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  • Alistair Braidwood

The Future’s Bright: The Literary Journals Showing The Way…

In the last few months there have been three new editions of literary journals that have featured previously on the pages and podcasts of Scots Whay Hae! and all of them are a great place to discover new writers, many of whom will be writing in and about Scotland for many years to come.

In our seventh podcast way back in last November we chatted to Sam Best about Octavius Magazine, a literary journal which would give Scotland’s students, of all disciplines and courses, a platform to publish their fiction and poetry. Well I’m delighted to say it has not only fulfilled that brief, but has done so in some style, as you can see by the beautiful cover on the left.

What’s inside more than matches the art work, with some fantastic poetry from the likes of Ashton Easter, Theresa Munoz, Natasha Skinner, Calum Maclean, Richie McCaffrey and Marcas Mac an Tuairneir, as well as some terrific fiction from Alan Gillespie, the always excellent Allan Wilson, Melody Wan In Yue (who had an excellent Scot Lit tutor!), Caroline Smith and Brian Hamill. It’s very hard to pick favourites, but that’s what I’m here to do, and Mary F. McDonough’s poem ‘Making the Bed’ moves me like only the best poetry can do. The prose of Christina Neale’s ‘Mockingbird’ tells a terrible story in only a page and a half, and is as rich as anything I’ve read this year, and Craig Lamont’s ‘Bifocals’, Siobhan Staples ‘The Alarm’ and Kevin Scott’s ‘Prey Not For Order’ are also stand out stories. You can, and should, buy a copy here.

Coming very soon is the second edition of Valve Literary Journal. You can read the review of the first edition here, but it was one of the highlights of last year featuring some astonishing writing, and the forthcoming publication has more of the same. It’s not out for a couple of weeks yet, but I’ve been lucky enough to have a sneak peek and can promise you that the standard is just as high as it was first time round, with writers such as Elizabeth Reeder, Simon Sylvester, Ewan Morrison, Gabriella Bennett, Libby McInnes, Anneliese Mackintosh, Jenni Fagan and many more.

What this edition of Valve does so well is to place new writers with more established names, and the quality between them never drops. I have already heard some of the stories read out at their recent fundraising night, so I can promise you that if you can make it along to their launch on the 19th October then you are in for a treat. You can find out more about the launch on the Facebook page for the event and it is bound to be one of the nights of the year. These guys do good launch as well as good lit.

Finally, I also want to flag up the latest edition of Gutter Magazine, out now, and which is in many ways the inspiration for Octavius and Valve. It is the usual collection of quality poetry, prose and reviews that readers have come to expect, and has come to set the standard for Scotland’s literary publications.

In a way these journals are the three current ages of new Scottish writing, from the first time published to the well established, and taken together they show what a healthy state we are currently in. It is notable that in the editorial to Gutter 07 mention is made of the amount of younger writers who have made it onto their pages this time round, as they say; ‘acheiving the high standards we set here at Gutter‘.

There are writers who appear in two or more of these magazines, and there is no doubt that in setting those standards others have taken Gutter’s template and ethos and applied it to what they write, and to how that writing is presented. I would wholeheartedly suggest that if you are interested in literature you should have these three publications on your shelves as they help to give the bigger picture. The future does indeed look bright, but the present is very healthy as well.


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