By Sugar Magnolia Wilson
Being born and raised in Fern Flat, the valley in which Alcove Arts is based, means that everything I do creatively in my life is owed in part to my upbringing in the amazing community and environment that makes up an important part of the Far North. This is one of the reasons that I agreed to be an Alcove Arts board member; it was an acknowledgement and a thanksgiving to what the people and place had allowed me to be in my life, and a desire to see creative energies fostered in the new generations of children growing up in the Far North region of New Zealand.
I wrote my first ever poem sitting in the bay window of my childhood home, looking out over Fern Flat valley, watching the clouds darken the recesses of the hills, and letting my imagination roam over the landscape and out through my pen. Since then I have moved away from the north, I have travelled and adventured and have found my adult home in Wellington where I am an active part of the New Zealand poetry world.
About a year ago now, two poet friends of mine (Hannah Mettner and Morgan Bach) and I sat around an outdoor table at a Newtown bar and, with arms gesticulating a little more wildly than the more sober neighbouring tables, bemoaned the lack of impassioned and warm-blooded writing in the New Zealand literary scene. There’s too much ‘cool’, we screeched, there’s too much ‘clever’ someone yelled, there’s not enough ‘wild’, someone hollered. That evening we decided the three of us would set out to create a new, New Zealand literary journal which embraced the brave writer, the weird poet, the hot-hearted intent, and the warm mammalian poetry that we so longed to see but couldn’t yet, we believed, find anywhere.
Whether or not it is true that this kind of writing doesn’t exist anywhere else in New Zealand writing (I fear it may not be true) doesn’t really matter, because this conversation set us out on a journey that has changed as it has gone along. Our journal, which we named Sweet Mammalian, has become more about celebrating what we do love about poetry, rather than reacting against what we don’t.
Creating the journal was an incredible journey. We decided to keep ourselves anonymous as we put out our tentative and somewhat nervous call for submissions; How would people respond to a brand new journal in a city that already housed several top notch and well regarded literary journals? Would we receive any submissions at all? What if no one took us seriously and we fell flat on our faces after only one attempt? None of our fears came to fruition and we received a very healthy number of submissions. Not only that, but many of them were excellent pieces of writing.
After an editorial ‘retreat’ to the icy outskirts of Ohakune, after some serious blood, sweat and nearly literal tears, we launched the inaugural issue of Sweet Mammalian On Friday 10 October this
year at the excellent Concerned Citizen Collective gallery space at 19 Tory Street. It was a thoroughly excellent evening. Check the first issue out at www.sweetmammalian.com
Here are some photos of the event.