Tuesday, 14 June 2011


Last night, a do at the British Library for the Michael Marks awards for poetry pamphlets. A pamphlet is something, anything – and that’s the joy of it – between a book and a photocopied A4 page: a dozen individual poems, a sequence, a thing that’s more artwork than text but is still poetry, a thing that’s made with passion and craft but which the lightest breeze can gust away. The awards provide, somewhat arbitrarily, which is the way of these things, some anchorage: look at these, before they vanish. And more than anchorage: £5,000 to a poet and the same to a publisher. There was a shortlist (brave faces required). The winning publisher this year is Crater Press. The winning poet is James McGonigle, whose pamphlet Cloud Pibroch is available from Mariscat and from the PBS. Cloud Pibroch is one of the best things I’ve read this year; it has the density and reach of a much longer publication; the writing, often within a single poem, is lyrical, funny, nimble, open to mystery.

I’ve been thinking about pamphlets; and about a friend’s remark that though he likes short stories he’s not too interested in book-length collections of short stories; and about doing, perhaps next year, a short series of prose pamphlets – each of which could be a single ‘story’ but need not really be a story, as that word is usually understood, at all.

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