I was living in Italy – Genoa – in the 1980s, teaching at the university and trying to write poems. I knew there were literary magazines in England that might show an interest and I must have come across the London Magazine, edited by the poet Alan Ross. I liked the magazine: poems, stories, photographs, art work. It was eclectic, metropolitan, stylish. And Alan – as I was to discover – was a Maestro of the postcard.
I put six poems in an envelope and spent hours in the post office trying to get the right stamps for England. They wanted to know what was in the envelope. Poetry, I said. Be careful, they said.
I was living in Piazza della Posta Vecchia – the piazza of the Old Post Office – and for six months I received no post whatsoever.
I looked at the sea and wrote poems. And then the first of Alan’s postcards arrived. There was one he quite liked – let’s call it ‘The Funicular’ – could I shorten it, sharpen it and re-send?
Off it went – correct stamps – and a month or so later another postcard: Almost there, not quite.
Almost there, not quite, almost there, not quite. One postcard said Moving in the right direction.
Writing poems, publishing poems (almost) – my friends in London were becoming lawyers and investment bankers.
My apprenticeship over, pieces began to appear regularly in the London Magazine – usually rather short pieces. I quickly learnt the shorter they were the more chance of getting published. A long time later a cheque would turn up which was completely un-cashable in Italy. Like the postcards the cheques were signed by Alan Ross.
A couple of weeks after his death his last London Magazine came out. Although I had a poem listed in the Contents Page, the poem didn’t appear in the magazine itself. I like to think – wherever he might have gone – he’d taken the poem with him.
Launch Wednesday March 4th – At the University of Winchester – St Alphege 204 – from 1 to 2, Julian Stannard (The Street of Perfect Love) and Mark Rutter (Basho in Acadia) will be presenting their recent publications and conducting a Q an A. Coffee, drinks, all welcome – free ticketless event.
Julian Stannard is a Reader in Creative Writing at the University of Winchester and teaches on the MA Creative and Critical Writing course. He is the author of Rina’s War (Peterloo, 2001), The Red Zone (Peterloo, 2007), The Parrots of Villa Gruber Discover Lapis Lazuli (Salmon, 2011) and The Street of Perfect Love (Worple, 2014). A new book – Hotel Magnificent – is to be published by CB Editions next year. Recent critical work includes The Palm Beach Effect: Reflections on Michael Hofmann (CB Editions, 2013) and Basil Bunting (Northcote House, 2014). He reviews for TLS, Guardian and Poetry Review and was recently nominated for a Forward Prize and a Pushcart Prize (USA). He was a reader at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival 2014 and was included in The Best British Poetry 2014 (Salt).