Friday, March 16, 2007

Scott Free

[Ellen Portch, front cover image for brief #34: War]

The Arts journal brief was founded by Alan Loney in 1995 under the title A Brief Description of the Whole World. In those days it was a quarterly, with a certain number of pages reserved for each of a small number of contributors. The first ten issues of the magazine appeared between December 1995 and October 1998 (a double issue: 10/11).

John Geraets revived it in mid-1999. His first issue was a reprint of Leigh Davis's Willy's Gazette (1983), but he went on to edit eleven more issues, taking the magazine through at least three more name changes (ABDOTWW / Ab.WW & AbdotWW) before settling on the more succinct appellation brief which it retains today.

Geraets asked me to take over as editor in 2002, and I edited the magazine for the next three years, from July 2002 until May 2005, approximately nine issues (depending on whether you count the immense #30/31: Kunst-Kultur issue as one or two). In my time brief moved from being a quarterly to appearing three times a year.

I also followed John Geraets' lead in trying to develop brief's publishing arm, the Writers Group, which issued two titles under his editorship and three under mine. They are, in order:

- Alan Loney’s Reading / Saying / Making: Selected Essays (2001)
- Sugu Pillay’s The Chandrasekhar Limit and other stories (2002)
- Jack Ross's A brief Index: 1995-2003 [Supplemental Index: 2003-2005] (2003/2005)
- Kendrick Smithyman’s Campana to Montale: Versions from Italian (2004)
- K. M. Ross’s novel Falling through the Architect (2005)

Throughout the first ten years (and 32 issues) of its existence, brief's format remained relatively consistent: A4 sheets, copied – so far as possible – exactly as their authors wrote them, ordered, bound, then distributed with bio-notes and a cover. The magazine has always had a commitment to publishing technically adventurous literary and graphic work, by acknowledged (and newly discovered) innovators. Pageworks, critical articles, poems and fictional texts were equally prominent in most issues. The Writers Group, and brief, have never received any official funding beyond subscriptions and donations, so all but occasional guest contributors have had to be subscribers.

Scott Hamilton took over as managing editor late in 2005. He now cedes that role to Brett Cross of Titus Books, who will be editing the next issue, no. 35.

What can one say about Scott as editor? An immensely inspiring and stimulating writer, and generous supporter of other people's work, Scott, I think, has done fine things with the two issues of brief he's edited. His intense political consciousness also gave the magazine a new relevance. All of that is on the plus side.

On the minus side, it's true that it's taken a very long time for those two issues to appear, and that in the process our original commitment to producing three issues a year has rather gone by the board. That's the only negative aspect I can see about his incumbency at brief.

Where the magazine goes to from here I'm not really sure. We've had to scale its size down from the original A4 format to A5 mainly for reasons of cost, but there doesn't seem to be any diminution in the quality -- or quantity -- of material in each issue.

Nor do I get any sense of growing indifference to the concept of an avant-garde literary magazine committed to representing the kinds of material which you won't see in the other journals.

Anyway, once again the managing editor is gone, long live the managing editor! Good luck to Brett in his new role. I hope you continue to support him. Maybe, with your help, this most maverick of literary magazines can continue for another decade or so ...

Here's a summary of the issues to date:

A Brief Description of the Whole World
Editor: Alan Loney
No 1, December 1995: 70 pp.
No 2, March 1996: 52 pp.
No 3, June 1996: 67 pp.
No 4, November 1996: 82 pp.
No 5, May 1997: 58 pp.
No 6, July 1997: 56 pp.
No 7, September 1997: 66 pp.
No 8, December 1997: 76 pp.
No 9, April 1998: 55 pp.
Nos 10 & 11, October 1998: 47 pp.
[629 pages overall]

A Brief Description of the Whole World
Editor: John Geraets
No 12, June 1999:
Leigh Davis: Willy’s Gazette (1983) [vii + 111 pp.]
No 13, September 1999: 93 pp.
No 14, December 1999: 110 pp.
ABDOTWW / description
No 15, March 2000: 86 pp.
Ab.WW / AbdotWW
No 16, June 2000: 85 pp.
Ab.ww / Loney
No 17, September 2000: 96 pp.
No 18, December 2000: 100 pp.
No 19, March 2001: 80 pp.
No 20, June 2001: 68 pp.
No 21, September 2001: 93 pp.
No 22, December 2001: 100 pp.
No 23, March 2002: 100 pp.
[1011 pages overall]

Editor: Jack Ross
No 24, July 2002: 84 pp.
No 25, October 2002: 111 pp.
No 26, January 2003: 118 pp.
No 27, June 2003: 104 pp.
No 28, October 2003: 126 pp.
No 29, March 2004: 102 pp.
Nos 30/31, October 2004: 120/120 pp.
No 32, May 2005: 120 pp.
[1005 pages overall]

Editor: Scott Hamilton
No 33, March 2006: 150 pp.
No 34, February 2007: 188 pp.
[338 pages overall]

[Ellen Portch, back cover image for brief #34: War]

No comments: