With very lucky timing, I was asked to contribute an “interview” (really an emailed Q&A) to the website for Neon Magazine. This is a great way to promote Out of Breath, although the focus of the interview concerns the poems that Neon took: “Sanatorium”, “1984 in 1968″ and “Under the Floor” . This is a free downloadable magazine, available here.

Incidentally, checking sales figures on Amazon, I note I’m not quite in the best seller lists yet. The book is currently 2,138,987 in the list., which means I’ve still a little way to go.

I’ve also been asked to read at a great monthly event in Leeds. Poetry by Heart at the Heart Cafe in Headingley. I’m reading alongside five other poets: Steve Anderson, Will Kemp, Hilary J Murray, James Nash and Clare Shaw. Of them, I know Will Kemp’s work best. He’s another Cinnamon poet, and has two excellent books under his belt, with a third on its way. Here you can find Lowland and Nocturnes. James Nash and I were both involved in an Off the Shelf event in 2012, debating the future of the book – and he also was given the Residency for Wakefield literary festival that year, which I also applied for. He does a great deal in and around the Yorkshire literary scene, but I don’t really know his work well. Clare Shaw also has an impressive bio, with two Bloodaxe collections, but I don’t know Steve Anderson and Hilary J Murray at all, so will be interested to hear voices new to me. 

Last night Rosemary (my Antiphon co-editor) celebrated her winning of the Uni-verse poetry competition held in Hallam University, where she’s just finished her MA (with a distinction). Hallam does poets proud in this annual competition and ceremony, the readings were great, and it was particularly good to see the three youngsters from local school Notre Dame reading their winning entries, too – though copies of these weren’t available for the audience, which was a little disappointing.

It feels good to celebrate Rosemary’s work. The next step for her, I think, will be a pamphlet or a collection. Certainly her MA collection is worthy of such publication, but it’s so difficult to find a press, as most have their doors shut, and many are failing. Magazines are having a tough time, too: I counted 8 which have either disappeared or suspended operations in the last year or so. With fewer outlets for decent poets, and yet, it seems, a growing number of pretty good writers out in the world, it seems harder and harder to find that vital opportunity.

Still, I know that persistence pays off, and Rosemary will certainly find a good home for her work, later or, hopefully, sooner. I think she’ll go on to achieve great things.

Congratulations, Rosemary!

Just over a week ago, Out of Breath launched. I could hardly wish for a better event. We had an audience of well over 70 people, all of whom seemed to enjoy what they heard (I’ve had some great feedback from many of them), both my readings and the readings from Sally Goldsmith, Suzanne Evans and Jim Caruth, too. And Waterstones seemed to do reasonably out of it, too, as we all sold books. 

I aimed to combine a little humour (at my own expense) with the readings, as there’s very little in my book which is upbeat. I think it can be difficult to listen to poetry, especially for long periods, and particularly the poems have largely “serious” intent, which most do, of course. So to leaven them a little with interludes can, I believe, help the audience get more from the poems themselves – although I’m not a strong advocate of long explanatory introductions – the poems should generally stand by themselves, I think.

I’ve no idea how many books have been printed, nor what a decent number of sales might be, but it seems even the best sellers in poetry lists rarely exceed more than a few thousand. Out of Breath is not going to get close to that – I expect anything more than a couple of hundred copies is likely to be exceptional. But my entire plan was to use the opportunity the book gives me to find more readings, perhaps at a few festivals, and I’m hoping for reviews, too. So if you’ve any ideas……….

Tuesday next is launch day. Still not decided what, exactly, to read, but reasonably sure of most of them.

There’s going to be a decent crowd, I think – probably the biggest audience I’ve read to, and full of people who either know me, or know poetry, or both. Which makes it on the one hand a wonderfully convivial event and on the other, really terrifying.

I’ve had a few reactions to initial sight of the book. Everyone seems to like the look of it, which is a good start, and a couple of people who’ve had advance copies have found things to like in the poems themselves, which is reassuring. I think there are perhaps too many poems of similar tone and mood, which perhaps means the book as a whole may read a little “samey” to some people. On the other hand, I feel it can be good to have a consistent voice. And as the poems are, in essence, those I like best from four years of work, then whatever they offer as a collection is what I’ll have to live with.

So now I’ve begun looking for readings where I can promote it, and review opportunities. I’m a little lucky in this respect, insofar as I can pretty much guarantee a review in Orbis (but have to step back as reviews editor, to ensure an objective review process) and The North, with luck, will review, too. But beyond this, it seems it will either be pot luck.

As for readings, I’ve an opportunity in Leeds in a month, and there’s the Bank Street Sheffield Poetry Festival in June (more on this in a later post), so that’s a good start. But I’d really like to use the book as a means of reading more widely around the country, and have no idea how one goes about achieving that. Perhaps it’s merely down to whether the right people encounter the book, in which case, that’s going to be sporadic and rare.

No matter what, I’m really pleased with the book. Pleased to have it. Pleased to see that many of the poems seem to remain strong even now they’re a long way from home and making their own way in the world. Pleased that I can now be thinking of what comes next – and, I guess, I can go anywhere with my work now. It feels quite liberating, to have a collection out there, allowing me to consider a whole range of possibilities for the future.

Two weeks ago I read at the Wordsworth Trust. It was a great reading, shared with all my Writing School friends – some very different poets and poems, but all of them impressive. Everyone was very complimentary about my book.

A week ago I was living in a Roundhouse owned by the National Trust at Ickworth, Suffolk, in the heart of woodland, watching the first butterflies of Spring (the very first was a tortoiseshell, the others mainly brimstones), with startled deer in the garden and a visit to the tumuli at Sutton Hoo thrown in. We stayed with my oldest friends, friendships formed in undergraduate days, and I gave each a copy to each of the book, too. 

In less than two weeks, the book is launched. So far, over seventy people have said they want to be there. Even if they don’t all make it, it looks to be a great evening. (If you want to come: Waterstones, Orchard Square, Sheffield, 6.30 to 8.00, March 25th). 

And today is the 39th anniversary of the second-greatest day of my life, my wedding with Carrol. (The greatest was May 22nd, the day we met).

Well, not quite at Dove Cottage, because that would both be astounding (to read where Wordsworth stood!) and pretty much impossible with any audience larger than five. Instead it’s for the Wordsworth Trust at the Jerwood Centre, part of the Wordsworth Museum.

I’ll be reading as a member of the Poetry Business Writing School – we come to the end of our eighteen months together with a grand reading here at Grasmere this coming Sunday, 2nd March: 2.30 to 3.30.

It’s a free event, and you’ll hear Jim Caruth, Jennifer Copley, Lydia Harris, Fokkina McDonnell, Jane McKie, Kim Moore, Alan Payne, Paul Stephenson, Pam Thompson, Liz Venn, David Wilson, Gina Wilson and River Wolton, along with yours truly. This group is a truly gifted set of poets, positively swimming in prizes and publications, and a very varied bunch, too. You’ll hear largely new poems written during the Writing School and some recently published.

Full details here about the Jerwood Centre reading 

It looks like I may have a full house for the launch of Out of Breath. More than sixty people have said they’re coming and, whilst I know that in the nature of things, some won’t make it, I’m beginning to worry that Waterstones won’t be able to fit everyone in!

Unfortunately, there are quite a few people who I’d like to be there who won’t make it, but that’s the way of the world, of course. And I’ll find myself reading to some of my favourite people in the world (as well as an audience containing 50% excellent poets, which may become a cause for stress when I realise I have to excite them with my own reading!)

Sally Goldsmith, Jim Caruth and Suzannah Evans have all agreed to read a small set, too, so the evening is bound to be entertaining.

Somehow, though, I’ve to select half a dozen poems from the book which represent it and make the evening worthwhile for all these people. Each one of them will probably want something different.

Any advice on constructing the set?


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