Saturday, July 24, 2010

Kelvin Corcoran has started a new press (or, rather, revived an old one): his Gratton Street Irregulars intends to specialise in pamphlets, with current ones by Nathan Thompson (lately of Litter) and Ralph Hawkins.

Click here.

I also hadn't realised that Andrew Duncan now has a blog - using it to continue his Angel Exhaust musings - full of articles and reviews written with his usual panache. Click here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

There's an excellent review of Abdellatif Laâbi's "Fragments of a forgotten genesis" on Shadowtrain. Poet and translator Ian Seed does the book justice. Thank you Ian.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Salt in the Wound

Salt Publishing is in trouble again, and has renewed its "just one book" campaign; I’ll be buying a book or two to support it, as its back catalogue is excellent and I'd hate to see it all disappear. But I don’t feel hopeful. Salt has always been stridently pro-market and has enthusiastically embraced the corporate model; but asking people to invest in your business as an altruistic act requires something different; a writers' / readers' cooperative perhaps, or even just a supporter / subscriber arrangement like the one Reality Street uses.

I hope Salt survives, but I believe that the corporate model they’ve adopted doesn't work for poetry; accountants don't like it, which is why OUP jettisoned its poetry list. The publishing of contemporary poetry is not viable without subsidy, whether it be public or private. As a business, you produce products that people want (or can be persuaded to want) or you go bust; you need products that sell in bulk, and since the end of the UK’s Net Book Agreement (whereby book prices were fixed, enabling publishers to subsidize work that sold in small quantities), there’s been no place for poetry (and much else) in commercial publishing. How long would Bloodaxe and Carcanet survive if their public funding was removed? Not long.

As our millionaire rulers roll back public spending and the Big Society has us all working longer hours for less pay and fewer rights, Salt won't be the only poetry publisher to suffer. Maybe the only publishers left will be self-funded micro-publishers. In the UK brewing industry craft-beer is now almost exclusively produced by micro breweries. In a sense, that means the big boys have won, but at least you CAN still buy craft-brewed beer. The same might happen in the poetry world. We can only hope that the micro-publishers keep poetry-publishing alive until (if?) times get better.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I've been reading the poetry of Larry Eigner this last week or two. John BR kindly sent me two of his books: a Selected Poems, and "readiness/enough/depends/on" his last collection published shortly before his death. John has just bought Eigner's monumental Collected Poems, which reproduces his original typescripts, which is why he could send me books. I don't know why I haven't paid Eigner much attention in the past; I've been missing out in a big way. I started reading these poems aware of Eigner's disability, but I soon forgot that, as the poems are universal. Eigner reminds me of Joanne Kyger; the latter's Buddhist acts of attention being mirrored in Eigner's diary-entry observations of exactly what he sees. But more than that, both poetries give us poems of thought, that is, the poems that re-enact a thought process, mirroring the way the process evolves and simulating the spontaneous associations of thought. I have found some these poems profoundly moving. But they're also intellectually exciting. Eigner has been a huge influence on the LANGUAGE poets, I guess due to his foregrounding of the text, and isolation of words as units partly due to their placement on the page. He also pursues the no-ideas-but-in-things" notion to the nth degree.

I suppose Eigner's disability provided a constraining mechanism in the same way that a strict poetic form does; the sparseness of his text necessitated by the slow and painstaking way in which they were put onto paper. It’s interesting that in one sense Eigner’s work is very-modern(ist), in another his poems are tied to their mode of production, in which the typed and scrawled page is as much part of the work as the scroll in a classical Chinese picture-poem.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Exciting times at Leafe Press! John and I have been working hard to bring a multi-national cast of poets to your attention. We have books forthcoming from the following poets:

Ed Baker - Stone Girl (a 500-page poem)
Ernesto Priego - The Present Day
Tom Beckett - Exposures

Add to this a new book from Jean Vengua and Alistair Noon's translation of Mandelstam; not to mention our very own John BR...

This is a lot of work for two part-time enthusiasts, so this list will take us well into 2011.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Check out Litter for new work by Jane Commane, Nathan Thompson and Kelvin Corcoran. Soon to be followed by more, including Mexican Ernesto Priego and New Zealander Ian Britton.