Fostering connection between people and nature—Channel Literary Magazine
by Cassia Gaden Gilmartin
In all uses of the word, a channel exists to direct something—whether it be water, an electronic signal or a spirit—through or towards something else.
Myself and my co-editor, poet Elizabeth Murtough, created Channel to act in this same way: as a passage through which ideas surrounding our fractured relationships with the natural world, with one another, and with hidden parts of ourselves can be communicated and explored.
Channel is a literary magazine publishing poetry and prose that fosters connection between people and nature.
We made the decision to found the journal on 15 March 2019, the day of the first international climate strike that year. It was our way of finding a place in the momentum of that moment.
We’d always believed there was more we could do using our skills as writers, and, having witnessed the impact of art and story on Ireland’s marriage equality and Repeal campaigns, we believed in the potential of the arts to create empathy and make an abstract cause tangible.
The idea of a literary magazine focused on nature and climate wasn’t new; international journals such as Orion, Elementum and The Willowherb Review have been wonderful sources of inspiration to us. Ireland, though, had been without such a publication since the closure of EarthLines Magazine, operated by Sharon Blackie and David Knowles until 2017.
Nature writing as a genre has been variously defined, and to many readers it may call to mind an apolitical aesthetic tradition—but we believe that, in the current moment, writing about nature is inherently political.
All human thought and language is grounded in the natural world: an obstacle is a river to cross, a person trapped is a caged bird. Yet today many of us struggle to maintain a sense of that embeddedness.
As our daily lives lose their ties to the land we inhabit, we lose parts of our language and creativity, too. In this context, the climate and biodiversity crisis can feel dangerously distant; though climate change is already affecting our localities, we may feel it as little more than some unseasonable weather. Compounding our alienation from the crisis, the human communities hit hardest live at a distance from those of us here in Ireland. In a globalised world, our actions have worldwide consequences, but our imaginations are still catching up to that fact.
In publishing Channel, we aim to offer a space in which writers, artists and readers can consciously return to nature as an imaginative source, and in which international perspectives on nature and climate can be shared. As well as writing that deals directly with climate breakdown, we look for work that roots itself in nature as theme, setting, or symbol.
We chose magazine publishing as a means of engagement because it’s an inherently collaborative form – we believe that climate change, and all the social problems with which it’s inextricably linked, can be successfully tackled only through collaboration, in spaces that make room for a plurality of voices to hear and influence one another. We aim to bring together work from across Ireland, as well as from abroad. Given the power imbalances too often embedded in responses to the climate crisis, we’re especially keen to read and publish across racial, cultural and socioeconomic lines.
Having launched our last three issues remotely, we look forward to the return of in-person engagement in the year to come. Submissions for Issue 5 are open until 15 June, with full guidelines available on our website. Non-fiction submissions, which will be considered for our next print issue as well as for publication online, are invited year-round, as are submissions of visual art for our covers.