Wednesday, 29 May 2013

A quick reminder

Just a quick reminder that I'll be the guest poet at Buzzwords in Cheltenham this coming Sunday evening. More details can be found on the Buzzwords blog here.

I'll be reading from both Inventing Truth and Tasting Notes (with copies of both pamphlets available for sale on the night), and I'd be delighted to meet any readers of Rogue Strands who might be able to make it along!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Helen Mort's first full collection

I was delighted to see the other day that Helen Mort's first full collection, titled Division Street (Chatto & Windus), will be coming out this September. What's more, it will be a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.

I've been following Mort's poetry for a number of years (she brought out two pamphlets with tall lighthouse and her work has appeared widely in magazines), and I'm  looking forward to getting hold of this book. It should be one of the most interesting first full collections to be published in the U.K. this year.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Buzzwords in Cheltenham

Buzzwords Poetry organise monthly events in Cheltenham that involve readings, open mics and workshops, all run by Angela France. Numerous excellent poets have read there over the last few years, including Alison Brackenbury and George Szirtes.

I'm delighted to report that I'll be reading as the guest poet at Buzzwords on Sunday 2nd June. The venue is the Exmouth Arms in Leckhampton, Cheltenham. I'll be doing a workshop at 7pm or you can simply come along to my reading and the open mic at 8pm.

I'll be giving readings from Inventing Truth and Tasting Notes, sandwiched between the open mic sessions, and there will be copies of both pamphlets for sale on the night. I've heard excellent reports about Buzzwords and I'm really looking forward to it!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The demise of Salt's poetry list

There was a major shift in the U.K. poetry publishing scene yesterday with the news that Salt are giving up their verse arm apart from their annual anthology (see their blog post here). Bearing in mind that they've published more than 400 collections over the past thirteen years, this is serious stuff.

I'll always be grateful to Salt for having introduced me to the work of many great poets such as Sîan Hughes, whose The Missing is one of the most outstanding poetry books to have been published in the U.K. since the turn of the century. Salt was responsible for bringing out numerous first full collections, offering numerous opportunities for excellent poets to find an outlet. However, many of those same poets now find themselves in a unsettling position and on rocky ground: no publisher for that awkward second book, no long-term commitment.

The demise of Salt's poetry list might well be down to a wide range of causes. The fact is that they found it very difficult to place their verse collections in major bookshops. Furthermore, I do feel they might have overextended themselves in terms of the number of collections they published, especially 2/3 years ago. It's clear that poets must put major work in to market their own books, but they also need strong support behind them in the form of their publisher. With extremely limited human resources, Salt sometimes had to let poets (and their books) very much sink or swim. It was a huge achievement just to publish such terrific poetry in gorgeous packaging in those circumstances!

It's also ironic that after having gone through a number of turbulent periods of cashflow problems, etc, (e.g. the Just One Book campaign), Salt now seemed to be on an even keel on the back of Alison Moore's novel, The Lighthouse, having managed to make the Booker shortlist. In fact, I'd speculate that this major success may well have sharpened Salt's focus on prose as their growth area and the basis on which they can build a sustainable, non-funded business model.

I can only hope that Salt might find a way back to publishing more poetry in the future. For the moment, I feel very sorry for the numerous poets from Salt's list who must be waking up today, looking at their manuscripts and wondering just how they are going to find a home for their next book.

Friday, 10 May 2013

The last few copies of Inventing Truth

HappenStance Press tell me that only a final few copies of Inventing Truth remain in stock. This is consequently your last chance to take them up on their special offer of both my pamphlets (i.e. Inventing Truth and Tasting Notes) together at £6 for the two - a £2.00 reduction on their price if bought singly. The product page on the HappenStance website can be found here.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Poets' second jobs

I encountered an excellent article the other day (on the NPR website) on poets' second jobs. Its focus is the U.S., but many of its remarks are also salient in the case of the U.K.. You can read the whole thing here, but I'd like to highlight a number of key points.

The feature mentions the huge growth in the last few years in poets who make a living from teaching poetry, stating that almost all the 75 contributors to the 2012 edition of "The Best American Poetry" "have taught poetry in universities or earned an advanced degree in poetry, or (more frequently) both."

As mentioned previously on Rogue Strands, I'm very much in favour of the positive effect a non-poetic job can have on the writing of verse. As this article explains, there's a long tradition of scientists, bankers, lawyers, etc, etc, being published poets: "One of the most obvious benefits of a day job is that it offers another lens through which the outlines of poems can emerge."

Once more, this argument leads us on to the role of poetry in wider society, to the value that we apply to the genre:  "the ways in which we value poetry can be very different from the ways in which we value poets themselves."

The article might go over old ground, but it does so in fresh ways. It certainly got me thinking again about how my job interacts with my verse, not just in overt content such as Tasting Notes, but implicitly in all the rest of my poems. Apart from the roles I play in my personal life (father, son, partner, etc), I'm also an export manager, and have a very specific and consequent type of interaction with people on a daily basis. Those experiences contribute to everything I write.