In March I launched my second collection of poetry, I never think dark will come, published by Oversteps Books. Here’s a picture of the cover, designed by Oversteps editor Alwyn Marriage with artwork by Devon artist Anne Pirie. I think it looks rather fine.
The launch was online, of course, which meant that friends from different parts of the country were able to be there and the number attending was a lot higher than it would have been in person. I was delighted to see a quite a few people who would never normally go to a poetry reading and to reconnect with friends from different times and areas of my life, including an old schoolfriend whom I’ve known since I was eleven. As well as my own readings I invited several guest readers: Alwyn Marriage, a poet in her own right as well as a publisher, Caroline Carver, Gill McEvoy and Alasdair Paterson, who were kind enough to write endorsements for the cover, and four good friends: Helen Evans, Jennie Osborne, James Turner and Sue Proffitt, whose beautiful and heart-wrenching new collection The Lock-Picker has recently been published by Palewell Press. The whole event had the feel of a party, even though it’s hard to chat naturally to people in their little on-screen boxes, and I came away with a warm and satisfied feeling at having brought everyone together.
I’m still new enough to getting published for the publication and launching of a book to feel like a rite of passage, though perhaps not quite such a major one as publishing a first collection. If I’m honest, there was a bit of me that thought, ‘Well, if I’ve published one I ought to be able to publish another one.’ Nevertheless, seeing the book born in physical form, showing it to friends and fellow poets like a proud parent, reading the words I’ve written and saying to people, ‘Yes, this is me. I wrote this’ has been a real coming out – an affirmation that somebody thought my poems were good enough to be made public in the wider world. So here I am with two collections behind me, enough to call myself a proper poet.
In contrast to my first collection, which was mostly about family, love and loss, this one is more of a mixed bag. The subjects of the poems range from death and spirituality to Cricklewood and my living-room curtains, taking in – among other things – the Holocaust, a mermaid and a dead mouse on the way. There’s a bit of an art in putting poems together so that they follow on naturally from one another, and I was quite pleased that on the whole the poems in this collection seem to do this, despite the varied subject-matter. The book begins with poems on house and home (hence Cricklewood, where I lived for many years) and ends with a different kind of homecoming: ‘Coming home/to the rise of breath/the dark space behind thought/the feel of feet on ground.’
Once a book is out there, of course, the next thing you need to do is try to sell it. A lot of poets buy copies from the publisher at a reduced price – some publishers specify a number of copies – and then sell them on at full price. In the days before everything was online, poets would give readings to different groups and put out real books for sale on a real table, which meant you could sign a book there and then and physically hand it to the person who’d bought it. Online readings tend to be fewer and farther between, and selling books means putting details in the Chat for people to save or write down – which of course most don’t – and then, if orders do come in, packing them up and posting them. Poets and publishers have always relied on postal sales as well, but there is a satisfaction in that person-to-person exchange. Never mind. Even with the plethora of poetry collections that have come out during lockdown, some kind people have already bought copies of my book and I’m hoping more will, though I’ve still got a long way to go before I cover my costs. As I say to my novelist friends who still expect to get advances on royalty, there’s no money in poetry.
If you would like a copy of the book, please email me