Thursday, October 25, 2007

Collecting (Poems)

Ah, the nights are drawing in again and 'tis at this time of year that I sit down and begin collecting my poems together for another yearly pamphlet. Except, last year's I never quite got round to finishing for one reason or another - and this year, surely poetry has taken the rearest of backseats. But its October and the regular Poetry business pamphlet prize is always worth a look at, not that I've ever been shortlisted, longlisted or even distantlisted. but as prizes go its one of the nicest and simplest (and if the entry fee's a little higher, you only can assume its money well spent in that its encouraging poets who've enough for a little collection rather than the pay-per-poem contests that predominate.) What I like about it, is that it aims to do a real service to the poets who enter - by taking them and their aspirations seriously - after all, all pamphlets are judged anonymously, and it aims to do what all of us want, to produce a few well-promoted slim volumes as the prize. A prize, in other words, more valuable than money! And I've said before how I've become quite fond of the "pamphlet" as a way of showcasing a couple of dozen poems - not too few, not too many. Perhaps its the same amount you'd find in one of those lovely Penguin Modern Poets collections, sharing the space with 2 other like minds. I'd like to think so anyway. Perhaps Salt should inaugurate a Salt Modern Poets as a way of linking their catalogue with that illustrious past. I'd like that. But then I'd like to think that my latest "pamphlet", pushed together against the Poetry business deadline, is a valid one. You try and tell a story, putting some arresting poems at the start, creating an arc of subject and style, so that at the end, the reader would go back, rediscovering a few gems, but being impressed by the whole. As an inveterate compilation tape compiler, I'd love to be a poetry collection compiler - mine are fine, but my betters would be better (to go Ogden Nash-y on you). I think it must be the best of jobs, don't you? Compiler of the "Portable Faulkner", or of "The Essential Velvet Underground", or of "The New York Poets". Better that than "Fifty Poems about Cats" et al, where the subject matter is the only thing that matters. "Fifty Poems not about cats" would be good, mind.

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