Thursday 21 April 2011

‘I may even get a grant /

If I get to know the right people’ – from Andrzej Bursa’s poem ‘I’d Like to Be a Poet’ (in Killing Auntie and Other Work). The poem doesn’t end happily (‘always searching and always stuck’). But though the Arts Council funding cuts have hit some of the poetry publishers hard (and I don't forget those who never had any funding to begin with, for whom hardness is a way of life), I’m not talking, yet, about endings. I’m talking about the book-fair idea.

Yesterday I found a hall I liked, run by a nice woman with a chocolate-brown labrador dog, and booked it for a date in September. Today some of the publishers have been saying yes, they’d like to join in. They’re an awkward bunch. Independent-minded (that’s the point of what they’re doing). Not best known for cooperation and the milk of human kindness (the margins are too tight for much of that). The work that any one of them publishes may not be at all to the taste of many of the others. So even getting them to share a room will be an achievement of sorts. (Like a wedding party where those relatives turn up who fell out decades ago and don’t speak to each other? A little bit.) Getting some books sold (this is about survival) will be even better. And though we’ll use the mailing lists (I’m getting there, slowly), preaching to the converted is tedious, so we’ll try to get some of the unconverted in there too. And there seems to be a strong possibility that the camp will move on . . . More later.

(See that slash, by the way, in the heading? It’s a line break. People will lose jobs, and some of them I know; poems, fewer of them, will go on getting written, chosen, published, read; all of this hurts; we deal with this.)

And I’ve been playing today – possible designs for flyers, posters (I, with publisher’s hat on, never really feel I have a handle on anything until I have an idea, a rough idea, of how it will look). And Antonia Byatt at the Arts Council replied to my email about the literature cuts (a heart-felt but pompous thing, telling them they’d betrayed the purpose for their existence), which was good of her, but she doesn’t know what she’s started: I’ve replied to her reply. And I’ve been thinking of possible quotes. Satire, no-holds-barred satire, written by anonymous (I proposed to Faber, once, an anthology of poems by anonymous, but that’s another story) . . . In Geoffrey Grigson’s Unrespectable Verse I stumbled upon (it brings me up short, every time) Marianne Moore’s ‘Poetry’ (slashes to indicate line breaks again, because I don’t trust this platform, any more than I'd trust Kindle or other e-formats, to get the indents right):
I, too, dislike it. / Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in / it, after all, a place for the genuine.

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