A box containing copies of my new collection ‘The Great Animator’ arrived today. Officially launching with readings in March, it’s not yet available from my publisher Shoestring Press, Amazon or other outlets at present, but you can buy a copy directly from me if you go to this page and click the Paypal link. I had some trouble setting up the button, but a twelve year old friend of my son assisted me. The cover price is £10, but I’m offering it for £9.50 including postage and packing. I’ll be reading from the book in London, Leicester and Manchester next month. Please see Readings page for details. Thank you.
The proof copy of my second full poetry collection dropped through the letterbox earlier this week.
I’m very pleased with the way it looks and feels. The cover image, which was made for me by art student Ayo Byron, is just what I wanted. I had sent Ayo a few ideas – images of trees and their roots- and asked him to produce something with movement to reflect the title. The title itself comes from a poem of that name, a poem ostensibly about the wind and the fact it knows no borders.
I’m also pleased to say I am happy with the poems and their order. This book is more varied in subject and style and feels more substantial than my last one and I am delighted with the paper quality and overall look and feel of it. But then this high quality is to be expected from my publisher, Shoestring Press. The book will be available to buy in March, and I’ll be launching it and reading with other poets in London, Manchester and Leicester and posting details here nearer to publication.
Over on poet Clare Pollard’s blog this morning Clare has highlighted a number of sources for free poetry including the online magazines Prac Crit and Poetry and Poems in Which . These are great developments, making quality poetry and interviews and articles available to those without the means to obtain it otherwise. I also received a copy of the hefty 188 page print magazine The North this week. I’m pleased to have three poems from my new book in this edition. Now in its thirtieth year, The North continues to prove that high quality print magazines can co-exist and thrive alongside new online formats. Clare also mentions a project called ‘All That’s Ever Happened’ an e-book anthology of New North Poets she was involved in mentoring for the Poetry School. One of the poets included in the anthology is my friend James Giddings, who I met when I studied in Sheffield some years ago and whose poems have featured here before.
‘Free poetry! There’s almost too much of it these days. How am I going to convince people to pay £9.95 when my book comes out in two weeks..’
The cover price of my book is £10, so I too have been wondering about this. But then I’ll certainly be buying Clare’s book. And I would even if it were available free online.
There are several reasons for this. Firstly, while I’m grateful that online magazines and e-books enable me to read a wide variety of poetry for no expense, it is still from the pages of the book in my hand that I most enjoy absorbing poetry.
I appreciate the aesthetic qualities of a physical book, and through my own involvement I am aware of the many hours it takes to produce one. In the case of my own book, there was the time invested by my editor, John Lucas, who carefully read and made notes on the typescript. The typescript was then set by a skilful typesetter who, from the times on the e-mail correspondence I received, seems to be working very late at night and very early in the morning as he fits his company’s work in around other (I imagine more lucrative) employment. Many e-mails were exchanged before the final layout was achieved. Similarly, the young art student I asked to design the cover dedicated many hours to producing and honing the image I wanted. Then I had to write and re-write the poems, which took several years, although not without a break, you understand!
I love poetry books. Volumes are generally slim and unlike novels, several hundred can sit on the bookshelves of a small office. I can take a book down and weight my pocket with it when I go for a walk across the fields, a habit I developed many years ago. If I have an appointment that might involve a wait or train journey, I can slip a poetry collection or two into my bag and know I have this insurance against waiting-room or platform dullness. While on-line poems, magazines and books are a marvellous and convenient development, I still love turning pages, still love the feel of a physical book. Like Brian Patten’s ‘stolen Orange’ , a poetry book, un-reliant on technology or anything other than my eyesight, has always been for me ‘ a safeguard against imagining/ there was nothing bright or special in the world.’
I attach the document to the e-mail. It consists of a title page, acknowledgements page, contents page, fifty-eight poems and a ‘notes’ page, this last being mostly white but for three small paragraphs. I check the attachment has loaded properly, scan the document to make sure nothing has altered. Take a deep breath. My pulse is slightly elevated. In contrast, the book is serenity
itself. It adjusts its seat and headrest, flips down the visor on its helmet, tightens belt buckle and shoulder straps, hits play on the music system. The speakers are off on the monitor but I know the book well enough to guess that it has chosen either ‘Gimme Shelter’ by the Stones or ‘Whole Lotta Love’ by Led Zeppelin. We both know there is no turning back. Only one of us will ever be resigned to this fact. I can delay no longer. We’ll see each other on the other side. Click.
From my hand to the printer’s inbox at a speed of approximately three hundred and six million miles per hour; a lot less than the blink of an eye. There the book will be helped out of its capsule and set into its final format before being printed onto paper. Bound between covers and packed in a bubble wrap envelope, it will return to earth through the letterbox of my front door. I don’t tend to get excited in advance. The day before will do. But it hits me now. Another book, five years on from the last one. Five years. That’s all it took.
I have a book coming out in March 2017. So I’m going to toot my own trumpet for a moment.
Where did this book come from? Well, I’m not entirely sure! Apart from one poem I had left over from the last book, all the poems in this one were written and rewritten over the three years since ‘The Sun Bathers’ was published. Only one poem was generated in a writing workshop.
As with the last collection, I’ve kept poems circulating to magazines. As I write this, forty-five of fifty-seven poems in this collection have been published. Since the last collection in 2013, magazines that taken my work for the first time included Ambit, Poetry Wales, Stand and The Manchester Review. Poems were also taken by new magazines that appeared during this period including The High window, The Compass, Clear Poetry, and Nottingham’s Lucifer magazine, due to be launched next week. I was also pleased to have poems in favourites of mine like The Rialto, The North, New Walk, Magma and The Interpreter’s House. Several poems have appeared in anthologies. Seven or eight of these published poems have been left out of the book, for various reasons. Other poems in the collection have received competition prizes from judges including the poets Liz Berry, Clare Pollard, Don Patterson, Pascale Petit, Helen Ivory, Ruth Fainlight and Dalgit Nagra. Once again, several poet friends have cast an eye over individual poems and one or two offered to look at the manuscript and their names will be in the acknowledgments. All that remains is to finalize the title and artwork with my publisher. As I found out with the last book, none of this seems real until you hold a copy in your hand. Writing this helps. Thank you for reading.