Wednesday, 27 January 2010

The Costa noise

‘Christopher Reid’s quiet Costa triumph’ is how the Guardian puts it. ‘Quiet’ is not how I’d have described the evening: a room hugger-mugger with media folk (why so many newsreaders?), disco lighting, fanfares; the speeches, the praise for each book on the list, the announcement . . .

Then I see the phrase that the headline-writing sub-ed took a cue from: ‘Quietly published last spring by Craig Raine’s Areté . . .’ (In fact many of the poems were printed in the journal Areté long before they were collected in a book, but that is a form of publishing so quiet as to be, in media terms, almost silent.) ‘Quietly’ is not a choice, it’s simply how small presses operate; often they are run by one or two people, working in the time left over from what they do to earn an income; they don’t have the marketing and publicity staff whose purpose is to create noise. As mentioned before, none of the publishers of Christopher’s three books of 2009 is even on the radar of the Poetry Library’s list of 69 small-press poetry publishers.

Which is why, when the volume is suddenly turned up high, you think at first there must be something wrong with your hearing. Christopher Reid, A Scattering, Costa Book of the Year – did she say that? She did. And amid the following noise there were generous words from many people, including those who were also up for the prize. Congratulations to Christopher and to Areté.

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