The year’s doors open
like those of language
toward the unknown.
This is the opening to Octavio Paz’s poem ‘January First,’ translated by Elizabeth Bishop on 1st January 1975. Good for her; I spent 1st January this year far from poetry, far from sobriety. Having mentioned language in the opening stanza the speaker assumes an authorial voice, we would be justified in hearing the voice as Paz himself:
Last night you told me: tomorrow
we shall have to think up signs,
sketch a landscape, fabricate a plan
on the double page
of day and paper.
Tomorrow, we shall have to invent,
the reality of this world.
Of course the invention of ‘reality’ is not a vocation unique to the writer, particularly in the twenty-first century where realities – plural – are quite consciously and actively invented. I do not think Paz is making any special claim on his abilities to invent reality. What he does instead is highlight the fact that the passing of the year reminds us of our role in the invention of a reality which is temporal and will carry on in spite of us:
Time, with no help from us,
in exactly the same order as yesterday
houses in the empty street,
snow on the houses,
silence on the snow.
After the countdown, the fireworks, the slurring of Auld Lang Syne, after the coldest sunrise on the long walk home, and after the hangover and hair-of-the-dog comes a feeling that with the arrival of January something and nothing has changed. Time moves, time moves regardless of our achievements or efforts to mark our realities with something significant and lasting. The sentiment brings to mind Eliot’s Four Quartets: ‘Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future / And time future contained in time past.’ The welcoming in of the New Year gathers the tenses together; we wrap them around ourselves like a blanket in the cold and take measure of reality.
It’s perhaps natural, then, that we resolve to do more, to be better, to be in a position in twelve months time to say we did something worthwhile. Resolution is at the heart of any artistic movement or endeavour. Not in the sense of closing-down, the sense of happily ever after got the girl won the race saved mankind – but rather in the sense re-solution, of re-solving, to contribute to a canon or tradition by, as Stein so neatly put it, ‘beginning again and again,’ and answering the same questions again and again and asking them in different ways.
In late twenty-twelve Lighthouse began as a solution to a surplus of excellent new UK-based writers competing for limited space in a small number of quality print magazines and in doing so act as a bridge to individual publication with Gatehouse press, thereby providing a career-path of sorts. In the past year we managed to raise our start up costs with no external funding and continue to run on our own turnover, we published poetry and fiction from lesser known writers alongside features and articles from Sam Riviere, Matthew Welton and others. In addition to our own audience, some of the writing we have published has been picked up by Salt for their Best British Poetry series and Gatehouse Press have commissioned the first in what will be an annual series of pamphlets from regular Lighthouse contributors.
But it’s as reductive as it is rewarding to list our achievements of the last twelve months. What’s more important is our resolve to not let the generosity of our contributors and readers be met with anything less than a renewed and strengthened effort to continue making a magazine that we are as proud to publish as our writers are to appear in. The word resolve arrives in our language via the Latin solvere; to loosen, untie, free up; so our resolutions will be more a rough set of guiding principles for the year, rather than hard targets (they’re for us to argue over in our staff meetings).
They are as follows:
1. Wider distribution across the UK.
2. To run launch events in London as well as Norwich to provide more opportunities for our writers to showcase their work.
3. To explore collaborative opportunities with other publications and institutions.
Happy New Year
Posted 8 years ago