Ah yes, well. Please buy some HappenStance pamphlets. You know you want them. Sigh.

When I was doing my gargantuan roof re-allocation and filing my assembled books and papers last week, I also tackled the poetry magazines.

I’ve been buying poetry magazines in quantity since 1991, and keeping nearly all of them. Occasionally I’ve given some away, or lent some and not got them back. I lent a former student 20 Mslexias, for example, and was really annoyed when they weren’t returned. Now I’m glad.

Why? Because I couldn’t bear to take all the poetry magazines up to the roof, and I certainly couldn’t keep them all downstairs. Quite apart from the dust, they were taking up two whole bookcases, a bag, two boxes and some of the floor — and making me sneeze.
















So I filed and boxed and labelled sets of Ambit, The SHOp, The Rialto, PN Review, Tin Hat, Seam, Stand, The Frogmore Papers (what lovely covers they have), The London Magazine (Sebastian Barker’s version), Chapman, The Interpreter’s House (Merryn Williams’ version), Poetry Nottingham which has turned into Assent, Obsessed With Pipework, Poetry London, Other Poetry, Poetry, Mimesis, Anon, DreamCatcher, Tears in the Fence, Deliberately Thirsty and a number of others, some of them long defunct.

I kept on my shelves all my Dark Horses and Smiths Knolls, because I’m fond of them and they have spines. At least I can find the others in the roof, if I need to.

I still had a large bag of Mslexias, other writing magazines, some ‘How to write’ books, a Writers and Artists YearBook etc. So I advertised them on Freecyle for budding writers. I threw a few poetry magazines in too. They were picked up within forty-eight hours, and the writer who came to collect them took a rooted sprig of the plant by the front door which I thought was spirea but isn’t.

I stacked another huge bag with poetry magazines – doublers of issues I’d had poems in. A lovely range of publications. Particularly good ones, naturally, since they all had my poems in them somewhere.

And confession time: I regularly read Stephen King for escape. He’s my adult Enid Blyton. As recently as yesterday I was gobbling his latest set of short stories. But by and large, I don’t read the King novels twice (his short stories are another matter). Besides, they’re all in second hand bookshops and holiday cottages the length of the land. So I made up a bag of King novels too, and put that on Freecyle. (That freed up two more shelves of a bookcase for . . . er . . . poetry.)

Stephen King? Five Freecyclers wanted him immediately. One had a boyfriend with a broken leg, who was desperate for reading matter. I hope he doesn’t read Misery.  One loved the Master of the Dark Half but couldn’t afford him. And so on . . . I wanted to give my Stephen Kings to them all.

Poetry magazines? Not one reply. Not one nibble. So I tried again. In superb condition, hardly (if at all) read, a range of magazines, ideal for poets or writing groups.

Not a squeak. Not a murmur.

It was with pain that I heaved them into the paper skip at what used to be called The Dump but is now the Community Recycling Centre. But it’s them or me, and I want my life back. One copy suffices, and though I could eventually have found a home for them, everything’s eventual (as Stephen King says).

There’s a message in this, people, though you knew it already. The Constant Reader is not reading poetry. And certainly not poetry magazines. Poetry magazines are for a bunch of nutters. I am one of them. You may be one, too, if you’re reading this.

No wonder it’s hard to sell poetry pamphlets. No wonder I had a tax rebate last year of over four hundred quid.

Not that I’m putting any HappenStance pamphlets on Freecycle. Not yet, that is. Grrrr.


  1. You could try to kill 2 birds with one stone and offer a free mag with each happenstance purchase. I guess postage would mount up though.

    In the past I’ve done mag exchanges with US poets, or I’ve taken a bag to a workshop I’ve attended. Local second hand shops have mags on their shelves – I’ve given them old mags too.

  2. Perhaps a box set of back issues, or a compilation box of recent publications may not be a bad idea. It doesn’t have to be in a physical box. Price isn’t always the criteria. Getting the product in the customers face, may not be the most subtle way of selling, but it is one of the more successful.

  3. You could give them to health centre waiting rooms or university libraries. The place I work in has a borrow-it shelf while visitors look round the site – I take in my old books and uncrumpled poetry mags.

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