I think that it may well be a coincidence that in this issue our Commissioning Editor, Steve Shepherd, mentions a poem that we featured in our first ever issue, the print edition that we published in 2017. It was included in a piece by the late, and very great, Al Alvarez and is written by that most popular of poets, Anon. Here it is in full:
"Western wind, when wilt thou blow
That the small rain down can rain?
Christ! If my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again!"
"Nobody knows who wrote that poem or even precisely when he wrote it (probably early in the sixteenth century). But whoever it was is still very much alive – lonely, miserable, hunkered down against the foul weather and a long way from home, yearning for spring and warmth and his girl. Across a gap of five centuries, the man is still our contemporary."
Yes, or the woman. Who knows. The point, really, is that whoever it is manages to write in a way that seems both entirely individual and so wisely representative that it feels as though the poem is referring to pretty much all of us. He goes on to say that:
"Writing... is literally a lively art as well as a creative one. Writers don't just "hold, as 'twere, a mirror up to nature" by creating an imitation of life; they create a moment of life itself. That anonymous poet has left the sound of his voice on the air as distinctly as, say, van Eyck fixed forever the tender marriage of Arnolfini and his wife in paint. The poem breathes from the page as vividly as the long-dead faces and their little dog breathe from the canvas. But it is a two-way pact: the writer makes himself heard and the reader listens in – or, more accurately, the writer works to find or create a voice that will stretch out to the reader, make them prick their ears and attend."
I sometimes think that this, more than anything else, should be the writer's prayer: "Please, God, send me a voice." Poems talk to us. More than ever, we rely on writing, I think – on good writing – to reach us across the divide created by mediated spaces: by TV, yes, and newspapers but especially by the incestuous affirmations of social media. More and more, we crave a voice. Just one. Something that seems, too, to rely on us; to call upon our sympathetic intelligence.
By which I suppose I mean "Happy Christmas". And: "Hasn't it been a shit year?" And: "Welcome." This is our space, the contributors' and mine and yours, in which, we hope, we can all take time away from verbal mulch and visual pabulum to share descriptions of the world that we find meaningful. Every person in these "pages" – every musician and artist and photographer and essayist and poet – has their own voice. Please take the time to enjoy them. A merry Christmas and a happy new year from all of us at One Hand Clapping. Please raise a glass to those who continue to endeavour to make your ears prick and attend. And please imagine that you are being toasted by all of the following: Mark Doty, David Harsent, Fran lock, Tony Visconti, Billy Bragg, Kevin Loh, Jo Balmer, Ben Morgan, Nkateko Masinga, Louise Peterkin, Richard Skinner, Nicola Nathan, Cassandra Gordon-Harris, Steve Shepherd, Stephen Boyce, Olaewe David Opeyeme, Hélène Demetriades, Agnes Marton, Jessica Covil Manset, Louise Longson, James Strowman, Mark Russell, Pratibha Castle, Helen Petts and Albert Pellicer, Benjamin Wal, Marie-Therese Taylor, Moira Garland, Rebecca Gethin, Finola Scott, Tom Millner, Julie-ann Rowell, Dane Holt, Sue Finch, William Thompson, D.W. Evans, Richard Helyar and Noah Rasheta.