The Island Review has a new editor. Having steered the ship for the past two years and been a part of the journal since its launch in 2013, Jordan Ogg is stepping down to focus on other creative projects he has been plotting.
Stepping onto the bridge is C.C. O’Hanlon, who, during a varied and richly lived life, has been a musician, seaman, smuggler, gambler, editor, photographer, film-maker, publisher, web entrepreneur, and government adviser – among other things. His writing has been published widely in national publications and small journals and included in several anthologies and 'best of...' collections. Born in Sydney, and raised nearly everywhere else, his wife and he are currently packing up their home of five years in Berlin to head “west again, to the sea.”
Before disappearing into the wilderness, Jordan caught up with C.C to learn more about his interests and plans.
Welcome to your new role as skipper of The Island Review. I think you will enjoy it here. What three things should readers know about you?
Oh God, how do I begin to answer that? [long pause] I’m insatiably curious, and always eager to encounter the unusual or unfamiliar or unsettling. I love story-telling in all its forms; my father was a novelist so, I guess, it’s been part of my life since childhood. I’m particularly drawn to visual storytelling. Finally, I'm a sea person; I’ve spent extended periods away from the sea, unfortunately, but I only really feel whole when I live in close proximity to it – or, better yet, on it. I’ve never really had a sense of place, of belonging, ashore.
You are from Australia, which means you are well placed to help answer the perennial island conundrum: Australia - is it an island or landmass?
It's a continent with the mindset of an island. Which is not altogether a good thing. Being Australian is, in part, defined by a consciousness of being far from anywhere – there's this unsettling sense of disconnection from a ‘mainland’ that is actually the rest of the world. Awareness of Australia as an island is unavoidable if you’re living on its coasts but even far inland, the stations and small communities that survive in the arid semi-desert of the outback are kind of lonely archipelagoes, too.
Why do you think islands have such an extraordinary appeal to artists and writers?
An old nomad adage holds that some people are born in the wrong place and they spend the rest of their lives looking for the right one. Deserted or sparsely populated islands are places where ’the right one’ can be imagined and, to some extent, created, and this has an appeal to those of us who find themselves disenfranchised – or, more likely, have disenfranchised themselves – from conventional social constructs. More simply, islands suit those who want to insulate themselves from the commonplace of urban living, to restore themselves, to reconnect with nature, or to reflect without too much distraction. For me, there’s something almost baptismal, soul-cleansing, about the passage over water to get to them (and no, a flight is not the same).
You are a sailor and a cartographer. This means you must have loads of good island stories. Can you tell us one or two?
They’re not so much stories as moments: sailing alone to Les Îles Saint-Marcouf, off the coast of Normandy, to picnic atop the ruin of a Napoleonic fort on deserted Île du Large; being becalmed at night close by the Aeolian volcanic island of Stromboli as lava spilled down its slopes; being caught by a huge rogue wave south west of St Kilda and capsized; seeing jagged Skellig Michael loom out of a mist off the south-west corner of Ireland, and sailing by it so close I could see the ancient ‘beehive’ monk cells on its high upper slopes; hooking squid with traditional fishermen off the north-east coast of Sardinia, then going ashore on a tiny, rocky islet to cook black-ink pasta for lunch; smelling damp, sweet soil in the night, out in the Atlantic, when still 100 miles west of the Azores island of Flores, which is pretty much the experience its 15th century discoverer, Diogo de Teive, had.
Do you have a favourite island-related book, poem or artwork you would like to share with us?
Well, my childhood favourite was Erskine Childer’s Riddle Of The Sands, set among the shifting tidal banks of the Frisian Islands, off the north-east coast of Germany, but as an adult, The Starship And The Canoe by Kenneth Brower. It’s a dual biography of the renowned astro-physicist Freeman Dyson and his son George, now a distinguished science historian. When the book was written, George was a young, hippie-ish guy who lived in an illegal tree-house he’d built 90 feet above Burrard Inlet in Vancouver; he also built large voyaging baidarkas (a type of kayak) in which he ranged as far north as Alaska. A father who dreamed of island settlements on asteroids and a solitary son who paddled his own, self-contained islands to some of the emptiest shores of the Pacific north-west – irresistible!
What are your plans for The Island Review?
No, no, don’t ask me that. Not yet. It'd be insufferable of me to propose plans before I’ve had a chance to immerse myself in the community that Malachy and you have built over the past five years. I need to take some time to survey and understand what's gone before. Possibly, I might broaden the definition of ‘island’, possibly I might try to challenge contributors to take on specific themes. My most immediate hope is to continue to grow the readership, continue to offer great original writing and strong images.
Finally, which is best: Shetland or Orkney?
I’ve spent half a lifetime recovering from a single night of heavy drinking at the Lerwick Boat Club, in Shetland. Sleepless, drunk, I ended up being cajoled into taking part in a race involving a handful of unstable, over-canvassed, open boats, each crewed by half a dozen unstable, intoxicated Vikings who kept flinging heavy lead ingots into the arms of those of us who were stupid enough to be sitting on the windward gunwhales trying to keep the bloody things upright in a rising gale. None of us were wearing lifejackets or waterproofs or, in my case, any kind of footwear. I suspect Orkney’s ancient hermitic traditions might suit my temperament better. The Shetlanders are fucking nuts.
Thank you, as a Shetlander myself I am most pleased to hear this. Wishing you all the best as our new editor.