Citizen 32 magazine Interview
Posted on 14 July 2004. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
WriteWords talks to John G. Hall and David Toomer, the editors of Citizen 32, a new magazine that is a 'collection point for quality writing infused with passion and thought.'
Tell us all about Citizen 32
Citizen32 started as a reaction to the lack of arts magazines that address current events. We wanted to produce a print magazine that would provide an outlet for writers & artist’s more political work. Not a mere sloganeering opportunity but a collection point for quality pieces infused with passion and thought.
Art is at its best when it moves and stirs us, either to see the world differently or to see ourselves a new. In the magazine we use the catch phrase “Hold that thought!” Citizen32 will hold artists thoughts on a whole range of issues.
During the 1980’s I was a political activist in Manchester. I put writing to one side and threw myself into the daily realities of party politics. Today I recognise the need for artists to have both outlets at their disposal. We can inspire and inform, plus build a community of like minded artists.
I am widely published in the UK and the USA and I am a featured writer in the Bewrite books poetry anthology “Routes” coming out soon. My own collection is planned for later in the year. I have just launched a Citizen32 web site at http://www.citizen32.co.uk to preview the upcoming print magazine of the same name due out in October 2004.
Our Co-Editor David Toomer is on the National Executive of the National Union of Journalists & has been a reporter for many years. He is principally a reporter but also writes plays, scripts and short story. Currently he is adapting one of his scripts into a novel set in his native Newcastle. A report by him, based on interviews with Gulf War Veterans suffering from ‘Gulf War Syndrome’, will be appearing in the magazine.
What kind of writing are you looking for?
We are looking for writing infused with passion and insight. Not only the focused political piece but also personal experience of war & peace, or homelessness, or censorship, or poverty, or injustice. Unfortunately the list could go on. We are looking for vivid pieces of work that articulate the theme of the particular issue. Each issue is themed. For example the first issue is themed “War & Peace”. The next two issues are themed on “Homelessness” and “Censorship”.
We have received work as diffuse as pieces on Northern Ireland, on the Gulf War, on a soldier’s experience of being hunted by a sniper, on violence towards women, on the need for peace, on a daughter finding a book of poems in her dead fathers army uniform, on a massacre of innocent men in a South American church & the bravery of their female relatives, on the peace movements of the 1960’s.
It can be the grand over arching concept or the personal experience, much of the best writing combines both.
Our interviews are centred on writers that have addressed the theme in Citizen32 throughout their careers with skill & imagination & passion.
Harold Pinter, Adrian Mitchell, Jack Hirschman, Mario Petrucci and Todd Swift are first up. Each gives us an exclusive interview covering why it is important to write about current events and how to write well on these difficult subjects. They discuss the influences on the own work and why being a writer matters. They have also contributed poetry.
We also have several great pieces by the late Allen Cohen. He was one of the founders of the Summer of Love experienced in the 60’s. He was a life long peace activist and beat poet. The first issue of Citizen32 is dedicated to him. There is a link on our web site to a memorial web site kept up-to-date by his friends & family.
We are looking for short story, poetry, art, photography, articles, reports and reviews of books, films & music. The two provisos are that all the work must be relevant to the theme of the particular issue you wish to submit to and that the work is skilful & original.
Who are your favourite writers and why?
William Blake was the first poet to really grip my imagination and my intellect. Perhaps not technically the greatest poet but he can move and inspire using simple images and insightful vision. Rendering complicated political and philosophical problems easily understandable. Something I try to do in my own writing, with varying degrees of success.
Dylan Thomas was an influence on my love of words and the sounds inside a poem. Although a poet that used conventional structure Dylan broke open conventional images and played with them. Using sounds in his poems that create mood and meaning. Basically, anyone that loves words must surely love Thomas. The sounds inside poems are important tools for creating the atmosphere you intend to create.
Another poet using the same tools to create a completely different effect was Ted Hughes. His grappling with Mother Nature and the nature of himself was a titanic struggle. The muscular lines of the poems work the imagination without respite. His words sometimes thump off the page; a sound scheme which is always Yorkshire based. There again in his ‘Birthday Letters’ his words become intimate and memorial. Either way the images and sounds of life are woven into his poems superbly.
Later I discovered the American beat poets, Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, Robert Creeley, Hirschman and Cohen. They seemed to combine Blake’s simplicity and Dylan’s weight of words in a popular form. Both contemplation and confrontation, informed by the blues, rock, Jazz and Whitman. This was political poetry that broke from the stolid poets of the 30’s and expanded protest poetry beyond the party line.
Today I enjoy John Burnside, Ruth Padel, Michael Longley, Mario Petrucci, Don Paterson and Robert Sheppard. They all shine for different reasons. Perhaps they combine most of the other influences mentioned and also add their own unique voices. Jack Hirschman is still writing great stuff, as is Ferlinghetti. Well worth a re-visit folks.
What excites you about a piece of writing- what keeps you interested?
Anything that uses sound and colour and thought to illuminate areas of life rarely touched. A piece that I can feel moving through my mind pointing out the sights the writer wants to show me. But I also enjoy the pieces that are playful and use words cleverly, in unusual combinations, filled with double meanings and double takes. You can’t beat a good beat either or the occasional rebel yell.
and what makes your heart sink?
I dislike dogma without explanation or imagination and pieces born from self-importance. Any work that sacrifices quality for quantity. Automatic writing devoid of skill and ill-informed rants. Good ideas are strangled at birth by such faults. Every writer has been guilty of these mistakes at sometime or other. That includes Blake, Dylan, Hughes and the rest. So don’t worry. Just keep writing and be honest with yourself.
Anything that is fascist or racist is abhorrent to me and the magazine. We are opposed to terrorism. It subordinates ordinary people to the wishes of a small unelected group. It belittles the everyday struggle of ordinary people and de-motivates them. It reduces them to casualties or political cannon fodder. Overall our editorial policy will remain defined by our selection of material and the issues we choose as themes.
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