Review: Kaffeeklatsch, a journal of poetry and criticism.

Article published: Tuesday, May 8th 2012

The second issue of poetry magazine Kaffeeklatsch was released last month. Containing a mix of poetry, criticism and photography, we asked creative writing MA student Alexa Turnpenny to review it.

The second issue of Kaffeeklatsch opens with musings from one of the editors on the origins of the journal, or as he calls it, “the miserable poverty in which it was conceived”. Perhaps the most striking thing to take away from reading Kaffeeklatsch is that there is absolutely no element of poverty, no lack to it whatsoever. This issue is rich, in words and photographs, in names and ideas. Boasting poets from Vona Groarke to Paul Batchelor and including poetry, reviews, interviews, photographs and illustrations, the journal pops from the page with an abundance of surprising and fertile material. Don’t let the cool and uncluttered layout or the photographs of empty beaches and austere trees fool you, the issue is packed full on every page, and working hard to earn its keep there.

‘Kaffeeklatsch’ means ‘gossip over coffee cups’, thus prioritising words over the act of drinking coffee (a difficult balance for any poet to strike). In fact, this issue prizes words most highly of all; each poem is surprising and innovative and the prose contained in the volume is often funny, always considered and in its own special way, poetic. Maryanne Stahl’s ‘Leap’ looks at the beach to “notice how the waves glint as they curl”, which speaks not only of the way that good poetry works, but of the way that Kaffeeklatsch regards its own poetry; with insight, with intimacy and with just a hint of magic. This journal looks closely at its poetry and asks us to do the same. There is a thickness to the work and an overwhelming feeling of texture which sticks long after closing the pages. The feel of the internal organs of an octopus in ‘Ink’, Waldron’s dry sky, frozen water shining like the Guggenheim; you feel every word.

It is a surprising and varied collection of poetry and prose (from people and their relationships, to our perception of experience and reality) but everything hangs neatly together, punctuated by beautiful photography which enhances the words around it. The smart ordering draws out interesting complements among the unified whole; Batchelor’s ‘Return’ precedes Anastasi’s ‘Playground’ and prepares us to go backwards (his last line lingers on an (in)ability to return a meaningful stare and perhaps more accurately, to return to a raw and painful moment). We turn the page and are landed among children’s screams and face painting, returning to our own childhoods. In turn Anastasi’s last line provides the quotation for the journal’s spine; “the necessary art of suppression” and all of what remains unspoken in Bachelor’s ‘Return’ springs back up with alarming familiarity and potency. We return uncannily again.

It is a clever little journal, ballsy in its subjects (a funny but insightful interview of Mark Waldron, by, erm, Mark Waldron steals the show), but modest too. The editors claim “begging and borrowing” from more established sources makes this small publication what it is, a quiet and sad nod to the financial state of the poetry industry in general. But perhaps more importantly, it speaks to the hard work and dedication at Kaffeeklatsch, something which will hopefully mean that for richer or for poorer, this remarkable journal is here to stay.

Alexa Turnpenny

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