Thursday, November 27, 2008

Christmas Poetry

I imagine that poets prefer to receive anything other than a poetry collection for Christmas, if only to assure themselves that life exists outside the small thin volumes on their shelves. Or perhaps just because people making such a gift invariably choose badly. Or because, in the case of some poets, they don't read or even like poetry (apart from their own of course, which they badly want other people to read and buy).

On the other hand, many people who enjoy poetry aren't quite sure of what to buy. They don't know many of the names and don't want to risk alienating friends by buying them poetry books they might hate.

However, it’s possible to think about this in another way. You could buy yourself or a friend a poetry collection for Christmas, partly as a gift to a small, hard-working publisher. That way, you (or a friend) receive an enjoyable book and also help to keep a poetry press in business through the credit crunch. Everyone wins.

If you’re not sure about what to buy, I would brazenly suggest a book from Salt. Salt is publishing my collection (and Andrew Philip’s) on 1st March next year. However, there are many sound choices at their website at the moment. Even better, if you join the Salt Fanclub Facebook page, you get a discount totalling 33% off every book from now until Christmas Day. There's a UK and USA store for buying online.

If you can’t decide, here’s a list of my top 5 Salt poetry collections, in alphabetical order. You can read about each of them and a sample poem at the links. Of course, there are hundreds of books at the site which you might prefer to these ones:

Me and the Dead – Katy Evans-Bush
Scales Dog – Alexander Hutchison
Cossacks and Bandits – Katia Kapovich
The Harbour Beyond the Movie – Luke Kennard
Travelator – Steven Waling

I’m going to pick up Chris McCabe’s Zeppelins and possibly Andrew Duncan’s Origins of the Underground. Is the latter book as good a read as it sounds? Anyone read it?


Anonymous said...

Re Duncan - do you think you could read more than two pages of that adenoidal, vespine prose?

Anonymous said...

'adenoidal, vespine'... not to say marginally illiterate

Frances said...

Someone whose opinion I greatly respect told me yesterday that he thinks Kennard is as good as Auden. But I'm fine with that. Not jealous at all.

BarbaraS said...

Yes, that is pretty brazen... I have Me & The Dead and a jolly fine book it is too... I am considering my options as I've just bought a whole shed-load of poetry and... oh, go on then, twist my arm will you... It's like some awful addiction sometimes, this poetry business.

Rob said...

Anons - I'm not sure what you mean, especially by 'illiterate.' By the way, I prefer it if you identify yourself, even when posting as 'anonymous' - at least by emailing me (address at my profile), just so I know who is who. I think Duncan's book looks interesting, even though I'm sure I'll disagree with parts of it.

Frances, I don't think Luke Kennard would agree with such an Auden comparison, after only two collections (however good). That's not to say he won't be seen that way in future decades - who knows? There is a Facebook group called 'Luke Kennard is Overrated' and Luke is an active member himself!

Barbara, I'll twist your arm. Some of the new books just out on Salt look really good.

deemikay said...

"Or because, in the case of some poets, they don't read or even like poetry (apart from their own of course, which they badly want other people to read and buy)."

Unfortunately, I've met more than a few of them.

I'd love to get a poetry book for Christmas. But no-one's ever done that for me... Cue sobs + sad violin music. :(

Mark Yoxon said...

I'm a fan of Salt, because I appreciate anyone working as hard for poetry as they seem to be, because they publish Kennard (I don't like Auden much, but I do think Kennard is a really interesting, contemporary British voice), and because Chris seems such an honest, admirable sort of chap.
However, I must admit that I do think their output is varied. I'm just not interested in a lot of the stuff they publish and in a way I wish they'd be more selective. However, I do think Mark Waldron's new collection looks good, and though I've yet to buy it, I'd like Eleanor Rees' collection, too.
I'm actually quite looking forward to yours as well, based largely upon the reasonableness of your blog. :)

Rob said...

DeeMikey - no one buys me poetry for Christmas either. That's not always a bad thing. My wife buys me clothes, for example, which I probably need more than an excess of poetry books. Some people buy me book tokens, mind you.

Mark - I don't think there can be anyone on earth who likes everything that Salt publish. There's such a wide range. I guess every publisher will have regrets over publishing certain titles that seemed a good idea at the time (although they would never name them publicly, of course). But as Chris says, it's really hard to know what's going to sell and what's not.

I had a spare hour in town a couple of Sundays ago and read some poems from Mark Waldron's collection in Waterstones - it does look good. I also read some from Jane Holland's 'Camper van Blues' - good stuff too. I was impressed with Judith Bishop's poems on her website (in my links under 'writer's websites') and might actually buy that one. I find some of the hardcore experimental collections hard going, but I really enjoyed Peter Jaeger's 'Prop' once I got into it.

My feeling is that few poetry collections are guaranteed decent sales and it appears that good sales often come from less likely books. It certainly seems like a tricky business.