Each month we look at some of the literary publications, zines and websites in the island of Ireland. This month we look at the newly formed Belfast-based zine Bombinate, and speak to its editor, Toby Buckley.
How has the reaction been to Issue 1?
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the overwhelmingly positive response that Issue #1 has received. As much as I hoped it’d go well, I had very much mentally prepared myself for failure. To have my tiny yellow zine stocked in No Alibis, sold at other people’s zine launches and even down at the Dublin Fringe Festival has been absolutely ridiculous, and I can’t wait to see how far I can push this oddly good fortune.
What inspired you to set up Bombinate? Were you influenced by any other literary zines/journals?
I’ve had in my head that I wanted to produce a zine for around two years now, but never got around to properly planning it until Tess Taylor moved back to the US and bequeathed me her printer. I guess I’d been using my lack of printing technology as an excuse for procrastination. I think my other prompt has been my introduction to the zine scene they have down in Dublin, with which I was previously unacquainted. My buddy Fionn O’Shea has produced a few different zines in the past year (Unpredictapple, Bee Safe Bee Zine, etc), and was kind enough to introduce me to a lot of really cool people.
What has been the biggest obstacle in launching the zine?
Honestly, I’d say I’m my own biggest obstacle. I’m not good at asking for favours or doing anything that might put me in the spotlight, so getting word about the zine out there and actively seeking submissions isn’t my strong suit. I think I’m getting better though!
Along with the typical poetry and prose one might expect in a literary zine, your first issue also featured illustrations as well as jokes. Is this something we might expect more of going ahead?
Definitely. Submitting to journals and zines can be very intimidating, and my main goal with this is to make something that people feel comfortable sending their work to even if they’ve never really looked into publishing before. I think putting in some little doodles and jokes is a nice way of making it a little more accessible. In fact, I received no illustrations for Issue #2, so I’m doing all the little scribbles myself – that’s why this issue is taking so long!
As for the beautiful illustrations by Mot Collins in Issue #1, which are so much more than my own doodles, I just think they make the zine look better. They’re eye-catching and well-designed, and small illustrators need a way of getting their work out there just as much as writers!
Your inaugural issue was on the theme of bees, with a bee also featuring in your logo. Poetry and bees have long been a fruitful partnership: Virgil’s Georgics, Sylvia Plath, Sean Borodale, Jo Shapcott, Carol Ann Duffy. Why do you think poets seem drawn to the image of the bee?
Honestly, I think anyone – poet or not – who isn’t drawn to the image of the bee either hasn’t looked at enough bees or is lying to themselves. Bees are absolutely vital to our own survival, they have really cool social setups and, frankly, they’re adorable. The Anglo-Saxons believed bees could be used to cure baldness, Ancient Assyrians believed their honey could cure headaches, scabies and eye disease, and the Ancient Egyptians sometimes used it in preservation. We’ve been obsessed with bees and their honey since long before we came up with poetry, it’s just that now we have a way to talk about it!
Issue #2 will be on the theme of “Vine”: What inspired you to pick this particular topic?
The theme actually came from a conversation with an Issue #1 contributor, who planned to write a story about someone who kept getting words mixed up and really wanted to “get into this vine!”, which is to say this zine. They never ended up writing the piece, but I liked the idea of a theme that could be interpreted to discuss plants or online videos so I ran with it anyway.