Far Off Places

Dreaming of Far Off Places…

Awoken by the intrusive skreigh of seagulls as I often am on a cloudy Bristol morning, I would be forgiven for mistaking Thursday as regular. Until the sound is met with caustic echoes of waves cascading down far off crags and I rouse to the realisation that I’m nowhere near the sea in my suburban attic. I’d drifted off; listening to the mellifluous, shipping forecast-esque tones of Sian Fiddimore reading out DJ Mac’s story At Yesnaby. Set in Orkney, this short story, featured in Issue II of new literary magazine Far Off Places had sprung back to life on my laptop and stirred me from slumber.

The Back of Beyond
Editor-in-chief, Annie Rutherford, proudly sent Pastiche the promo copy of the magazine’s second issue The Back of Beyond for review, with links to the site’s podcast section. To date, two podcasts, featuring five spoken-word versions of poems from this new issue, have been released onto the website. Certainly the Scottish lilt of Fiddimore lends well to the encapsulating faraway-ness of Yesnaby. Indeed, we are transported to the back of beyond with the imagery of Orcadian winter as Mac describes “a netherworld of silver-grey gloom with the sky stooping to kiss the waves.”

Ends of the Earth
The team at Far Off Places, indubitably lives up to its name. With submissions from the extremities of Cornwall and Scotland being only the tip of the iceberg of this intercontinental issue. Writers hail from different parts of Europe, the USA, Canada and Australia; although many have the common denominator of a connection with Scotland. Words have been collected from the ends of the earth to create this polyvocal gem of a literary magazine.

Varied Voices
As well as representing a global glut of vicinities, the writing within Far Off Places embodies converging characters, through its many voices. Simon French’s procrastinating protagonist, who knows there’s dusting to be done in Dust of 1000 Scratchcards is a far cry from the adventurous companion of Eve in Kate Blackadder’s Oldshoremore. They, nameless, who wants “to swim with wildbrown trout in their icy, Ice Age pools; race red deer and chase red admirals;”, who travels through intrepid weather conditions and sees “mountains rise and crumble to dust” on the road to Oldshoremore. Different again from Pallavi Rao’s character, like a pedantic Pi (from Life of Pi), who lists details like the contents of their pockets. Who knows how we should treat big cats. Whilst the characters portray the changing hues of humanity, there is a homogeneity to their sentiment: We are dreamers.

Within Dreams
Fitting that this magazine, whose podcasts should pervade my sleep, contains discourses of dreams. Jenny’s wishes in Unicorns! by Adam Barnett are an explicit homage to the human hankering for dreams. But the disposition for desire is echoed throughout the collection. From the reverie of Primmie Scott summoned by DJ Mac’s unnamed character, to Niall Foley’s chancer in The Hustle, each character longs for something. Be it “a place where the travails of reality didn’t intrude, and where extraordinary things were the norm.” or Foley’s Armani suits and cars, they’re all there. This collection of work from some twenty-six people depicts throughout it, the dichotomy of travel dreams; the individual needs for belonging and solitude.

Nicole Strachan’s character in The Day the Aliens Visited immediately expresses a very British regret: to have neglected to offer the aliens tea. This poem comments on the ever-changing face of nationality in a way that is reminiscent of Holly McNish’s Mathematics. The aliens aren’t here for long enough for us to be certain where they come from. But they do leave cake. One can’t help but wonder if California-born Strachan’s own displaced nationality here in the UK is in part responsible for this work, which comments on the impact we have on earth, as a whole. This unification of humans – picking the flowers to give to each other – reminds us we are all part of the same species. Gives us that sense of belonging the traveller requires.

But what of that other type of traveller? They, who seeks solitude. Who’ll go to the back of beyond to find it? They’re here too. In Emma Cook’s How to Steal Light from the Stars and in “the sound of your
voice echoing for miles” in Samuel Best’s short prose, the solitary traveller watches. From the leagues of fissures scored in the North Pacific waters surrounding Orkney to the the top of Samuel Best’s Tennessee mountains, wilderness and nature are present in Far Off Places, as they are in the many locations the works have come from.

This literary collection, subtly focuses its eye on many themes, and reminds me that as Sarah Miles puts it “There is always something extraordinary to be found in the least promising of places, if you look. And if you can’t see it: make it. To live that way is an act of will.”

Laura Barnes