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Poet Beau Williams had all of his performances and scheduled events cancelled almost overnight.
Some planned workshops in Waterford, a performance at the West Cork Literary Festival, a gig in Dublin on St Patrick’s Day. All were cancelled, one after the other, because of the pandemic.
“Then I looked around and everyone’s shows were getting cancelled. All the poets I know, their jobs were going down the drain,” said Williams, on a Zoom call last week.
Williams, a teacher, writer, and performer, decided to create something new, to put together an anthology responding to the pandemic that would also feature new voices and help struggling poets make a bit of cash.
He asked his friend and fellow poet Hazel Hogan if she wanted to collaborate.
“As soon as you let me know about it, I was definitely down for it,” said Hogan, on the same Zoom call. “I’d never thought of doing a literary journal but thought, why not?”
The 2 Meter Review was born, a new anthology of poetry and photography. The first volume was released in June and submissions for volume two close in late November.
Williams was born in Portland, Maine in the United States. He grew up in New Hampshire.
He moved to Ireland in 2017 after falling in love with the country and the poetry scene. “The whole Americans with Irish heritage thing,” he says.
For a decade, he’s performed and taught poetry. He has a visceral and dramatic style. He was crowned the All Ireland Poetry Slam champion 2018/2019.
Hogan is from Dublin. She’s soft spoken, her performances quieter and contemplative.
She’s been writing and performing her poetry for about five years. Her work has appeared on the Junior Certificate syllabus.
Hogan discovered Dublin’s poetry scene after starting her own poetry night, Words in the Warehouse at the former Grangegorman squat back in 2014.
With the 2 Meter Review, the pair wanted an anthology that showcased a diverse range of voices in Ireland, voices that you may not hear elsewhere.
“We also want to get rid of the idea of the ivory tower. I think we both feel pretty strongly about that,” says Hogan.
Submissions are read “blind”, with Williams and Hogan choosing poetry based on its merit alone, but they want the journal to reflect their own values of encouraging diversity and inclusion.
Williams drew up a brand and logo. The pair set up social media pages. They called for submissions.
“We didn’t know if we’d get any response,” Hogan says.
They were surprised by the 140 submissions for the first volume and eventually whittled them down to 30.
The process was “bittersweet”, says Williams.
It was a “steep learning curve”, says Hogan, in saying no to people.
Williams, who has a degree in graphic design, put the digital issue together and they launched on Instagram Live on 17 June.
Volume One has 13 images and 30 poems, some short, some long. The poems are diverse in terms of style and theme. Many touch on Covid-19 but others contemplate love and heartbreak, nature, grief, loss, hope, and memory.
In the poem “Sizzle”, poet Ailish Kerr discusses the pandemic and Covid-19 restrictions through the act of making caramel at home. “I thought the end of the word would come with a bang/Not with a sizzle.”
In Dan Johnson’s poem, “Boil the Kettle”, the poet explores how the making of tea is the punctuation and structure of many people’s day.
“If the day is a sentence, the kettle is the first/capital letter, the final period,/the punctuation in between”
Other poems in the anthology are more abstract and harder to define. “UNICORNS” by Jenni Nikinmaa discusses a unicorn being found on the side of the road after being involved in a hit and run. The poem contemplates the death of the unicorn and ends on the two cryptic lines:
“The unicorn neighed. / We are still interpreting its last sentence.”
Money in the Arts
The arts is one of the hardest-hit sectors by the pandemic and will likely be one of the last to recover, found an economic assessment report released earlier this month by financial consultants EY.
Any money raised through 2 Meter Review was to go back to the poets and photographers, Williams and Hogan had agreed.
Between them, they sold about 55 issues at €10 each. Each contributor got a cut, and a copy of the anthology to sell themselves.
It gives poets something to sell to make money from their work, says Williams.
The model mirrors another project devised by Williams, the virtual poetry marketplace, a kind of “poet-for-hire” service for bespoke poems.
With Volume One wrapped up, Hogan and Williams decided to continue with the anthology. They’re currently accepting submissions for Volume Two.
This time, they plan to publish a physical version and sell it in independent bookshops, as well as the digital version.
“Last time we were kind of throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what would stick because of lockdown,” says Hogan.
For this volume, they are also reaching out to poets and writers in the United States. They’re accepting short stories, too.
The deadline for submissions is the end of November and Hogan and Williams are calling for everyone who is interested to submit their work.
“We want this to be very much rooted in grassroots, independent, working-class publication,” says Hogan.
Williams agrees: “There’s no real strict definition of poetry so we want to bring the best and the vibrant,” he says.