Monday, September 29, 2008

As you'll see from the previous post, John Bloomberg-Rissman is now an editor of Leafe Press. As Leafe is about as small as a publisher can be, John being an editor simply means that he and I will be able to discuss possible projects and to pool ideas. At the same time we'll each be free to produce short-run pamphlets (at our own expense and effort) in our respective countries under the Leafe Press imprint. I'm very pleased to have teamed up with John in this way; he is a friend of mine and a long-time correspondent, and is full of ideas and enthusiasms.

Our first joint undertaking is likely to be the publication in book form of the project currently underway on his blog - in which various contributors create transformations of Eileen Tabois' poem 'The Secret Life of an Angel' (which is itself a response to a poem by Fillipino poet Jose Garcia Villa). Anyone who'd like to contribute to the project should contact John.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

News Flash!!

Markets boosted as Warren Buffett invests $5bn in Goldman Sachs

Publishing sector bullish as John Bloomberg-Rissman joins the board of Leafe Press as editor and executive director.

Alan Baker retains his position as editor of Litter and managing editor of the press. The pair will be meeting to discuss strategy later this month in their European HQ in Nottingham.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The minimum page count for a P-O-D book from Lightning Source is 80 pages, which means you need 70 pages of poetry to fill a book. As P-O-D has also made pamphlet production seem uneconomical, the result has been that poets find themselves having to bulk out collections in order to get them in print. I can't be the only one that's noticed that some collections seem padded with less-than-excellent work. Of course I'm far too diplomatic to name names...

Before print-on-demand technology a standard poetry book from, say, Faber, was 64 pages. With title pages etc, this meant that there may only have been around 50 pages of poetry. It was common for collections to be even shorter. I have a copy of Lee Harwood's 'Landscapes' (Fulcrum) from 1969: 37 pages of poetry. Larkin's 'High Windows' (Faber), 1974: 33 pages. None of W.S. Graham's collections were anywhere near long enough to fill a P-O-D book, except possibly 'Implements in their Places', which runs to 60 pages in the Collected.

Conclusion? Well, I was only making an observation; but one thing that occurs to me is that pamphlets are more important than ever, as they allow poets to get work out during the five years or more it might take to put a full collection together. If that sounds self-congratulatory (as a pamphlet-publisher) I can only say that I've only brought out two pamphlets (by Kelvin Corcoran and Carrie Etter) in the last 3 years, which isn't really good enough. But there's good stuff coming from Oystercatcher Press, Barque Press, West House and others, all of whom need our support.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Alistair Noon recently questioned, in an email to me, whether the technique of "found poetry" is capable of producing "great" poetry, as opposed to merely good poetry (sorry Alistair for what is probably a travesty of what you actually said). I wondered, what is "great" poetry? Is a great poem one that has influenced a lot of other poetry? Is it one which defines its age (but then, does that means it's tied to its age)? Or is it the opposite - one which somehow seems relevant across different historical periods and different cultures?

As far as influence goes, is that a function of having a small number of poets compared to the population at large (in the past, coming from a literate minority)? There are a vast number of practising poets today, at least in the Anglo world, and probably in the developed world generally, and a fragmentation of poetic practises and communities. In those conditions, how does a single poem or poet influence enough people, or be representative enough to be considered "great".

These half-formed thoughts were prompted by visiting Ed Baker's site, and finding there some startlingly good poetry (I read a chapbook called "The City" - and will be back for more). I'd come across Ed's name, but not his poetry, and it just struck me that in different circumstance - say, if there were fewer people writing poetry, and it was given greater prominence by society in general, then a poetry as good as Ed Baker's might have had a very different fate (I mean to the fate of being read only by other poets wired into that particular scene).

Afterthought: It does seem to me that "found" poetry, cut-up or collage could all be capable of producing "great" poetry in the sense that it defines its age. The poetry of, say, Tony Lopez or Giles Goodland appropriates and makes lyric work out of the all-powerful language of the mass media. In the sense that it also mimics the internal dialogue or "noise" of the mind it may also be representative in a way that appeals to a wide range of people.