10… issues… of… bath… magg…
All afternoon I’ve been saying these words, feeling their shape, their weight, on my tongue, then listening, hearing how they fit into the world, how they land, trying them out in different rooms, on different streets, how I take these words with me, carry them, mime them in the checkout line at Aldi, scream them on the overpass, hear them echo off the trees.
Which is to say: there is no place I can find where the words 10 issues of bath magg don’t sound marvellous.
This magazine, that started as the tiniest of tiny thoughts, which led to more tiny but slightly bigger thoughts, which led to a few WhatsApp messages, which led to a whispered conversation over coffee, has 10 issues.
It’s hilarious, and completely impossible, to think objectively about bath magg. Whenever I rustle up the courage to attend an in-person literary event, a reading or a launch or whatever, I’m baffled during the drinks bit afterwards to hear that people know bath magg exists, that they like reading the poems, that they have submitted.
I remember writing the editorial for Issue 1 in the Costa opposite Goldsmiths University. I was 26 and unemployed, had just moved to London, was renting a small bedroom in a dilapidated terrace house in New Cross. I think we received 96 submissions for Issue 1. A little under 300 poems. I remember spending that summer manically checking our inbox, the sheer buzz and palpable terror when a submission arrived, the raw glow of this time: because we were responsible for this work now, we owed it a duty of care.
As of today bath magg has been read by more than 50 thousand people, from nearly every country in the world. You could fill a city with the number of people who have read bath magg. You could walk for months and never leave the soil of a country where readers of bath magg live.
Throughout our 10 submission windows we’ve received nearly 25,000 poems, and published work by some 301 poets, including household names like Bhanu Kapil, John Ashbery, Vona Groarke, Kim Addonizio, Ilya Kaminsky, Raymond Antrobus… but most important of all: the magazine continues to be a home for new, vital, emerging voices in poetry, and this is what I am most proud of.
From a purely selfish perspective, editing bath magg allows me to forge relationships with some of my favourite poets. I get to have email chats with poets like Chen Chen, whose fascinating interview and stunning three poems comprise the feature for Issue 10.
When speaking about his new book, Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency, Chen says: ‘I’m exploring how one can simultaneously belong and not belong—how racial, sexual, and gendered forms of belonging can be in tension.’
I remember reading Chen’s work for the first time during my master’s degree and being floored by the multiplicity of worlds the poems offered up, the multiplicity of ways the poems conjured family, but also the multiplicity of ways the poems loved, the multiplicity of ways the poems existed.
Chen says, ‘I’ve come to understand and to enjoy writing as a perpetual conversation with the worlds churning inside me, with the multiverse swirling and sniffing around me.’
Throughout Issue 10 multiplicities are offered up, cracks in the ether where worlds and wonder spill, whether it’s Tim Tim Cheng’s jaw-dropping mushrooms: ‘like trains invented by silence’, or Chloe Elliott’s ‘burnt wings like the inside of an apricot’, whether it’s Tyler King’s refrigerators stacked ‘up to heaven, until heaven has to intervene’, or Carl Phillips’ waves who ‘kept choosing / forgiveness, like the only / answer, as to them / it was, maybe’, there are so many wonders here, so much awe.
When interviewing poets for bath magg, I always end on the question of advice for emerging poets: ‘Finally, a lot of our readers and submitters are new to writing poetry. What advice would you give to a person at the beginning of their poetry journey?’
I’m going to end this editorial with Chen’s answer, partly because I nearly burst into tears when I first read it, and partly because I hope, more than many things, that emerging poets continue to trust us with their work, and that bath magg continues to be a safe and worthy home for such voices.
‘Let your obsessions and curiosities guide you. Don’t worry about becoming a writer like how someone else became a writer. You just can’t be someone else anyway. You have your own path. Listen to your instincts while also letting your instincts get complicated and expanded by your reading, your conversations. Drink lots of your favorite beverages. Eat lots of your favorite snacks. Know that you are wonderful. And loved.’
Joe Carrick-Varty, on behalf of the editorial team