Nigel, along with his brother Geoff, used to edit a magazine called the Rue Bella in the early noughties, and one reason I know is because I was featured in it – twice. They published poets like Brian Patten, Benjamin Zephaniah, Ruth Padel and Michael Horovitz – and me. I still can’t believe, looking back, that I managed to get to be in such esteemed company, but that’s the thing: Despite attracting some of the biggest names to their magazine, Nigel and Geoff were always very open to and supportive of writers who were complete unknowns but who maybe showed some kind of promise, and I have to say it was a definite shot in the arm for me at the time and really kept me going.
And though it’s taken me a while, having kept on going, here I am, thirteen years later, with my first book, an 80 page tome that contains two of the poems originally published in the Rue Bella – ‘My Bad Side’ from volume seven and ‘Security Camera’ from volume nine.
The book – entitled Being With Me Will HelpYou Learn – is out this month via Listen Softly London Press and can be pre-ordered here:
Altogether there are 56 pieces – both poetry and flash-fiction – that have been published in all kinds of literary mags, from august journals such as Envoi, Fire and Iota to cool zines like the Illustrated Ape, Rising and PUSH.
And when I think about it, the Rue Bella really was a combination of the two: definitely an ‘august journal’ but cool as well – the best of both worlds, in fact – and though all good things come to an end, as the Rue Bella did in 2003, it definitely isn’t forgotten. I have all nine of the volumes at home – six to nine I bought at the time and one to five I bought from Amazon – and recently, as I leafed through them and stopped at various points to read poems, I was impressed with how uniformly excellent they were, always well-written and profound but accessible too, and it was interesting to see names of poets who would have been unknown at the time but have gone on to build substantial reputations – Ben Myers, for instance, being one very notable example. I’m sure the Rue Bella has been acknowledged many times in various poets’ books already – and in this way lives on – but now, at last, after all these years, it appears on the acknowledgment page of mine, and I’d like to thank Nigel and Geoff for that shot in the arm their both august and cool journal gave to me at the time that kept me going and helped no end to bring me to this point.