March has been fairly busy and now sees me with a new batch of reading material; some of which has been gratefully received as gifts, winnings and even purchased. This included a couple of pamphlets I won from the Poetry Business in a most random comp on email. I also have/had a cold and a chest infection (nothing changes there) so that’s slowed me down a bit, but I’ve also been organising the next batch of reviews for Under the Radar. I am very pleased to say that’s been sorted. For both the current issue and the next, the vast majority of reviewers are female, so I’d like to think we’re redressing the balance in our own way. As ever I’ve tried really hard to ensure that a fair spread of books and pamphlets are getting reviewed, but we have more books coming in than reviewers and pages to print on. It’s good at least that there’s a lot of enthusiasm on all sides.
March is always about States of Independence. This was held on a couple of Saturdays ago at De Montfort University and there was the usual merry mix of stalls, publishers and free events and readings. The small presses were well and truly celebrated, but sometimes I think it’s the small presses that hold things up for the bigger ones. This is where you find the kind of people who are interested and open minded about books and publishing and where you can make discoveries. I read at two events, the Over Land Over Sea one and the Alan Sillitoe Anthology, More Raw Material, reading with Martin Figura. Can I say to begin with that Martin Figura is bloody amazing. I’ve written about his show Whistle before. He was reading from his latest collection Dr. Zeeman’s Catastrophe Machine which, and I am quoting here from the Cinnamon Press website, ‘blurs the edges of personal and collective memory to explore family, relationships and belonging against a social, historical and political backdrop.’ That says it better than I could. I have a cold y'know. Though I will add to that and say there was a hanging-on-to-every-word thing going on for me when Martin read. We’ve ordered a copy. The event was hosted by the anthology’s tireless editors Neil Fullwood and David Sillitoe, who read from some of Alan Silitoe’s work as well. I went to Deborah Tyler-Bennett’s and Andy Green’s readings first thing too. Mr. Commonplace (aka Jonathan Taylor) got shortlisted for the East Midlands Book of the Year Award panel for Melissa.
I spent a lot of time at the panels and readings in fact, and probably not enough time downstairs perusing the books, although I made a few purchases from Charles Boyle at CB Editions. They’re becoming one of my favourite presses. Bob Richardson was also there selling his fantastically, super-reasonably priced Poem Flyers at 20p each! He’s made a couple of flyers out poems by me. Other presses and magazines like Nine Arches Press, Five Leaves, Flarestack, Shearsman, Smith Doorstop, Soundswrite, Interpreter’s House, Shoestring, Leafe Press, Longbarrow - I could go on, but I can’t cover everything because I have a cold.
As for my writing...well I’ve come out of hibernation a bit and actually sent off a few poems, first batch since October. Now the waiting game begins. Also - and I’ll say more next month - I am putting together a new manuscript for a pamphlet which is scheduled for later on in the year. I haven’t done this seriously since 2011/’12. It’s VERY HARD. Maybe it’s even harder than putting together a full-length manuscript because you have to be very picky. There was me thinking it would arrange itself, NO CHANCE. I’ll probably be writing a blog post about that sooner or later, you lucky people.
Before I go off in search of antibiotics, I'd like to mention Kim Moore's blog as she wrote an entry which really resonated with me, the title of which was the (previosuly mentioned) Auden line: 'Poetry makes nothing happen.' There's a really intriguing poem by Kim at the end which spells out all the things that poetry does or allows you to do, by saying, ironically, that it doesn't. I'll leave you to ponder. See you soon.