Steve Nash – Taking Stock and Setting it on Fire: A Tribute to James D. Quinton

A tribute to contributor James D Quinton who sadly took his own life on 6th September 2012

Taking Stock and Setting it on Fire: A Tribute to James D. Quinton

James D. Quinton wrote and published two novels – The Victorian Time Traveller, and Touch.  He also had two poetry collections – Street Psalms, and The City is on Fire and has been for Weeks, reach 2nd editions.  All of these works are still available today.  He was the managing editor of what the Poetry Society describes as a ‘poetry landmark’: Open Wide Magazine.  Tragically on the 6th of September this year James also decided to take his own life.

These are all stock statements of course which do little to assuage the loss felt by his wife Amy, his family, or friends.  They also scarcely approach doing justice to the memory of, not just a unique and edgy writer and editor but, an individual with an enormously generous spirit and a passionate fire of creativity in his heart (perhaps, in the end, too much).

My path first crossed that of James, as I’m sure countless others’ did, after another stock submission to what, I am now ashamed to confess, I took to be another stock magazine.  But Open Wide is no stock magazine and, as I was soon to discover, James was no stock editor.  It wasn’t long before I received a response from Open Wide but it wasn’t the quick turnaround that was the most striking thing, it was the content of the reply that seemed most curious.  As writers we become accustomed to a certain repetition of responses.  We may get a simple acceptance or, of course, rejection.  There may be occasional editorial suggestions, or requests for other work.  The response from this strange creature of an editor however was different.  Not only did this peculiar individual accept the poems I had submitted but he also instigated a conversation about, not just my work, but poetry in general.  Such was my introduction to one of the finest and most generous editors I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.

A few more weeks, emails, conversations, sessions of setting the poetic world to rights later, and I was offered the post of poetry editor at Open Wide Magazine, a role I was delighted to accept.  Whilst I would love nothing more than to continue detailing the tale of how my life too too briefly intersected with James’, I have less confidence in my words than James did.  I also fear I will have little more to offer than morbid clichés or staid platitudes, both of which James would have justifiably chastised me for.  Someone once described a selection of my poetry as “the work of a rare artist with a fire in his head.”  I have never felt worthy of these words but, for me, they are the perfect summation of the spontaneous eruption of language which is James’ work.  There are many intersecting sadnesses which spring from the loss of James, but two currently claw at me more significantly than the others.  The first is that we will now never be afforded the great privilege of reading more of his work.  The second is one that, from reading other warm tributes to James it is clear that many others also felt, that being that I am certain James had no idea of the positive impact he made on my life, and now I will not have the chance to express this to him.

I extend nothing but the deepest sympathy to James’ wife Amy, and his family, and other friends, and can only hope that it is some consolation that words which burn as ferociously as James’ must surely live on.  I will miss James a great deal, I only wish he knew how much.

Street Psalms (in memory of James D. Quinton)

‘the edge is there
I know it’s there
because it calls my name
and some days
I feel like running towards it…’ (from Seduction)

These streets will always be yours.
Dressed in a double-layer of cloud
the pearls of your fingertips mime a cigarette.

A four-walled world made boundless
by your imagination.  You’d strike out
into that borderland nightly

to beat out your exile in every step and word,
and return with the morning tapping stories
from your boots, scattering night-songs like sawdust

across the floor, the ineffable etched
into your face – another chance to paint
light onto the skin of light.  And yes,

had you been a canvas lost in Paris
in the early nineteenth century, Picasso
may have painted his greatest work on you.

You who would always push for the edge
and thought something of my nothings.
You who will never stop reminding us

that a whisky-tongued stranger
lighting the borders with a cigarette
will always have stories to teach us.

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