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BOOK LAUNCH

I’d been to many launches in the past at the  Poetry Society and it would make me feel legitimate. Kitty Coles also had a book coming out at the same time so it seemed like a good idea to share the cost of the room. Thought we should have some guests as well to make the evening more stimulating. WOL reviewed the night.

No sweat, it’s cool: verdict on new-look Poetry Cafe as pamphlets are launched

entry picture

This is a picture of a happy audience in the new-look basement of the Poetry Café on Saturday night. There’s no doubt that the old downstairs at the Poetry Cafe in London had a ragamuffin identity – and aroma – all of its own. There were those who loved its sweaty ambience, although I was not one of them.

Maybe there will be some who lament that something has been lost amid the bright white surfaces of the new-look café, upstairs and downstairs – an expensive refit by the Poetry Society that has taken the best part of a year to complete. But an atmosphere is not just its surroundings, it is the feelings and inter-action generated by quality poetry and an appreciative audience.  And judging by the bonhomie engendered on Saturday night, the new-look café is already a hit.

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We were there for the joint launch of pamphlets by Rodney Wood and Kitty Coles, pictured – both regulars at Write Out Loud Woking. (Rodney is co-compere). Their readings were preceded by contributions by guest poets – Melanie BrantonMaggie SawkinsGrant Tarbard, and myself.Melanie was first up, her performance, as befits a slam champion, delivered without any reading aid, and laced with witty “syntax evasion” wordplay. There were also strong fairytale elements – of which, more later – including a poem about a gingerbread house, written from the witch’s viewpoint.

Award-winning poet Maggie Sawkins read several poems from her collection Zones of Avoidance, including one about a night when she interviewed her favourite band, another from the point of view of a stone, and ‘A Dog Asleep in the Crook of your Arm’ – the title says it all.

Second-half guest poet Grant Tarbard used to edit a well-loved print and remarkably illustrated online magazine The Screech Owl, both before and after he suffered a stroke that left him in a wheelchair. His poems on Saturday night included ‘Triptych’ – “I have had three deaths, / one for each decade” – and ‘Body’ (“I have been a life without a body / sitting slumped in silence and imcomplete”. They are included in his newly published Rosary of Ghosts, to be launched at the Poetry Cafe next month. The poems in it have been described by Martin Figura as “threaded through with pain; the gentle and abiding love in them carries us through”.

I felt obliged to include a poem about Waterloo station in my guest-poet set, given the struggles some poets and audience members had had to get to Covent Garden, thanks to the ongoing improvements at the London terminus that were meant to have been completed by the end of August, and are now continuing at weekends until the end of November …  but don’t get me started.

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The final poet of the evening, Rodney Wood, pictured, was a revelation. As co-compere of Write Out Loud Woking, I reckon I know him fairly well, and am acquainted with the tercets he often writes involving repetition of lines and phrases – a style I believe he has initiated, and has dubbed his “little poetry machine”. But the said tercets in his pocket-sized, limited-edition chapbook Dante Called You Beatrice took me aback, in their lyricism, heart-on-sleeve charm, and in the hypnotic quality of the repetition, which works both on the page, and even more so in performance.Rodney is a poet that has been around for a while, and consequently seems to know almost everyone on the poetry scene. In his introduction he spoke of the generosity that he has found and valued in the poetry world – and he was certainly generous in his introductions to his fellow poets on Saturday night. It make me realise that what can be lacking at some launch nights is someone to introduce the launch poets themselves – and hopefully this review can partly make good that omission.

In that regard I must also pay tribute to the qualities of Kitty Coles, a younger poet whose name pops up very often in poetry magazines. She was launching her pamphlet collection Seal Wife, which was joint winner of last year’s Indigo Dreams poetry pamphlet competition. Her gothic, unsettling poems using stories and characters taken from fairtytales and myths create a particular world. Her style is cool and controlled, even if the subject matter is the darkness on the edge of town. They are poems that are outside the comfort zone; that is their point.

She disclaims any autobiographical element. Introducing one poem, ‘Black Annis’, with its references to “rag and bone”, and “gowns of skin”, Kitty said: “People can’t possibly think this poem’s about me.” She described another, ‘Peter the Wild Boy’ as “the only one that has a tenuous link with real life”. Other titles included ‘Poltergeist’, ‘Osisris’, ‘Banshee’ and ‘Forest’. We will be hearing more from her, and about her, and one day be saying: “Kitty Coles? She used to read at Write Out Loud Woking, you know.”

As we walked back past the anti-terrorism barriers on Waterloo bridge afterwards, I reflected again on the changes at the Poetry Café – smart new toilets, and extra space in the café upstairs, too. And Grant Tarbard’s verdict on the access facilities? “The only addition to what was already there (disabled toilet and a lift, which are fine) is a slightly awkward ramp. At least it’s a small improvement – and it’s the only poetry venue that I know of in London that’s fully accessible.” From today (Monday 18 September) the Poetry Cafe is open from 11am, Monday to Friday, and on some Saturdays, too.

Greg Freeman

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ONLINE PROOFREADING

Used grammarly.com  online-spellcheck.com and slickwrite.com Found some passive voices, an “I” on a line by itself, some “‘” missing and some spelling mistakes. So very useful even after going through them before with a fine toothcomb. I used one which said my writing contains too many poor quality phrases and I have below average vocabulary usage.

My Joy

Nunc Dimittis, James Laughlin

Little time now
and so much hasn’t
been put down as I
should have done it.
But does it matter?
It’s all been written
so well by my betters,
and what they wrote
has been my joy.

James was an heir of his family’s iron and steel business. He majored in Latin and Italian at Harvard and studies at Ezra Pound’s “Ezuversity”. In 1935 Pound persuaded the young man to give up his poetic ambitions and “do something useful,” like publishing. The result was New Directions who went on to publish WC Williams, Henry Miller, Dylan Thomas and Delmore Schwartz among others.”It is better,” James wrote, “to be read by eight hundred readers and be a good writer than be read by all the world and be Somerset Maugham.” I didn’t like poetry at school and only started reading it in my late 20s. My guide was Martin Seymour-Smith’s monumental “Guide to Modern World Literature” which introduced me to such stunning writers as Trakl, Vallejo and Mandelstam as well as the poetry of Spain, Italy and Eastern Europe. It’s impossible to compete with them so the joy lies in reading them. The only thing you can do as far as writing is concerned is be yourself and discover that maybe there is something only you can say. It has taken me a lifetime to get there.

POETRY VANITY PUBLISHING

Personally I can’t get very excited about this controversy over whether XYZ is a mainstream or vanity firm or something in-between.”

Never pay to get your poems published.”

Poetry is too marginal proposition to be worth serious attention”

“The majority of the contemporary poetry industry, insofar as it has a business model, is based on extracting money from writers, not giving it to them. ”

1. DEFINITION

Vanity is excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own achievements and as such applies to both the author (who wants to get their work into print) and the publisher (who is made to feel important, worthwhile, gains pleasure or kudos in publishing his/her work and those other others). Vanity Publishing is a term coined by Johnathon Clifford in 1959/60 and the definition is “Vanity publishing, also self-styled (often inaccurately) as “subsidy”, “joint-venture”, “shared-responsibility”, or even “self” publishing, is a service whereby authors are charged to have their work published.” Generally speaking they will accept the work of anyone, charge the author for the production of their work and/or the author must purchase X copies of their own book. However, where do you fit print on demand, different types of subsidy publishing and self publishing services offered to writers – editing, proof reading, cover design, printing and marketing?

2. EXAMPLES FROM THE PRESS

Publish through …… Avoid the vanity press. All categories considered. Combined Editing and publishing package. Your book never out of print and for sale in all major UK &US on-line bookstores, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Authors invited to submit manuscripts all categories including poetry. New authors welcome.

Writing prize for short story or poem any length up to 2500 words. Theme refugees and peace-seekers. No entry fee. Closes 31n March.

Free poetry contest, max 21 lines, £50,000 in prizes.

Best submissions will be published in an anthology

Poems on any subject required for anthology.

A proven reading/criticism service for new and published writers. Professional appraisals of … poetry. I am a scout for a leading literary agency.

If you’d like to develop you poetry, then this course is for you.

Creative writing weekends from £240.

To be considered they must buy one of our publications.

3. VANITY PRESSES: THE GOOD

  1. You don’t have to convince the poetry editor to accept your book.
  2. You have exhausted all other publishing possibilities (that is, being turned down by too many publishers) and, having worked long and hard on your poetry collection, want to see it published.
  3. Writing poetry is a pleasurable hobby which you have enjoyed and you use a Vanity Publisher to provide copies of your book which you can then give to friends etc.
  4. You don’t want to spent a huge amount of time or have a lack the expertise of book production.
  5. You can get the book published in in two or three months instead of two of three years.
  6. You have control over what’s included in the final manuscript and a say in book production.
  7. You may do a lot of open mic readings or are going to a festival and need to have a number of books to hand in order to sell to people who enjoy your work.
  8. You make more money per book.
  9. It may of course get picked up by a commercial publisher but this is unlikely.
  10. It allows publishers to accept more poets, have more writers in print with less overall risk.
  11. The publisher no longer has to finance the entire project.
  12. You may want to use a particular imprint and have them as the publisher of record.

4. VANITY PRESSES: THE DOWNSIDE

  1. They target new writers, amateurs, beginners, who just want to see their book published
  2. They print anyone
  3. You have to bear the up-front or set-up costs
  4. You pay for “extras” such as edits, custom cover design, formatting, publicity etc and they still offer you a low percentage on your book’s earnings
  5. Unfulfilled promises esp marketing
  6. You probably won’t get any/or the same level of editing/proofing as with a proper publisher
  7. Most magazine editors won’t review the books
  8. You’re totally responsible for marketing and distribution
  9. Won’t help much if you’re interested in a career as a serious writer as it does not offer validation for you as a writer
  10. Publishers make money from the writer who buys their own books but they give the writer a small number of free copies
  11. No editing of the poems
  12. Some presses are misleading and pretend to be traditional publishers
  13. You don’t know the quality of the finished book
  14. No bookstore distribution
  15. You must buy a book from the publisher before they will consider you
  16. Reading fees for prospective writers

An editor calls me pretentious

to answer your questions about being pretentious I need to go back to 2013 when I wrote a poem using three line stanzas. It was a decent poem but it did not excite me. So I thought of John Ashberry and pantoums, the blues and a recent painting by Raul Cordero. The original stanza lines in the poem

1

2

3

became the new lines

1 (made up of the old lines 2+3)

2 (made up of the old lines 1+2)

3 (made up of the old lines 1+3)

I was struck at how powerful the tercet now sounded as the rhythm and rhyme became intensified. So I applied it to the other 3 line stanzas in the poem. The next problem was how to capitalise the start of lines and how to punctuate? It would look silly capitalising the original line 1, the new line 1 would be at odds with how the poem was put together, and as I’ve always used a lower case in the start of each line unless it was the start of a sentence. It was a no brainer. Luckily the stanza is end stopped at line 3, so as there is a line break and a blank line there’s no real need for a full stop. However I still need to indicate a pause between line 2+3, 1+2 and 1+3. I tried putting them on separate lines but I preferred the three line structure (must be the catholic in me), commas didn’t look right, spaces meant that some of the lines ran over, stepped lines would almost do the job but then magazines could not print them easily and it did look a little pretentious. I wanted something simple and straightforward. When I read the poem out loud I used a red slash to indicate a pause and a slash is actually a punctuation mark known as a virgule – offset by spaces to either side is used to mark line breaks when transcribing text from a multi-line format into a single-line one. It is particularly common in quoting poetrysong lyrics, and dramatic scripts, formats where omitting the line breaks risks losing meaningful context. I settled with that. It’s sharp, simple, looks good and does just what I want it to.

As to the lower case I. A few months ago I read “milk and honey” by rupi kaur. I liked the way it seems to bring a level of equality (both in the poem and in the social hierarchy), deflate the ego and make I=we. In these particular love poems that was exactly what I wanted.

Clear reasons I think. Poems using the same form as this (only not using the lower case I) have been published in Tears in the Fence, The Journal, Message in a Bottle and are forthcoming in Envoi and Brittle Star. Interestingly the editors did not ask about the repetition or the virgules

VANITY PRESSES- THE GOOD THINGS

  • you don’t have to convince the poetry editor to accept your book.
  • You have exhausted all other publishing possibilities (that is, being turned down by too many publishers) and, having worked long and hard on your poetry collection, want to see it published.
  • Writing poetry is a pleasurable hobby which you have enjoyed and you use a Vanity Publisher to provide copies of your book.
  • You don’t want to spent a huge amount of time or lack the expertise of book production.
  • You can get the book published in in two or three months instead of two of three years.
  • You have control over what’s included in the final manuscript and a say in book production.
  • You may do a lot of open mic readings or are going to a festival and need to have a number of books to hand in order to sell to people who enjoy your work.
  • You make more money per book.
  • It may of course get picked up by a commercial publisher but this is unlikely.
  • It allows publishers to accept more poets, have more writers in print with less overall risk.
  • The publisher no longer has to finance the entire project.
  • You may want to use a particular imprint and have them as the publisher of record.