I commenter here on If I Had A Minute To Spare brought some shocking new to my attention recently.
The much (or kind of) loved Stinging Fly Café has been closed down. I almost cried when I heard this.
Before you all start to shake your heads sorrowfully mourning the end of another business courtesy of the wonders of the much talked about recession, hold steady. The Stinging Fly Café was not a café that you could walk into and enjoy a coffee and a slice of apple tart. It was a forum, or discussion site, that was part of http://www.stingingfly.org, the website of a Dulbin based poetry magazine.
Now, of course platitudes of fair play need to be leveled at The Fly for spending some of their well earned grant money on a new website, but the end of the Café is something which must be mourned.
Regular visitors, which I was over the past year whilst searching for an essence of what the poetry/writing scene in Ireland may be like, would perhaps suggest that there were only around six people who used the forum for anything, and three of these people used to bicker between themselves for hours on end, which was hilarious. Much of it had nothing to do with poetry however… well maybe it did.
I suppose this is a problem with having a creative writing focused forum. Forums are notorious for the characters that regularly post and participate with them. Too many egos, opinions, beliefs, and thick feckers for anything healthy to form, really. I’ve looked at a few randomly and seen people just abuse people outright based on their comments or opinions. This would rarely happen in a face-to-face situation, but the annoymity of a forum allows fun poking and dogs abuse to the highest degree – this is both a good and bad thing about forums.
Creative writing is a naturally critical topic because creative writing is an art form, and art always attracts opinions of taste be it for style, quality, quantity or whatever, so The Fly was littered with several opionated standard setters which made for interesting reading. Although I think it is what kept many people away from posting.
Alas, as much as I trump them here I can not direct you towards the revelry of such conversations as they all no longer exist. So, today I mourn.
I suppose I could venture onto the incredibly tame and moderated Poetry Ireland forum, or perhaps continue to rattle on here like I usually do…
… no it just doesn’t have the same feel to it. Oh well, at least I tried (half-heartedly again).
As a token of my appreciation to the wonder that was The Stinging Fly Café, here are a few links that I really believe you should click on and peruse.
http://www.thestingingfly.org – None other than the website for the magazine itself. Of course, the website serves no function other than to buy their magazines and find out when their next submission date is. I believe its soul died with the café… Perhaps I’m just bitter because they didn’t run the poems I submitted last time. Note to self: Must learn to fail better.
http://thepoetrybus.blogspot.com – One of the wonderful manifestations to emerge from the bowels of The Fly‘s café walls. The Poetry Bus was set up by lovable Ozy and came out several months ago – I got a copy shipped all the way to Korea for my troubles. A lot of the poets are small, rarely publicised writers (I think) but the quality is, I think, very high. The Poetry Bus is 100% independent and recently was given the much needed support for its second edition with a very successful funding drive courtesy of fundit.ie. Most importantly, a poem of mine will be included in the next issue which should be coming out in the next few weeks (months?).
http://iconicrealism.blogspot.com – The ladeeee of the group, this blog is run by Jeanne from America (woooooh). Jeanne is a great poet but also a measured critic of the rest of our masculinising (it is now a word) of the forum, and also an important critic of Tsp*. Please visit her site, say hi and offer a critique!
http://www.writingsinrhymne.com – this is the website of the café’s resident midlands poet. Tomás Ó’Cartaigh comes from Longford, I think. He likes to describe things by using the word ‘akin’ in a sentence. Anyway, he likes to write rhymning poems and believes he is avante garde, but at the same time the most important thing about Tomás’s contribution to the joviality of the café was his regular disagreement in relation to the standard of Tsp*. Even I felt obliged to opine on occasion on this issue. Tomás, in fairness to him, was never one to let a negative review effect his productivity and continues to produce, ahem, poetry. It’s a shame that the forum is no longer available for Tomás’s outpourings and the resultant reactions.
http://theijspoetrycompetition.blogspot.com – this blog is very new but it is the product of a very particular thread which existed in the forum, The I’m Just Saying Poetry Competition. I’m Just Saying was a, for want of a better word, person who regularly contributed poetry and criticism on the site. Much of the criticism was leveled at Tsp*but he also contributed some wonderful verse, much of which can be found in the archives of this site (I think you’ll probably find some of the criticism about Tsp* here too, ask IJS nicely and I’m sure he’ll tell you where to look). Most importantly, IJS has decided to continue the history of this wonderful competition in blog form. It already looks like there’ll be some stiff competition for the title of ‘Winner’ as much quality material has already been submitted! That being said, I don’t know how you make an entry or what you can win, but I’m pretty sure that a junior infants philosophy is necessary here – it’s not the winning, it’s the taking part!
*Tsp: I’ll let you guess what this means. The winner gets a free, life long, subscription to If I Had A Minute To Spare.