April 2014

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……….