I’ve left this too long. Mea culpa. My bad. Little noticed in the high-speed fizz of daily life at NC, Senior Editor R. W. Gray has been doing some exceptional curatorial and development work. It’s time to pay attention, say what is what, give credit where it is due. Rob came onto the masthead to curate the NC at the Movies section of the magazine, way back in the misty time before time (I have now forgotten when, almost two years ago, I think). But I also told him he could think of his position on the masthead as a kind of fiefdom; he could be a Lord of the Marches and develop his area of the magazine as he saw fit.
He managed the movie part just fine, but he also started cultivating a doughty band of younger writers and movie critics. So we ended up with fine movie pieces introduced by Jon Dewar, Megan Mackay, Sophie Lavoie and Jared Carney. There was “sheepdogging” involved (our word for herding writers through the gates to publication): consultation, editing, rewrites. It’s easier and faster to curate the piece yourself, let me tell you. But that’s not the point. As Rob realized quite quickly, NC is meant to be inclusive and an access point for new writers, people with energy and ambition. We don’t take submissions; this is the way we engage.
A few months ago Rob launched himself into an even more arduous and ambitious project. He wanted to showcase poets he had noticed, often poets with a heterodox approach to putting words on the page. But he also wanted to make this project inclusive in other ways. He decided to match the poets up with outside critics, younger academics in most cases. More work for the poor man. Sheepdogging poets AND critics. We had middle of night despairing email interchanges. Luckily, most of you will never know the agonies of getting poetry layouts right on WordPress. Rob learned the hard way. I fear it burned him out. He is a mere shell of the man he once was. But look at what the magazine got in return. Nicole Markotić’s at risk or at least? Poems — With an Afterword on her Poetics by Tammy Armstrong; Shane Rhodes’s Stray Dog Poetics — With an Afterword by Rob Ross; and in this month’s issue, Jennica Harper’s amazing The Sally Draper Poems: A Poem Cycle | Introduced by Tammy Armstrong. These are gorgeous, wonderful productions and, in a couple of cases, incredibly difficult to put into print. R. W. Gray’s name is not on any of them, though he was everywhere in the background, sheepdogging (or curating).
This is very informal, my way of letting you all know the work Rob has been doing behind the scenes. Not everyone “gets” the magazine the way he does; and, of those, very few are so happy to put others forward and stay out of the limelight.
Good Old Shep.
Time to break out the company Talisker.