The chic thrum of music melted into the night air as I arrived outside The Custom House next to the dark and shining quay for the Riptide launch party. I slipped through the peeling blue doors and up the staircase, to find myself in a throng of writers and people working for the journal. There was a congenial atmosphere as people milled about with glasses of wine, mingling against the constant murmur of voices sounding next to the loud, yet relaxing tunes which came from the musicians in the room before me.
After making an enquiry, I was swiftly directed to the editors of Riptide. Dr Sally Flint welcomed me, happily answering my stream of questions about her work. I learned that Riptide started due to her and Dr Virginia (Ginny) Baily’s frustration at the narrow market for short story writers. They aimed also to help new writers, highlighting how age and experience are not all that matter behind a piece of work, but whether the writing is ‘interesting’. I was also warmly informed by Ginny later than evening that their aim is to always include one new writer; in this issue there are two. I find this admirable – with so little opportunities for young and new writers this is a turning point in the writing world. I was lucky enough to speak to James Turner, a third-year student at the University of Exeter, a young writer in this publication. The poem he read to us was deeply moving; I received warm smiles when I complimented his work. I learned that this was his first real attempt at poetry; he was thrilled to be published and enjoyed the evening. There was undeniably a cheerful air in that old and beautiful building.
The beautifully intertwined plasterwork in the shape of flowers and snakes hung above our heads, reflecting the original creativity of every piece once the readings had begun. Everyone sat casually on the floor, or huddled up the stairs around the door, peering into the peace of the room. Writers sprang up from the ground, stepping forwards to introduce themselves in soft tones, grasping a copy of Riptide. The theme of this issue was ‘Cradle to Grave’. Each poem echoed uniqueness. Some were personal as the words slowly spiralled from the page and out of their mouths. I noticed the faces of their audience, emotions and thought expanding behind their eyes as they listened. Their faces were filled with empathy, sometimes they looked sad, at other moments their mouths pealed into smiles as their chuckles filled the room, the writers cracking jokes in the supportive atmosphere. Each piece of writing was moving and gripping. Dr Todd Gray remarked to me that they were short enough so that each word could still be engrossing and valuable to the listeners.
Another writer I was also able to speak to was Andy Brown. He mostly writes poetry, informing me that his inspiration often comes from the body, due to his background in science. He made the transition from music to poetry after his band separated (who doesn’t know someone who is in a band?) Andy told me that he loves to write about people and about actuality – although this may sometimes sound depressing on a page, it is the truth, so it is meaningful. Andy read his poem aloud with the others, gripping us all with his words, and making jokes about the negative air of his poetry before he read. The audience was already engaged, their smiles fading into concentration as the laughter dissipated and the interest took control.
My experience of the Riptide launch party was an intriguing one. I felt privileged to see the support and interest everyone took in each other’s writing as they celebrated together.
– Eleanor Braham