The fact that the names of various literary journals and their editors are included in the Acknowledgements pages of the four Irish essay collections, and in Words of the Grey Wind, highlights the importance of publishing essays singly before collecting them together and revising them into book form.
Chris Arthur's essays have appeared in a range of journals and his habit of placing them there en route to the books is evidently an important part of his writing strategy.
One of his mentors on the essay form, Richard Chadbourne (Emeritus Professor of French at the University of Calgary), makes the point that the essay is "capable both of standing on its own and of forming a kind of 'higher organism' when assembled with other essays by its author."
Although by no means an exhaustive list, the journals pictured below give some idea of the range of publications in which Arthur's essays have "stood on their own" before being developed into what Professor Chadbourne refers to as the "higher organism" of a collection.
"An Image for Belfast", one of the essays in Irish Nocturnes, first appeared in The North American Review (Vol.279 no.6, November/December 1994, pp.13-15). Things have changed radically in the city of Arthur's birth since he offered this rather grim characterization of Belfast.
"Ferrule", one of the shortest essays in Arthur's oeuvre, appeared in The American Scholar (Vol.65 no.3, Summer 1996, pp.441-443) during Joseph Epstein's editorship of this journal. Epstein, himself a prolific essayist, has remarked on the connection between serial publications and the essay. "Apart from Montaigne and Bacon — and well before that, Plutarch — the development of the essay is, historically, a subset of the development and prosperity of the magazine" (The Best American Essays 1993, p. xvi, in Epstein's Guest Editor's Introduction). Just as the essays of Addison and Steele were shaped for the pages of the Tatler and the Spectator, so publications like The American Scholar exert their influence on contemporary essayists. "Ferrule" was later included in Irish Nocturnes. Joseph Epstein's most recent book of essays is In a Cardboard Belt! Essays Personal, Literary and Savage, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston: 2007.
"Linen", the opening essay in Irish Nocturnes, first appeared in the Northwest Review (Vol.35 no.1, 1997, pp.26-27). The Northwest is one of America's premier literary reviews. Among the authors it has published are: Eavan Boland, Charles Bukowski, Raymond Carver, Ted Hughes, Pegeen Kelly, Ken Kesey, Ursula Le Guin, Malcolm Lowry, Joyce Carol Oates, Theodore Roethke, Gary Snyder, and Robert Penn Warren.
"Going Home" was first published in The Threepenny Review (Vol.17 no.4, Winter 1997, pp.10-12), where it was billed as "memoir" rather than an essay. It became the concluding piece in Irish Nocturnes.
An early version of "Handscapes of the Mind", one of the essays in Irish Willow, appeared in the Canadian journal Descant (Vol.29 no.4, Winter 1998, pp.135-146). Arthur's first appearance there was as a poet — see Descant Vol.25 no.1, Spring 1994, "Sixteen Poets". Descant takes its title from a line in W.B.Yeats's poem "After Long Silence". A second essay, "Water-Glass" — which would later appear in Irish Haiku — was published in Descant 127 (Vol.35 no.4, Winter 2004, pp.198-224), an issue which included a portfolio of photographs by Edward Burtynsky — with his striking "Three Gorges Dam Project, Wan Zhou #4, Yangtze River, China 2002" on the cover.
The Oxford-based Contemporary Review has published a lot of Arthur's work — including several essays not included in any of his books. He is also a frequent contributor to the journal's book review pages. Unsurprisingly, many of his reviews are of books connected to Northern Irish issues, organizations and personalities. See, for example:
"The Truth About Ulster's Orangemen"
Vol.290, no.1688, Spring 2008, pp.101-103
Reviewing Eric P. Kaufmann, The Orange Order: A Contemporary Northern Irish History, and Henry Patterson & Eric Kaufmann, Unionism and Orangeism in Northern Ireland Since 1945: The Decline of the Loyal Family.
"A Closer Look at Protestants in Ireland"
Vol.291 no.1695, Winter 2009, pp.513-515
Reviewing Mervyn Busteed, Frank Neal & Jonathan Tonge (eds), Irish Protestant Identities.
"Religious Loyalties in Ireland"
Vol.292 no.1698, Autumn 2010, pp.373-374
Reviewing Marianne Elliott's When God Took Sides: Religion and Identity in Ireland.
"A Master Critic on Irish Literature"
Vol.293 no. 1700, Spring 2011, pp.107-109
Reviewing Terence Brown's The Literature of Ireland: Culture and Criticism.
Arthur has also written in the Contemporary Review on the struggle for religiously integrated education in Northern Ireland and on natural history in Ulster. For his review essay on Michael Parker's two-volume Northern Irish Literatures: The Imprint of History, see the Philological Quarterly, Vol.86 no.4 (Fall 2007), pp.455-461.
"Lists", which appeared in the Contemporary Review, Vol.291 no. 1694 (Autumn 2009), pp.364-372, takes as its point of departure a list of the mammals of the world, based on Hans Hvass's book of that title.
In "Shared Schools in Northern Ireland" (Contemporary Review Vol.293 no.1700, Spring 2011, pp.79-84), Chris Arthur offers an assessment of Jonathan Bardon's book. Though no mention is made of this in the article, the author royalties from Arthur's Biting the Bullet were donated to All Children Together, the same movement whose history Jonathan Bardon charts. Biting the Bullet: Some Personal Reflections on Religious Education, published by Edinburgh's St Andrew Press in 1990, is a collection of journalistic essays, many of which originally appeared in the Times Educational Supplement. The dedication in this early book of Arthur's starts with Jonathan Swift's famous comment: "We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love, one another". It then goes on: "This book is dedicated to those who work against religious hatred, wherever it occurs". Lagan College, the first integrated school in Northern Ireland — where Protestant and Catholic children are educated together by a religiously mixed staff and with an ethos of equal respect for the two traditions — was opened with only 28 pupils in 1981. By September 2009 there were 61 such schools, located all across the country, with a total enrolment of over 20,000 pupils. All Children Together was the key driving force behind this powerful antidote to religious hatred in Ulster.
Note: Jonathan Bardon's The Struggle for Shared Schools in Northern Ireland: The History of All Children Together is available from the Ulster Historical Foundation, 49 Malone Road, Belfast BT9 6RY. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
"The Last Corncrake" — which appeared in Vol.268 no.1565, June 1996, pp.315-320 — was reprinted in the Exhibition Catalogue for a William McKeown exhibition at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin in 2008/9.
The Centennial Review was where "Meditation on the Pelvis of an Unknown Animal" and "Under Siege" first appeared (Vol.41 no.1, Winter 1997, pp.5-16; Vol.43, no.3, Fall 1999, pp.405-421). Both essays subsequently appeared in Irish Nocturnes.
The Southern Humanities Review has published seven of Arthur's most significant essays: "Miracle Story" (which was to appear simply as "Miracles" in Irish Haiku); "Swan Song" (Irish Haiku); "Rosary" and "Boomarks" (both included in Irish Elegies); "Mistletoe" (one of the new essays in Words of the Grey Wind); "Chestnuts" and "Zen's Bull in the Tread of Memory" (both included in On the Shoreline of Knowledge). Graham Good's review of the first three essay collections appeared in the same issue as "Mistletoe". The journal awarded Arthur their Theodore Christian Hoepfner Award in 2004.
- "Miracle Story", Vol. 38 no.1, Winter 2004, pp.1-20
- "Swan Song", Vol. 39 no.1, Winter 2005, pp.1-16
- "Rosary", Vol. 40 no.3, Summer 2006, pp.213-233
- "Mistletoe", Vol. 41 no.4, Fall 2007, pp.305-323
- "Bookmarks", Vol.42 no.2, Spring 2008, pp.105-124
- "Chestnuts", Vol.44 no.4, Fall 2010, pp.373-392
- "Zen's Bull in the Tread of Memory", Vol.46 no.2, Spring 2012, pp.101-121
Irish Pages, edited at Belfast's Linen Hall Library, has published several of Chris Arthur's essays, including "Safety and Numbers" (Vol.2 no.1, Spring/Summer 2003, pp.61-74). The contributor's note on p.74 states that "Chris Arthur grew up in Bangor, Co Down." In fact he grew up in Lisburn, Co Antrim. "Safety and Numbers" was included in Irish Haiku. His "Doom and Expertise", included in Irish Pages' "The Publishing Scene" section (in Vol.1 no.2, Autumn/Winter 2002/2003, pp.235-240) offers a brief outline of some of the merits of the essay as a genre. Irish Pages describes itself as "Ireland's premier literary journal, combining a large general readership with outstanding writing from Ireland and overseas."
Three of Arthur's essays have appeared in the Southwest Review, "Getting Fit" (Vol. 89 nos.2&3, 2004, pp.175-191); "Room, Empty" (Vol.91 no.3, 2006, pp.295-312); and "Reading Life" (Vol.96 no.4, 2011, pp.471-491). The Southwest Review is the third oldest continuously published literary quarterly in America. Contributors have included D. H. Lawrence, Maxim Gorky, Cleanth Brooks, Robert Penn Warren, Joyce Carol Oates, Amy Clampitt, James Merrill, Margaret Drabble, Iris Murdoch, Arthur Miller and Naguib Mahfouz. The journal's current editor, Willard Spiegelman, published his Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness in 2009 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York)
"How to See a Horse" needed a journal that would include a picture of the painting of the horses and rider on which this essay focuses (the painting is reproduced on the Irish Haiku page of this website). Orion's November/December 2004 issue (pp.36-40) offered a high quality colour reproduction. A second essay for Orion, "Memory Sticks", is forthcoming in 2013.
The Literary Review published "(En)trance" in its Winter 2008 issue (Vol.51 no.2, pp.23-37. Samuel Saint Thomas's "Scribbles, Fragments, and Ideas: A Conversation with Chris Arthur" appeared in the same issue (pp.38-53). "(En)trance" is the first essay in Irish Elegies. "How's the Enemy?", one of the essays included in Reading Life, will appear in the Winter 2013 issue of The Literary Review.
An Sionnach ("The Fox") is styled "A journal of literature, culture and the Arts". The closing essay in Words of the Grey Wind, "Waxwings", was first published here in the Fall 2007 issue (Vol.3 no.2, pp.126-145).
"Last Words", the final essay in Irish Elegies, was first published in Hotel Amerika, (Vol.6 no.1, Spring 2008, pp.63-71). "Looking Behind 'Nothing's' Door", one of the essays in On the Shoreline of Knowledge, appeared in the Spring 2012 issue (Vol.10 no.2, pp.91-98). David Lazar, founding editor of Hotel Amerika, created the nonfiction PhD programme at Ohio University. His edited collection, Truth in Nonfiction (University of Iowa Press, Iowa City: 2008), provides some interesting perspectives on the form. Professor Lazar is currently based at Columbia College Chicago.
"How's the Form" and "Falling Memory" first appeared in the Brazilian Journal of Irish Studies (No.9, June 2007, pp.188-194; No.10, November 2008, pp.9-15). ABEI stands for Associação Brasileira de Estudos Irlandeses.
"Pencil Marks" was commissioned for the "Ireland: Texts and Contexts" issue of Wasafiri (Vol.25. no.2, Issue 62, Summer 2010), guest edited by Glenn Hooper and Gary Mckeone. Wasafiri describes itself as "Britain's premier magazine for international contemporary writing". The name of the journal is the Kiswahili word for 'travellers', and "captures our vision to focus on writing as a form of 'cultural travelling'". See wasafiri.org for further details.
Birds are an important motif in Arthur's work — used in a metaphorical (or philosophical/symbolic), rather straightforwardly ornithological way. Kingfishers, blackbirds, waxwings, corncrakes and owls have all featured in his essays. "Level Crossing" continues this theme, this time focusing on gyrfalcons. This essay's key point of reference lies in a news item regarding the unexpected age of some gyrfalcon nesting sites: "Carbon dating revealed that one nest in Kangerlussuag in central-west Greenland is between 2,360 and 2,740 years old" (from a report by Matt Walker, posted on the BBC News website, June 17th 2009). "Level Crossing" was published in the Summer 2010 issue of New Hibernia Review, an Irish Studies journal with a strong tradition of publishing contemporary writing. Among the poets who publish in its pages are Michael Longley and Moya Cannon; among the essayists, Tim Robinson and Floyd Skloot.
A characteristic of the essay is the presence of a self-reflexive thread that considers the nature of the genre in which the writing is being done. This thread can be seen in some of Arthur's work. "An Essay on the Esse" is his most sustained attempt to offer comment on the essay form. It was included in Irish Elegies and reprinted in issue 2 of The Pedestrian.
"[The essay] is both fragmentary and complete in itself, capable both of standing on its own and of forming a kind of 'higher organism' when assembled with other essays by its author."