Online journal launched as 'crazy adventure and for the love of poetry'
A new online poetry journal was launched this week. The High Window is a quarterly co-edited by David Cooke, who regularly posts his poems on Write Out Loud, and fellow poet Anthony Costello, co-host of the Kultura monthly poetry, lecture and discussion night in Todmorden. In their first editorial Cooke and Costello say: “We receive no funding and, as such, this venture is a crazy adventure and for the love of poetry.” In a Q&A session with Write Out Loud’s news editor Greg Freeman, David Cooke explained how it came about.
When and where did you get the idea for this?
Like many things in life, the creation of the High Window “brand” is down to a chain of fairly random circumstances. My poetic career, if that is not too grandiose a term for it, has been long and somewhat intermittent. Although I wrote nothing for 20 years, I did manage to get three collections published since my debut in 1984. Looking back over that work I noted all sorts of things that bugged me: glitches, typos and ineptitudes I needed to fix. And now I’ve discovered that in the digital age it’s not that difficult to become a publisher yourself. I set up The High Window Press to bring out A Slow Blues, a revised edition of my new and selected poems. Having done so, I had a very vague sense that The High Window might be a good name for a journal, but hesitated to do much about it. Then happenstance took over. My son James, who lives in Hebden Bridge, mentioned that he went fell running with a friend called Anthony Costello and that Anthony ran a poetry night in Todmorden called Kultura. Anthony and I got in touch and hit it off straight away. Anthony seemed very interested in my publishing venture and also strongly encouraged me to develop the journal idea. Without his input I doubt that I would ever have got it off the ground and now we are very much co-editors.
Do you see it as filling a gap in the market?
Yes, I think we do. Anthony and I have wide-ranging interests in contemporary poetry and I think we both know a good poem when we see one. We often like the same kind of thing, but are frequently drawn to poetry that the other is not quite so enthusiastic about. I think you need that kind of chemistry to stop things getting too predictable. We both recognise also that there are many good poets out there who do not get their due. Maybe they are not “connected” or don’t seem “fashionable” enough. We’d like to promote such poets. I’m a linguist and am particularly interested in poetry from other languages, so you will see that the first issue features some classic 20th century Italian poetry. Then Anthony suggested that in each issue we might feature a poet from America. A unique aspect of his Kultura readings in Todmorden is that alongside his monthly guest poet there is also a guest lecturer. We both agreed that each issue of The High Window should have a featured essay and are very pleased that Ian Duhig has written a wonderful piece for our first issue. There is also a generous selection of poetry from his new book. Finally, having already established the publishing wing we will endeavour to incorporate that into our quarterly cycle. There are already four titles scheduled for this year, details of which are available on our Press page. So we are also quite involved with print and paper in the “real” world.
Why the name, The High Window?
People tend to associate the name of our journal with Philip Larkin and I certainly have no problem with that. Remember, however, that it is in the singular and that Raymond Chandler, also a very brilliant writer, wrote a novel with exactly the same title. For me it embodies the twin concepts of craftsmanship and transcendence, qualities which I associate with what’s best in poetry. There is also a strong autobiographical link which I explored in my poem ‘St James Primary’, a poem I included in my collection Work Horses (Ward Wood Publishing, 2012). The little Catholic primary school I attended in the 50s/early 60s was built within the precincts of the abbey ruins in Reading and I was always fascinated by the “wrecked high windows” I feature in that poem.
One other, obvious question - why online rather than print?
Having set myself up as a digital publisher it seemed a logical step to set up a digital journal. However, Anthony and I decided from the start that we would adopt the format of a quarterly rather than a daily or weekly stream. This means that the contents of the journal are distributed across the menu categories and will stay there until the next issue three months later. All previous issues will then of course still be available via the archive. The obvious advantages of being online are that it doesn’t cost anything and that there is a vast audience out there in cyberland. Printing and distributing hard copy in the “real world” must be very hard work these days.
What are your hopes for it?
I suppose they’re what you’d expect. We hope that people will like it. There are already signs that they do. We relish the opportunity of bringing to public notice work by poets we admire. We’d like to see people discovering more poetry from foreign languages and hope that we will be able forge strong links between the UK and the US and no doubt with the wider world “beyond the pond”. We hope that readers will find us outward-looking and that they are excited and surprised by what they read.