Ampersand Magazine Issue 6 ‘One Little Room’ launch, with the Emerging Writers’ Festival – May 29 2013 – 1000 Pound Bend, Melbourne
A seriously wonderful night with an incredible line up. Many thanks to the kind folks that came along.
Pictures by Mark Gambino.
Ampersand. It’s such a great name for a magazine. Its offer of possibilities, its promise of more. And its format-it’s gorgeous! A little flip book, filled with poems and stories and art essays and drawings. I cannot wait to read it. I couldn’t read it last night, because as I sat in the wonderful warehouse space of 1000 Bend in the dim light, I realised that, yeah, I probably really do need glasses.
Last night saw the launch of Ampersand‘s latest issue, One Little Room. Amp-er-sand. Reminds me of Lo-Li-ta, the way the rhythm stamps itself on a word. To get there, I hobbled down a cobble-stoned laneway, past dumpsters and stencils, turning back on myself to arrive. Turn around, look down the alley ways, sneak up the stairs, said Bill Henson later in the night – ‘seek out the weirdos.’ OK …
The crowd here didn’t look like weirdos. Just a bunch of passionate readers and writers, damn happy to be celebrating a magazine launch while sharing some stories and booze.
The charming Nick Coyle was our MC for the evening. He introduced the editor of Ampersand, Alice Gage, describing her as Gen Y’s Ita Buttrose. Apparently she started a magazine instead of pushing shopping trolleys off an overpass, or something like that. But, why would I believe what Nick said? He had introduced himself to us as Asher Keddy …
Alice gave a big thanks to the Emerging Writers’ Festival for their support, and said how incredibly proud she was of the issue, which is centered around the theme of love.
One little room – ‘the universe that can exist in one room where two people are.’
Such an evocative and moving image. And having dived into my magazine today, with the lights on, I have seen the most intimate photos of lovers and mourners. Some nude blokes, which is a refreshing change, and the most extraordinary portraits of grieving elders. Alice’s introduction explores the way in which her request for submissions on love, had led to her reading many stories about grief. She writes that she was ‘straining not to audibly sob’ during the final proofing of the issue. Poor Alice. But weeping is good too, isn’t it, when it takes a reader to new places?
Throughout the night, we had six contributors read from their work or meander through visual images:
Laura Jean Mackay, Kate Holden, Darren Hanlon, Bill Henson, Helen Razer and Angie Hart.
First to read was Laura Jean Mackay, welcomed to the stage by Nick with the announcement: ‘She has dengue fever! Come on down!’ This added a tropical feel to the evening, which was fitting as her story is set in Cambodia. Laura read beautifully from her piece, even though she had to admit that her ‘enthusiasm had been dampened under a layer of mosquito saliva.’ Mmmm, tropical diseases. Get well soon, Laura.
Kate Holden was introduced by Nick as Kate Ford-ha ha! I have only just realised the joke. Or was it a joke?
I liked that Kate stood heavily pregnant before us as she discussed how, at the time that Alice had asked her to be part of this issue about love, she had just broken up with her partner. But Alice was so charismatic and charming that Kate was powerless to say no to her. At this point, Alice was coming across as an intuitive and sensitive editor.
Kate’s piece ‘The Door Between: Two Rooms of Love’ explored the divide between the concept of passionate love, passion inchoate, and the sober daily existence that comes with the marriage contract.
Darren Hanlon read from ‘Signposts hinting to the existence of Love, in Three Parts.’ Despite warning us that he had been told he had a monotone singing voice, his pieces definitely leapt off the page. Or lilted, as in ‘The Moon over Cobar’ which he read from his phone. How very modern and spontaneous-he had just written it in the car on the way to the launch. Its gentle repetition of the phrase ‘the moon over Cobar ‘ held the piece together. ‘The moon is every other moon, on every other night.’
After a short break, Bill Henson, photographer of blurry, beautiful, dark and evocative images, spoke of a ‘lost Melbourne.’ His images, Untitled, 1980-81, take up the first 15 pages of this issue of Ampersand. They are images that contain glances, that suggest elsewhere, that evade, and in some cases, confront us. To me, his talk was very visual. I walked through old Melbourne laneways, and sought out the underground or the sixth storey of buildings. He spoke of ‘the invisible city, the lost domain that we carry inside us’ and he likened this to childhood. That is some love affair.
Melbourne to him ‘is a place of infinite layering and space.’ His message: Go sniffing around. ‘Always snoop around, go up the stairs, down the alleys, search out the weirdos. Interesting people are all hiding. You have to find them. You can find them!’ This seems like good advice to an emerging writer, because don’t we all want to say something original about things that we may or may not know? Writers must snoop and sniff around.
Then. Woah. Helen Razer. She is razor sharp, isn’t she? Helen decided that her piece ‘was too sappy to be read out loud.’ So she read something else, about – surprise, surprise – herself. She tackled narcissism, that self love which leads to death, that ‘prison of self-regard.’ It was fast, it was impassioned, and yet it offered us some sort of little revelation. ‘Sometimes I see beyond myself and I can see something a bit nicer, ‘ Razor said. ‘We will have to look into that, Alice Gage.’
Angie Hart’s piece asked ‘Why are there so many insects?’ Angie contended that ‘the number of insects has grown in direct response to my fear of them.’ Her piece explored fear, which can be a huge player in the field of love. In Angie’s case, a ‘spider in a car’ incident led to her ‘thrashing at my crotch as if it were ablaze.’ Not a great place for a story exploring love to end … or is it?
On that note, it was time to wrap it up. It was nearly midnight! As we stepped out into the night, the cobblestones shone with water. Bluestones are such a hard substance, but with reflective qualities too. Somewhat like a book. And that is why I love a hard copy literary magazine. Reflection, substance, images and words, all in a package, like in ‘one little room.’ But it’s in my hot little hand.
Follow Anna Sublet on Twitter: @subbie