Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Postcard to Martin Stannard

I’m writing regarding my head. Do you think anything can be done about it? You can tell me. I can take it. Birdsong occurs frequently in my poetry (here it is again). I mean, I know it’s preferable to stars, but not how preferable. And what about horses? Because I know horses stand for common sense. Where do you stand on the whole ‘building a bridge between you and the reader’ issue? When should I bring in the horses?

C.J. Allen

'A Strange Arrangement: New and Selected Poems' by C.J. Allen. Launched tonight at the Nottingham Mechanics, North Sherwood Street, Nottingham. 7.30pm. Admission free. Be there or be be square!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

I've survived my first week back at work after an 8-week period of illness (disturbingly, my longest period off work for over 20 years) during which I had plenty of time to read, among other things, the parables and short stories of Borges with its conundrums and alternative worlds, and the poetry of Lee Harwood and John Ashbery. Harwood's work has a gentleness that I found easy and restful. As for Ashbery's poetry, I have to be in the right mood to read it - but in the right mood, there's no-one better. When I was ill I found it soothing - the complete absence of any kind of hectoring or dogmatic tone, the gently entertaining whimsy, the meanderings of the longer poems. I was also sustained my my continuing email correspondence with an American friend, the poet John Bloomberg-Rissman, with whom I've been swapping emails on poetry, poets and much else for 3 or 4 years now.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

In an earlier post I mentioned pamphlet-publishing. Pamphlets have an immediacy and sense of intimacy which regular books don't. Owning a pamphlet by a poet you like gives you a feel of being in touch with their work, and, from my point of view, producing pamphlets has often felt like a collaborative effort, where the pamphlet is a constructed work combining craft, design and, of course poetry.

Pamphlets are also a way of getting poets' work out quickly and they are generally distributed to an in-crowd tuned in to small-press publishing, often via the web. If I shift 100 copies of a pamphlet I feel I've done OK, and my best-seller is Lee Harwood's 'Evening Star' (currently awaiting a re-print), just over 200. But a lot of those copies have gone to reviewers, publishers and editors, so the influence of a pamphlet is out of proportion to the numbers produced.

One pamphlet which hasn't been restricted to an in-crowd is Kelvin Corcoran's "Roger Hilton's Sugar". Kelvin has hooked up with the Hayward Gallery's touring exhibition of St. Ives painters, 'Spotlight on St. Ives', and given readings from "Roger Hilton's Sugar" at several of the galleries on the tour, including Swansea, Cheltenham and others. The next one's at Huddersfield Gallery on 8th Feb, if you're in the area. His readings have been well-received. It's a nice change to see poetry like Kelvin's getting exposure to other than the usual audience of other poets and poetry afficionados.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Stained glass window, Palma Cathedral, Mallorca, Spain
(photo credit: Rachel Baker)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Flying Goose is a tiny venue with a great atmosphere and a nice mixture of regulars and newcomers. I'm a regular and I can usually catch up with friends and acquaintances there. The readings are organised by John Lucas, and they've been running for four years now. John has kindly opened the floor to Leafe Press poets, including Lee Harwood, Kelvin Corcoran and C.J. Allen.

At the start of the evening John Seed read from his 'New and Collected', and, after a break for wine and conversation (and book buying) he read from 'Pictures from Mayhew'. He described Mayhew's reportings on the London poor as a nineteenth century Ullyses (the Joyce version) - a vast proto-modernist collection of voices. He also read from the second volume, due out from Shearsman Books this year, and finished by reading some versions of, or at least poems inspired by, classical Chinese. I already had the Mayhew book, but I bought the other one and got him to sign it. It looks like a fine collection, Objectivist-inspired and influenced I suspect by Richard Cadell, who published Seed's first two collections. Right up my street. And a fine reading I thought.

At one point Seed asserted that "we all speak in verse, and in fragments. We're all poets - we're not novelists and we're not realists". I'll buy that.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Flying Goose

The Flying Goose cafe, Nottingham

There's a reading there tonight by London-based poet John Seed, which I'm going to and which I'll report on tomorrow.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

I'm working hard on the first Leafe Press P-O-D book, C.J. Allen's 'New and Selected'. The book is published, I've got the first batch from Lightning Source and the launch is arranged for 30th January. It's been difficult in some ways, but mainly because I don't have the right software, and therefore the digital files I submitted kept getting rejected until I got some help from an expert - he knows who he is - thanks! I also had problems because LS don't make it easy for publishers new to the game, and their ordering system and general website design is confusing (at least for me). But the end result is a beauty and I've learned my lessons for the next one.

Pamphlet publishing now seems hopelessly uneconomic and time-consuming. But I will bring occasional ones out - pamphlets are a genre in their own right and in my own writing I like to work toward pamphlet-sized chunks of poetry. One drawback of P-O-D is that it encourages poets to bring out books that are too long, with a lot of padding and loss of focus.