friends and angels becomes a necessity.  For instance, if we receive money from the Arts Council or some such other body, we'll have to employ a person to oversee that grant in terms of both initial writing and reporting. It just doesn't make economic sense.”

She added: “We are also proud to say that we pay everyone who appears in Ambit - it may be a small amount but it counts.”

Briony Bax is married to a cousin of Martin Bax, and is the daughter of the late poet Adrian Mitchell. Ten years ago she was writing poetry full-time, and was published a couple of times in Ambit. She said: “Since then I've spent my time running charities and businesses so it was my background in both writing and then commerce that led Tim Bax [chairman of Ambit’s trustees, and son of Martin Bax] to approach me about taking on the editorship.”

The literary entertainment at Monday night’s launch was provided by two Ambit 214 contributors, Naomi Foyle and Carrie Etter. Foyle amused the large audience with a series of satirical sketches about an imaginary weekend of workshops on ‘How To Keep Writing When No One Really Gives a Toss about Your Work,’ which asked questions such as: “Is the creative writing industry in fact producing more writers than readers, dooming itself to extinction, like the inhabitants of Easter Island?”

Hopefully, there will be enough readers left to keep Ambit going for another 52 years. Issue no 214 opens with a poem by Julian Stannard, ‘September 1939’, in which the speaker wonders at length about how to react to war clouds overhead. It includes the lines: “I think we should go to the Ritz / and really splash out.” Those two lines possibly catch something of the spirit of Ambit, too.    


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