Last night I was at the Scottish Poetry Library for a Poetry Association of Scotland event – a reading by Polly Clark and the launch of her new Bloodaxe collection – Farewell My Lovely. I met Polly a couple of years ago at StAnza – in fact I remember putting her sample poem ‘Elvis the Octopus’ on the StAnza website, which I edited at that time. Her reading was in two halves, with poems from the new collection in the first half, and those from earlier collections after the interval. One member of the audience commented on some of the differences between her new work and the (slightly) older pieces. Her new work is, to my mind, slightly darker, but also deeper and more thought-provoking. I like both phases, if such they are, and I recognise, as some possibly don’t, that poets grow, develop and change with time. It’s absolutely crucial that poets do evolve, and it’s natural that as we do our modes of expression deepen and become more three-dimensional. I was reminded of the wonderfully telling scene in Shakespeare in Love, when Will turns to Kit Marlow and says, “I love your early work.” Sadly, ’twas ever thus.
The night before I’d had a launch of my own, for Donald McKinney’s brilliant short stories – Why We Howl At the Moon. These stories are by turns, edgy, funny, and spiritual in the broadest sense. It’s what attracted me to Donald’s writing in the first place, and made me want to publish him. I know that short stories are harder to sell than poetry pamphlets – James Robertson told me that, and he’s quite right – but I couldn’t pass up the chance to bring these stories to a wider public. We also had readings from three other Calder Wood Press authors – Jo Gibson, Anne Connolly and Anna Dickie. It was a super evening, and it made me realise that, unintentionally, I’ve created a little family of authors who didn’t know each other before I published them. I don’t know if other publishers have the same feeling, but it’s very pleasant. I’ve got two more launches coming up in the next couple of weeks: Lillias Scott Forbes’ A Hesitant Opening of Parasols, in the StAndrews branch of Waterstone’s, 6th March, 3.30pm, Irene Brown’s Glass Slippers, in Duo Boots shoe shop in Castle Street, Edinburgh, on the 13th March, at 7pm. All welcome, but let me know by email please at colin dot will at zen dot co dot uk.
Elsewhere I’ve been doing 8 primary schools workshops this week, which are great fun but tiring, and last Saturday I led a poetry workshop for Tyne & Esk Writers. I concentrated on the nuts and bolts of poetry – forms, techniques and styles, and it was great to see how the group responded. One experienced poet wrote her first poem in quatrains, and others found the couplet form liberating.
I mentioned planning Calder Wood Press’s 2010 programme, and I’ve had some interesting responses. I’ve now got three probable poetry pamphlets. Maybe my fellow bloggers might want to email me with suggestions for other poets with whom we’re mutually acquainted and who I might approach? Speaking of which, on of the responses to my previous post was a suggestion from a friend that I might publish an anthology of blog poets. Again, I’d welcome your comments, by email or otherwise. The only cautionary note I’d introduce is that anthologies are even harder to sell than short stories. Once you’ve sold to the participants the market is often disappointingly small, but maybe, on the scale at which I operate, that might not be a problem.