Editor defies odds to launch magazine, one year later than planned

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This was no ordinary launch of a new poetry magazine; it should have happened a year ago. But the debut of The Screech Owl in January 2013 had to be postponed indefinitely after its young editor, Grant Tarbard, was rushed into hospital when he suffered a stroke. Now, a year on, here he was, on Friday 10 January 2014, arriving at the Poetry Cafe in London in a wheelchair, supported by friends and fellow poets, defying the auguries to kickstart his magazine regardless.

The Screech Owl, which prides itself on operating outside the mainstream, and on offering a home to voices “lost or forgotten”, has had an online presence for some time, displaying poetry and prose accompanied with captivating artwork by Annette Baines. 

After Grant had started the evening with a few of his own poems, a mixture of poets fairly new to the mic and old hands took their turns. Ben Fisher said how pleased he was that the evening had happened for his old friend, “eventually”. Dean Pasch said of Grant: “A lot of people would have given up, but he’s come out fighting.”

Ira Lightman – “I like to hunt for plagiarism, it’s what I do as a sideline”- said he found it difficult to send poems out, and paid tribute to Grant’s encouragement, adding that he put up poetry on Facebook and The Screech Owl editor selected the ones he liked. Lightman delivered a quirky, engaging selection of poems, including one that he sang, accompanying himself on the ukulele. He also praised the earlier contribution of fellow experimental poet Steven Waling, saying how much he liked the sound of his vowels. 

Another experienced poet, David Cooke, introduced one poem by saying it had come out of an unhappy experience on a week’s poetry course, after which he had concluded: “I’m not a workshop kind of person.” Workshop or not, there were crafted poems about Bob Dylan, Charlie Parker, and Tamla Motown, and his father and boxing. Others examined eco-concerns, and one, with a nod to Seamus Heaney, about a prized Observer Book of British Birds.

The evening was spectacularly wound up by UK-based American poet Bethany W Pope (“I’ve had three exorcisms, none of them took”), with her long, passionate poetic narratives of unearthly family tales. Pope, whose gothic back story includes three hard years of childhood spent in an orphanage, began her set wearing a fox mask. Just the kind of poet that The Screech Owl welcomes and gathers in, I’d say.   


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