It’s cold here in Dundee. Not frozen or snowy as it is to the north, nor blowy and wild like it is in the west, but still a grey cold creeping in at all angles on the houses and flats. Glenshee out of sight still under snow, the Tay big and dull like the piece of a broken plate. In this sort of light, and this sort of mood, I’m finishing the work of putting together and typesetting the contents of Lighthouse’s seventh issue.
We held the meeting to talk about the poetry for the issue just before Christmas, and it was quite a festive affair: I sat in front of my computer, hastily rigged up in my parent’s living room, discussing with the other editors while my parents and their guests whisked past after baking and cooking and errands (I’d been excused for a few hours on account of the success of my vat of winter stew on the weekend). And I was glad to get a chance to talk poetry, if only by Skype, with Jo Surzyn and Zoe Kingsley , the new Lighthouse poetry editors. As the issue comes together, it’s immensely gratifying to see their work as editors coming into focus; Jo in particular, as a lead editor for the issue, has made been very much at the forefront of proceedings, in the best possible way.
But for me there was also an important sense of absence at the meeting. Two of our founding poetry editors, Laura Elliott and Angus Sinclair, have left the poetry team after 6 (very successful) issues; Angus has stayed with us to be our art editor, but Laura has moved on to pursue her own projects. And I really wanted to take this time to do more than just say ‘we wish her all the best’.
It’s sometimes difficult to appreciate just how important a founding editor is, especially for those outside the small circle of editors who actually work on a journal. Literary journals can spring up like mushrooms – many drop their spores and are gone all too soon – but they often give off the impression that, like mushrooms, how they look or feel to the reader is a simple, autochthonous fact. Of course this is rarely the case, and having gone through the process of working out how we would make and run a magazine I know that there were plenty of decisions that we wouldn’t have made nearly as well, or as easily, without Laura present at those early meetings. A founding editor is a powerful, precious thing, and they will always leave their mark on the finished product: there’s no doubt in my mind that much of the success that the journal is currently enjoying is down to Laura’s involvement. The hard work of soliciting those early contributions, of making issues happen, of developing an editorial line that reflected our different tastes in poetry but still allowed us to actually publish an issue – with Laura, we did it better.
And this isn’t to say that without Laura ready to challenge us and provoke us to do better – or to agree with our better moments – we’ll collapse. Part of the importance of Laura’s contribution is that she’s left a magazine that is, for now, standing on its own two feet. It’s a great achievement to work on a project and be able to leave it to do newer, more interesting things without it exploding behind you. This is one of Laura’s many achievements – though there are hundreds of others visible in the pages of Lighthouse, issues one through six.
More than just that, though – we’ll miss her. We’ve already missed her sharp, incisive assessment of the poetry submitted to the journal; we’ll continue to miss her quick wits that made our editorial meetings something rather more than a committee of literary minds. Our consolation is that, while we keep manning the pumps at Lighthouse, she will be doing something altogether more exciting (and I strongly suggest you check out @paratextual on Twitter, where Laura is one of the account’s curators). In the meantime, we have two more poetry editors, and an issue on which they’ve already made their mark.
Posted 4 years ago