Sir, this book... is a pretty essay... though much of it is chimerical.
—Samuel Johnson (Boswell)
The Chimaera is a metamorphosis of II, which was a kind of supplement to the infamous Shit Creek Review. The name The Chimaera was chosen because of its rich resonances, particularly with the sense of a fabulous beast composed of disparate elements, an elusive delusion that the Quester quixotically pursues, with no hope of catching or capturing: as Wyclif wrote, “beestis clepid chymeres, that han a part of ech beest, and such ben not, but only in opynyon”. To the editors, all of these resonances evoke some aspects of the elusive creative and critical processes relating to poetry and fiction, processes we wish to present and discuss in this electronic magazine. And because we intend The Chimaera to be a miscellany, the composite nature of our tutelary totemic beast seems particularly apt; even the large variety of possible spellings appeals to our antic imagination.
The Chimaera then will publish verse, both themed and various, as well as prose. Our prose content will include fiction and also critical prose, which may cover a wide range of subjects: principally poetry and literature, but also historiography, art, film, drama, mythology and all sorts of other cultural matters; in short, whatever we find interesting and entertaining.
Poetry is the soul of The Chimaera, and like our ruling Beast we will not be tied down by any one prescription, or philosophy, nor any rigid form, nor school, nor clique: we will take our poetry from wherever it suits us, so long as that poetry is vigorous, and well-crafted, and true. We will wear lion’s head and goat’s horns, serpent’s tongue, eagle’s wing and gryphon’s grip and every curious and outlandish shape we please. Our poetry might be formalist or vers-librist, serious or silly, satirical, lofty, childish, mature or decidedly strange.
Our next edition will have as its feature focus the topic of Translation, especially (but not exclusively) as it applies to poetry. See our Submissions page for more details.
An Invocation, adapted from John Skelton’s “Philip Sparrow”:
By Chimaera’s flames,
And all the deadly names
Of infernal posty,
Where soulės fry and roasty,
I conjure thee,
By these namės three,
Diana in the woodės green,
Luna that so bright doth shine,
Proserpina in hell,
That thou shortly tell,
And show now unto me
What the cause may be
Of this Poetry!
The View from Paul
Each edition of The Chimaera will have a special feature section that focuses on a particular topic: this time the focus is on expatriatism. The subject was developed in a discussion between Nigel Holt and Paul Stevens which moved from an observation that a significant number of poets writing in English reside in the Gulf States, to a realisation that being an expat is a condition frequently experienced, and written about, by poets. As you read the poems and their accompanying prose reflections on the expat situation, it’s hard not to begin to suppose that the idea of being a stranger in a strange land (as the Book of Exodus would have it) is for many an integral part of being a poet. Certainly it has been a central idea in English poetry at least since the Old English elegiac lyric of “The Wanderer”, where the notion of exile leads the poet to more general meditations on existence, life and death. Behind the themes of expatriatism or exile lies the familiar geographical metaphor, manifested particularly as the topos of the physical, imaginative or inner journey, and linked to perceptions of belonging (or of not belonging), and of connections with people, groups, communities or places.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading all the varied submissions for the expat poets feature, and our final selection presents a rich and various range of experiences and responses written by poets born in one place and culture, but residing in another. As a person who has been shunted back and forth between Yorkshire and New South Wales during my life (and experienced challenges adapting to both), and as one who has initially often found himself championing unpopular causes (which eventually often become popular wisdom), I empathised readily with Janet Kenny’s stories of geographical and physical dislocation, and activism, and the vivid poems that embody some of these themes. Yet my responses to this writing were not dictated merely by some obvious commonality of superficial experience with the author. I have spent no more than a week in Singapore, and have never been to New York, yet I found Jee Leong Koh’s poems poignant and compelling, and his philosophical meditation “Exile is our condition” to be a significant exploration. So it is with the other authors who responded to this theme.
Some poets seem especially embedded in their own terroir and culture, as Tim Murphy suggested when asked in an interview, “How important is a sense of place, of terroir, to you as a poet?” and he replied, “No more important than Ireland to Yeats, Wessex to Hardy, or New England to Frost.” And doubtless that is true. Yet in another sense poets can be seen as outsiders, as strangers, even in their own country, and to look at their own community and their own lives from the outside, which allows them to see what is familiar with fresh eyes. Perhaps that is what Michael Cantor means when he writes, “We are, some of us, always expatriates.”
That part of our journal beyond our set theme, where The Chimaera wanders freely through various poetry and prose, is a landscape of abundant surprise and diversity. We have gathered a bumper selection, and there is some outstanding reading from which I could easily name a number of particular favourites. But I’ll content myself with just one author: the sonnets of Mark Allinson, that intrepid hunter of petrified lightning, are poetic fulgurites, perfectly caught.
The Perspective from Peter
I’ve been fascinated by the various angles from which our contributors have come at the issue of expatriatism — which, as it happens, has been a defining part of my own life experience. I’m one of those people whom Peter Richards in his seemingly casual yet perceptive prose piece describes as “born on the move” to parents in the diplomatic service or the military or some such. I’ve lived in five countries myself, and wandered around in many more. A geographically unsettled childhood left me with a restlessness and a taste for travel which took long years to work through. Even here in Australia I’ve lived for extended periods in four states, not counting confusion.
I can barely imagine what it must be like to live in one place continuously until young adulthood, and then to be abruptly plunged into a completely foreign milieu. Probably a bit like leaving home at around seventeen, as I did. Jee Leong Koh makes that connection in his concise, elegant essay. So does Peter Richards in “An Adolescent Contemplates Leaving Home” — which for me is the most affecting and memorable poem in the issue. Peter is, I think, originally English, and lives in Norway. While saying nothing directly here about his own expatriate experience, he succeeds in shedding significant light on the topic. Also in the Expats feature, I can empathise with Dennis Greene’s “cultural displacement”, and like Anna Evans I’m never seen in cardigans and knee socks.
And then of course there’s McGonagall. No doubt we asked for it by giving “McGonagall Submission” as an an email subject example in the guidelines. It wasn’t long before an email with that title landed in the Editor’s inbox. Mr William McGonagall III writes McGonagallesquely (if that’s a word) as a prospective emigrant to “Australiay” and also makes a spirited case in prose that his illustrious ancestor wasn’t quite the fool most people think he was.
Among the non-expat pieces, I was taken with Alison Brackenbury’s In the gap, C. E. Chaffin’s When I Am an Old Man, David Rosenthal’s Bechtle’s Alameda Gran Torino, 1974, Stephen Scaer’s The Public Loved Her Wednesday, and John Whitworth’s Not You. But on another day I might well have named a different five.
Editors: Paul Stevens, Peter Bloxsom Consulting Editor: Nigel Holt Artist/Photographer: Patricia Wallace Jones
Paul Stevens was born in Yorkshire, but lives in Australia. He teaches Literature and Historiography. His recent poetry is in The Barefoot Muse, Worm, Lily, The Argotist, The New Formalist, The Centrifugal Eye, Shattercolors, Contemporary Sonnet, Sliptongue and Poemeleon. He is the Poetry Editor (with Angela France and Nigel Holt) of The Shit Creek Review, as well as of The Chimaera Literary Miscellany.
Peter Bloxsom has worked as a writer, editor, and publisher, and is now a freelance writer and web developer. His articles, fiction, reviews, essays, humour, poems and other writings have appeared in print and online. He makes affordable websites for writers and poets, among others. His own site is at www.netpublish.net.
Nigel Holt lives and works as a teacher in the United Arab Emirates and has been published in Snakeskin, Worm, The Melic Review, The Shit Creek Review, Artemis, Envoi and Orbis magazines.