Horizon Review: long-needed update

Well, this is how things happen. By attrition. Before you know it, it’s happened.

It’s been a long time since the last issue of Horizon Review came out. To be honest, it’s been quite a while since I agreed with Chris Hamilton-Emery – who owned it – that it was just too much to undertake. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, and I had a burning sense of mission about it. But there was no money, which meant there was no time; and with no real reason to do it besides the love of it, I for one came to a point where that wasn’t enough justification. I’d spent a crazy year working in a full-time job, plus teaching the first year of my Poetic Technique course for the Poetry School – which meant spending Sundays prepping, and Tuesday evenings teaching – plus editing Horizon Review, on my own, with no help. It was essentially seven days a week at my desk; I even started getting leg troubles from lack of exercise.

The set-up of the website was such that, also, everything had to be coded by hand, and this was done by interns, remotely, with let us say patchy results. I was spending whole evenings retitling files and organising folders to be idiot-proof for interns who were, every time, brand-new and just learning the ropes.

It was wonderful in some ways, and I did get a couple of great guest editors on board for the fiction after Nuala Ni Chonchuir stepped down. There were all sorts of things I’d have loved to do, if there were time and energy to do them, but this is the crux.


The original Horizon magazine, edited by Cyril Connolly, had a specific purpose, which I felt we could emulate: his magazine was a beacon in wartime, and I felt that ours could be a beacon in the ongoing tussle between poetry factions, the struggle for the arts, the attrition of the cuts. I loved publishing the offbeat, the in-between, the promising and interesting and thought-provoking, the downright quirky and sometimes the very beautiful. I loved that we could take this model and make it more equal across the genders – and I had to make a call for more (and more ambitious) submissions from women. That’s another story. I loved that we transcended the ‘streams’ and isms, that we were read all over the world. I published some really exciting things there, and commissioned some of the most exciting ones of all. I tried to stretch the format, not to thin it out but to make it elastic, to place poetry in the context of artistic and cultural activity.

I loved it even before I was editing it: I found, when I thought about it, that I’d had something in every single issue, and some of my best work was done for Jane Holland’s magazine. But back in the forties Connolly had a rich friend who bankrolled the whole thing, right down to office space in Bloomsbury, payrolls, cheques for contributors, and a secretary. So in fact it is a totally different thing.

Meanwhile the cuts were biting, and nobody really seemed to have the wherewithal to do all that work for free. Least of all me, once my job ended. Once I was freelance – by default, because the savings were gone and Jobseekers Allowance doesn’t help with pre-existing contracted expenses, like your kids’ mobiles – I knew I had no choice but to cut out the extras and concentrate on getting work. I wasn’t a privileged man-about-town protected by doing war work, I was on the front lines, or being bombed out and living in a shelter. I was busy trying to survive.

Eventually it became clear that this was more than a brief glitch.

Salt had moved on, too, literally, to Cromer, and were restructuring their business offerings. Chris agreed that it was a bit too onerous to try to run the magazine on top of everything else. I specifically asked for the archives to remain up, as lots of people (myself included) had published work that felt important in Horizon. This was agreed.

I admit I was supposed to write a few paragraphs (like these) for the Salt blog, but didn’t. It has been a crazy year. Nobody ever expects the Spanish Inquisition.

Well, on New Year’s Eve I had a Facebook message from a writer wanting to know where Horizon Review was, as he couldn’t find his work. He said it was down. I checked, and it was indeed down. The Salt website has had some revamping recently, and who knows. Maybe those pages were getting in the way. Maybe Chris felt that they weren’t getting any traffic. Maybe there was a server issue. But please, dear writer who messaged me. Four accusing messages throughout the evening, all kvetching and all about you, culminating in one at about a quarter to midnight on New Year’s Eve? Demanding that I satisfy you even though I’ve just told you twice that it’s nothing to do with me? Who am I, your mother? And you’re complaining that you don’t get replies from people!

However, this did alert me to the fact that, for whatever reason, Horizon is now down. I’m sorry about that. If I’d known, or had time, or thought about it, I’d have backed it up.

I’m sorry this news has coincided with a period of both ill health and family emergency, to say nothing of pressing work concerns, so once again poor little Horizon was the thing that feel to the side.

You know, I’d love to get it up and running again, at some point – with a little team of people, and maybe some funding. I’d love that. But, for me, right now isn’t feeling like the time. There is an irony, of course, which is that the original Horizon – its work during the War, and that of other little magazines and other cultural and arts activities – provided a direct inspiration and impetus for the establishment of the Arts Council. Yes. The Arts Council was set up partly because of Connolly’s Horizon, because of its vision and the perceived value of its work. If that isn;’inspiring – and if that doesn’t put the acts of the Coalition, and the reasons for our little Horizon having to shut, into perspective I don’t know what does.

So that’s the update. Big thanks to everyone who had work in the magazine, everyone who read it, everyone who wanted to have work in it, everyone who had faith in it, and to Salt for creating it. I’m actually feeling really sad writing this; I think I’ve been avoiding thinking about it. But, like almost everything else, it just couldn’t happen.

One thing I increasingly realise – surprising, since there appears to be so much going on all the time – is that if you can do something at all, it’s a blessing. And if something is done well and is good, that’s a little miracle.

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