Saturday 20 October 2012

Chocolate (and publishing)

The JC column in this week’s Times Lit Supplement gives a nice, and I hope helpful, mention to the new pamphlets. Five years ago I mentioned to JC that the design, indeed the whole mini-venture (inclusive of poetry, prose, whatever took my fancy), was modelled on Alan Ross’s London Magazine Editions of the late 1960s, early 1970s. But Ross, he said, did have this advantage: he married a chocolate heiress. (Have they all been snapped up?) I admit that the books might benefit from a push, the kind of push some chocolate money might facilitate, but I’ll admit too to a stubborn, even perverse satisfaction that the thing has survived for five years without any external funding.

Despite the presence of small-press books on the Forward and Booker shortlists this year, I don’t think anyone, rightly, has got round to defining what a small press IS: you just know one when you come across one. But talking about them, and what they are for, is fun, and anyone who wants to join in, please come to this event at the London Review Bookshop on Thrusday, 15 November at 7 p.m.: the panel has David Lea of the LR shop, Nicholas Lezard, Patrick McGuinness, Nicholas Murray of Rack Press, and me.

(I read a piece this week on James Laughlin, whose New Directions press, founded in 1936, published – in most cases for the first time in the US – Apollinaire, Djuna Barnes, Borges, Paul Bowles, Brecht, Camus, Céline, Lorca, Hesse, Jarry, Joyce, Kafka, Michaux, Henry Miller, Montale, Nabokov, Neruda, Pasternak, Paz, Queneau, Rilke, Sartre, Svevo, Valéry, etc. And brought back into print Henry James, Scott Fitzgerald, E. M. Forster, Faulkner, etc. Plus poetry by Pound, Williams, Rexroth, Patchen, Oppen, Reznikoff, Olsen, Duncan, Creeley, Snyder, Levertov, etc. He didn’t turn a profit for ten years. He had steel money rather than chocolate money, but who’s fussing. As the writer points out, ‘Money is usually wasted on the rich’, but in this case not.)

Friday 12 October 2012

Poet browsing, and a birthday

Beverley Bie Brahic in the Broadway Bookshop in Hackney last week; her own White Sheets – reviewed in this week’s TLS (‘Each poem reveals a glowing core underneath the tired formulas …’) lurks unnoticed on the shelf beside her. I hope Beverley doesn’t expect to find the book in every bookshop she might wander into, but this was a nice coincidence, and thank you to the Broadway Bookshop for stocking it.

There is, just about – otherwise they wouldn’t be still be happening – a niche readership for CBe books. I don’t especially like the word niche – it’s on a par with boutique – and readership neither, but, sticking with it for just this sentence, there are niches within niches, ever receding, and they can be hard to find. A few people discover the books while browsing in a flesh-and-blood bookshop, such as the Broadway. Some I can perhaps reach via Facebook, and a precious few through here. The categories don’t often overlap.

A new page on the website offers the three pamphlets – poems, prose, drawings – published this month to mark CBe’s fifth birthday (see below). For the incorrigibly curious, a couple of my own stories can be read online – here and here.

Saturday 6 October 2012

The Puritan ethic

The things you want to do and the things you think you should be doing . . . I’m English, my mother was a Methodist, and there’s this Puritan strain I subscribed to for a very long time: that pleasure is something to be earned, that work comes before play. But it doesn’t work like that: you do the work, and then there’s more work, and the pleasure gets deferred, squeezed out.

I’m getting better at this, a lot better, but this week I had a relapse: as well as sitting for two days ten-to-five in a very dull office (something I seem to have to signed up to), and paying some bills, and blah, I’ve typeset (and done a rough copy-edit on) four books (with footnotes, running heads, the works) that are not CBe books, and still, past midnight on Friday, I haven’t got round to the things I want to do. And now of course I’m too tired to do those things, so instead I go looking for a particular Hugo Williams poem.

I’ve found it. It’s called ‘Everyone Knows This’. He has at least two poems with that title, but this is the one I was looking for: ‘You get to your feet, having accumulated / one nice and one nasty thing to do / and do the nice thing first.’ Yes.