Thursday, May 03, 2007

Poetry Library Sale, and Posterity

If you’re a poetry fan in the vicinity of Edinburgh, I’d advise you to take a trip to the Scottish Poetry Library as soon as possible.

The library are selling off boxfuls of stock. Most books cost 50p. A few bigger ones are £1. What surprised me was how much good stuff was being sold off. I bought:

The Lion from Rio – Penelope Shuttle
Devolution – Tony Lopez
My Manifold City – George Gömöri
Sweetheart – Tamar Yoseloff
Devotions – Clive Wilmer
Coming to Terms – Harry Guest
A Snail in my Prime – Paul Durcan
The Poems of Laura Riding – Laura Riding Jackson
Gli Hospiti Nascosti – Gian Piero Bona
Quasi una Serra – Enrico D’Angelo

I didn’t have much money on me (perhaps fortunately) or I would have bought more.

I also didn’t have much time and couldn’t explore the vast number of collections which dated back to the 1970s and 1980s, most of whose authors were unknown to me, although they may have been well thought of at the time. A while back online, a poet boasted to me that he had a poem in an anthology that was going to be archived “forever”, so he already had his place in posterity. His ego is astonishing. What I saw the other day was what that “posterity” really means. Some of the collections in these boxes will have won awards, some of them looked damn good and don’t deserve to be forgotten. But they are being sold off for 50p if they are lucky, or otherwise pulped, and that’s after only two or three decades, with many (perhaps most) of the authors still alive.

C E Chaffin has just written a marginally more hopeful outlook on posterity, although the story comes with its own warnings.


James Midgley said...

Damn. Unfortunately Scotland is a bit of a drive from me, to say the least.

Matt Merritt said...

Same here, sadly. Sounds like some bargains to be had.
I'm overdue for a trip over to Hay on Wye - a couple of the shops there have all manner of (new) poetry books for £1, plus there's the Poetry Bookshop itself.

Anonymous said...

Hmm - don't want to knock the SPL (esp. as I'm their poet of the month this time round) but I wonder why they need to be selling these books.

Why would they sell the Selected Poems of a leading Irish poet for 50p? I hope they have second copies of all of these books...


Rob said...

Roddy, I wondered about that too. It must be for resons of space that they are selling the books. I imagine they must have extra copies of Durcan's book (a 300-page New and Selected Poems!) and of some of the others. The Laura Riding Collected, for instance, is a 400-page hardback in perfect condition (it, and Durcan's book, cost £1 rather than 50p).

I'd find it hard to believe they'd sell off Shuttle, Lopez, Yoseloff, Guest etc if they didn't have extra copies. I'm not sure whether the same can be said of the hundreds of books by unknown or forgotten writers they had on sale.

I'll take a look on the reference shelves next time I'm in and see what they have.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I was there and got some great bargains too! I heard that they were only selling off duplicate stock from the days when they had the Poetry Van and also spare books that had been donated when they already existed in the collections. But yes it did give a sobering picture of posterity.