Or so, allegedly, said Oscar Wilde. As snow gusts past my window, so does the flurry of tasks for this morning.

However, the new Imac (thank you Michael Marks), which has what seems at the moment to be a huge screen, (custom shrinks things) is up and running. So far I don’t seem to have lost anything vital.

Moreover, the two Po-Lites are printed and ready to send out.


Every publication, I am convinced, has a mistake in it. In fact, when I pore over the pages for the last time before taking them to the printer, I KNOW there will be something I don’t see. If it’s just one mistake, I’m always relieved.


In Martin Parker’s pamphlet No Longer Bjored the error was more significant.


When I set a publication up I put the working title in the footer, and that’s also what goes in the author contract. Then there’s an extended discussion between me and the author about what the final title should be. In this case, I thought the first title (Enough is Enough) might well cut the mustard. However, the draft front cover graphic was a picture of a bottle of wine lurching sideways in the sand, and Martin thought it might give an impression that . . . he’d rather not have.


So there was a title discussion, which ended up in the fjords with some dancing birds. And everything was resolved very happily, except I forgot to change the footer. And I failed to see it in the proofs. And the whole publication, therefore, was printed with the wrong title at the foot of every page.


I considered reprinting, despite the moral and financial pain. However, Martin came up with a better idea and now the verse erratum slip, telling the story of the wrong-footed footer, is such a delight that it is possible, as he has suggested, that everybody will want one.


In Graham Austin’s Fuelling Speculation there is, needless to say, also a mistake, though not in the footer. But I’m not going to tell you what it is. More importantly, it is a lovely, wayward collection, written by a chap who sees things from angles other poets do not.


Often an intrepid performer can make a bit of creaky Lite work brilliantly for an audience. But on the page? That’s harder. When I use comic verse with students in my other life, what makes six of them howl with laughter will leave another six looking completely lost. And that’s another problem. Printed light verse is for canny readers. But there’s a few of these around. You could be one of them. . . .


As I type, the snow outside has turned to an amazing blizzard.  I don’t think the planned trip to buy the bathroom mirror is happening today. The door of the washing machine has just refused to un-click, so everything is stuck inside. There’s another mundane challenge. Oh hell.


Meanwhile, with a bit of luck and no thanks to the Hotpoint washing machine which I have grown to hate and one of which I will never ever buy again, Tim Love’s pamphlet, Moving Parts, will be finished today.


The plan is to get it to the printer this week and it will be the last publication of 2010. Tim is not generally funny and this is not light verse. However, he has something in common with Graham Austin that I find difficult to put into words. It’s something to do with his angle of perception. I have been following Tim Love poems in the small press for over ten years and he is completely unpredictable. I used to type out his poems to try to work out what was going on in them. What he does in one is so different from what he does in another that you could be forgiven for thinking there were at least four of him.


Putting together Moving Parts has surprised me in ways I didn’t expect. The astonishing variety is there — but there are also more connections than I had anticipated. The set feels integrated. The title (which Tim chose initially and which remains) is exactly right. Parts of these poems are very moving, in terms of human emotion. But all of them are on the move: they don’t stay still easily. They often have lines you can read two or three ways. The tone changes radically from one page to another and sometimes from one phrase to another. I said this wasn’t light verse, but it is playful. He has always been a playful poet, watching himself at his own game, and sometimes discovering something that seems to surprise him too. In terms of poetry, he’s not like anybody else. That sounds a simple thing to say, but increasingly I think it’s one of my main criteria. It applies to Martin Parker;  to Graham Austin too.


Sometimes people talk about ‘voice’, as though that’s what makes poets distinctive. That doesn’t seem to me to be the right word, especially for a poet who can change voices at will. The distinctive factor might be to do with perception and playfulness. But it might not. It might be do with mastering that odd business of poetic register. We no longer have a standard way of mustering language that automatically feels like ‘poetry’. Each person has to sort this thing out for him or herself. And then that person’s ‘poetic’ register has also to be a way of using language that’s consistent with his or her individual mode of thought and expression. They have to sound like themselves, even when they’re being someone else.


Did I say there was a blizzard outside? It’s snowing in my head.






  1. Not sure if it’s good etiquette to reply to this, but given that “poets need to be online” I’d better have a stab.

    I think my excuse is that I don’t produce many poems so I don’t build up a momentum. Each poem is a fresh start, separated from the previous one by a month of other activity and influences. I think the variety’s set within fairly tight parameters. I see the family resemblances more than the differences, and wonder why I write as much as I do. Playful? Yes, in the sense Goethe meant when he wrote “True art can only spring from the intimate linking of the serious and the playful”. A little voice questions each line I write and sometimes get the upper hand.

    I think I’d be more like some other poets if I could (most recently Katharine Towers, Helen Ivory, Gill Andrews, Simon Barraclough) but maybe not for long.

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