I’ve been living with lists for a long time. Navigating a to-do list is as much about the paths you take In Real Life as it is about the task crossed through on the page, which often branches into further more varied errands. It’s a pattern laced to each day, dependent on the extent of the planned itinerary and its inevitable unravelling. The Thing To Do sits there at first, written deliberately in capitals, then underlined, then surrounded by a stabbing halo of arrows, indicating this really is a thing you must do now even as it hints that it could be demoted time and time again, lost among the more desirable, or simpler, or even more droll everyday duties. Its slide into unpredictability is a satisfaction I like to preserve. So in my notebook I’ve gathered spiral-bound reminders that mingle shopping lists for ‘mosquito net, sun cream, a very small first aid kit’ from our trip to India back in January, with the more banal ‘tobacco, potatoes, poetry wine’ (whatever that is) and later recipes for barbequed asparagus with lemon and mint, and ‘hoover, renew books, GET A JOB!’.
Permanent features of these lists now are the small tasks that constitute my responsibilities for Lighthouse, which become increasingly more graphically illustrated and biro-impressed the closer we get to each Landmark Event. Releasing a new issue of the journal, planning the launch, contacting contributors, organising the music and the PA setup, writing advertising listings, digital marketing, and putting out a call for open mic participants are all essential components of A Landmark Event. And it’s by reflecting on these lists and being able to summarise the final running order (also written into the same spiral-bound notebook) that the efforts and actualities of A Landmark Event become quantifiable beyond the swift thrill of its passing occurrence In Real Life. So I turn back to the scribbled list of readers and titles I’ve saved as a leftover from the Lighthouse launch on Monday 29th July, to better recall and reflect on what really happened, aside from what should have taken place, or could have, according to the plan.
As Angus Sinclair pointed out while compèring the launch on Monday, Issue Two of Lighthouse drew from a wider geographical pool of submissions, and due to this, many of the contributors were unable to attend. Fortunately, after a brief introduction from Issue 2 editors Julia Webb and Anna de Vaul, the night kicked off with Theo Best, with his poem from the issue View From a Train, and Fothering, a suitably nautical and fascinating piece. Angus then read Petra Kamula’s poem After a Lover Leaves on her behalf, and Nick Broughton took to the stage to perform his short fiction Man on a Beach Ball with his wife, written in response to an oil painting by David Sullivan we had endeavoured to display on stage. Angus breathlessly read Christophe Riesco’s poem, The Tracer, to great applause, following which, Chris Ogden, the last of the contributors, read his poem Pinship from the revered back cover feature of Lighthouse, and a bleak but beautiful poem about Blackpool.
Interval: cue for drinks, more open mic solicitation, and cigarettes. In the corner of the room, Simon Brandish (aka Lighterthief), sick as a dog, but not letting it faze him, played some delicious old-school soul and funk records, while we desperately tried to air the now sweltering basement and look a little less clammy. It was only at this point I fully realised the size of the audience crammed into the tiny little venue, and appreciated the sensation of sweat condensing and dripping back down off the ceiling (this might be an exaggeration; it’s not on the list).
Round two was established by two memorised and well performed poems from Chris Astwood, about misspent Bermudian youth, followed by London-based poet Carmina Masoliver, with some haunting lyrics about Bethnal Green, and Lighthouse Issue 1 contributor Dot Cobley with a single poem about an impressionistic bus ride. Russell J Turner roused the audience with sonnets from the series 28 Sonnets Later, written in collaboration with Andy Bennett, and the night wrapped up with Ben C Winn, whose poem compared a woman to a charity shop in lewd, vaudeville style.
It’s been a long journey through a thick book of lists to this point, through initial fundraising and the deceptive ease of the first issue, editing submissions from India, building up our networks and contacts, ‘the problems with the printers’ and the eventual publishing alterations, to this point. As it would be impossible to trace all the paths through the varying conversations and connections between people in attendance at the launch, it would be impossible to foresee and plan out every eventuality of the journal as a whole. I couldn’t fathom attempting it: I overheard people speaking on their work, art, their children, moving away or abroad, nightclubs, the Church of England, stabbings, poetry and music, the difference between prose and poetry publishing. But the one thing that had brought them all there together in that moment was an interest in, a love for, and support of Lighthouse as a whole. What is leftover is merely a trace; empty wine glasses, a list of readers in a spiral-bound notebook, a journal full of beautiful creative submissions…
Putting the lists aside, then, I’d like to thank everyone who came to the Bicycle Shop in Norwich on Monday and read from their work. You made the evening such a great success, because you are the element that is always unplanned and unpredictable: despite any organisational technique and any number of painstakingly composed lists, it is you, the contributors and supporters of Lighthouse, that really make this work – and in doing so you become the scariest, most nerve-wracking part of it all.