“She used to clickety-click her slippered feet over the sink”

by Kitty Drake in May 2020
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Art & design Literature

Ossian is a literature and arts magazine with a wonderfully overblown tag-line: “O Ye Bards Of Future Times”. Publishing long-form essays, fiction and reportage, the writing in here is formally experimental. The best piece, by Maria McLintock, tells the story of the Irish recession in lean, clear-eyed diary entries. Hard facts (“Nov 2007: over 10,000 new apartments in Dublin are empty”) are woven into the fabric of the memoir. My favourite passage, marked ‘May 2005’ is about McLintock’s mother, a world-class Irish dancer, who retired early when asked to wear makeup: “She was a tomboy, and a poor one at that. Her early retirement from the sport did not mark the end of her obsession with it. She used to clickety-click her slippered feet over the sink, washing dishes, peeling spuds.”

Another beautiful contribution is a photo essay, by Clay Cavender and Bex Liu. Called ‘Returning’, it is a reflection on memory, and its faultiness. In one spread, an abstract architectural shot sits next to the caption: “I’ve heard it said that every time we ‘access’ a memory, our minds obliterate some acute detail of it, altering the memory irrevocably… Photographs have the power to silo some small moment of reality, to literally cast it in a new light”.

The issue was inspired, the editor’s letter explains, by “non-words”: words submitted by the public to the Oxford English Dictionary, but which haven’t made the cut because their use isn’t quite widespread enough. Had the referendum gone the other way, the editors speculate, “Brexit” might well have been one of those non-words.

What Ossian seems concerned with, is the gap between the real and the imagined; between memoir and reportage; between things as they are and as they might have been. It’s an evocative starting point for a magazine.


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