"What is a fire crane?" you ask, perhaps imagining something ornithological or industrial. If you do a search you'll soon discover what we use to hang words on in Cumbria.
The Fire Crane is a new publication from New Writing Cumbria. It's the brain-child of Mick North who has been putting it together and editing it over the last few months when most of us have been taking time off for our holidays.
The theme of the first issue is writing and the visual arts. Essays, poetry, interviews, fiction and plenty of picures, all in a newspaper format. As soon as I got hold of a copy I read it all the way through without a break. And I've been re-reading it.
I'm fascinated by Jeremy Over's essay on the art of the Boyle family, a highly unusual take on land art. Jonathan Ruppin's interview with novelist, Christopher Burns, reminds me that I must get round to reading A Division of Light. Christine Howe's short fiction "Survivor" lingers in my mind long after reading it. Ian Hill's essay "Weather Eye" opens with one of the best descriptions of the Solway I have read.
And then there are poems, not scrunched into odd corners but presented with plenty of space round them like pictures in a gallery. Apt that, because the interplay between words and images is very strong in the poems presented here. I'm particularly taken by John Rice's "The Little Girl at the Door" with its devastating last line and Terry Jones' slow meditiation on underpass graffiti.
The elegant typography and uncluttered lay-out show the highest design standards. The design is by Jeremy Fisher (very appropriate with all the rain we've been having in the last week). Care and attention to detail has resulted in a beautiful-looking publication, even down to the fire crane logo constructed from the type of two brace brackets.
"Sufficient unto the day is the newspaper thereof", wrote James Joyce in Finnegan's Wake. Not The Fire Crane. This is one to keep. Whatever you do, don't use it to light the fire.
More about The Fire Crane and how to get a copy at http://www.newwritingcumbria.org.uk/swinging-the-fire-crane/