Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Aldeburgh prize shortlist

Autumn, season of lists. Nancy Gaffield’s Tokaido Road, already shortlisted for the Forward First Collection Prize, has been shortlisted for the 2011 Aldeburgh First Collection Prize.

CBe is not a poetry press. It’s a small press that publishes some poetry alongside other books, mostly fiction. Since November 2007, when the first books were published, the list has included just six poetry titles, and just two of those were first collections. But both those two first collections – J. O. Morgan’s Natural Mechanical and Nancy Gaffield’s Tokaido Road – can boast the following: Poetry Book Society recommendations, shortlistings for the Forward First Collection Prize, shortlistings for the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize (Morgan’s book won that prize in 2009).

Nothing there to generalise from, but (allow me) two observations. First, the convention whereby a poet proceeds to first collection through an accumulation of poems in magazines (a convention backed up by the advice given on many writing courses and by the submissions guidelines of many publishers) is just that, a convention. It’s not a rule. Morgan had published nothing prior to Natural Mechanical; nor, at the time I first read her collection, had Gaffield (she’s since had poems in a Children in Need anthology, in the online magazine The Bow-Wow Shop and in the print magazines Fourteen and Magma).

Second, the decision earlier this year by Arts Council England to cut regular funding to the Poetry Book Society and the Poetry Trust (who administer the Aldeburgh prize) is a disaster. CBe and similar small presses do not have the resources to make new work widely known; both the PBS and the PT do perform this role, and by cutting their funding ACE is preventing good new work from finding the readers it deserves.

As a PS, see here for a new blog review of CBe’s bilingual edition of Francis Ponge, Unfinished Ode to Mud, translated by Beverley Bie Brahic.

1 comment:

John said...

I'm starting to wonder -- if we take the number of accolades given to the books so far, and divide it by the total number of books published to date, then used a similar equation on other presses, big and small, would CBe prove (in a mathematical sense) to be the most successful publisher in history?