It’s better when it’s frosty, and it’s frosty today.

Better, that is, if you have a log burning stove and some logs, both of which are available here. The log pile is diminishing fast though.

Meanwhile, I am still working my way through the submissions, with about 450 poems still to read. Generally my time for doing this is between 5pm and 8pm, after the stove’s been lit. I worry that the last poems of the evening get a lower level of concentration than the others. Fortunately none of the poets will know they were the one I picked up at 7.45.

Interesting how different the submissions look – one compared with another, I mean. You wouldn’t think there could be such a wide variety of ways of presenting a poem on a piece of A4 paper. They are mainly A4. Occasionally one arrives on a weird size. For example, one submission had all the bottoms sliced off the A4 pages so they were nearly, but not quite, square.

The mail treats them very differently too. Some arrive in pristine condition. Some look as though they’ve been through a washing machine and then a tumble dryer. Occasionally one arrives neatly opened, as though with a paper knife, though with nothing missing.


Last night I found myself writing (not for the first time) ‘don’t underline your titles’ which, when you think about it, is an impertinent comment. I think it’s because I know the subconscious effects of presentation that I sometimes follow my impulse and comment. It’s also because it’s 7.30 and I’ve read a lot of poems.

Sometimes I sit down to work on the submissions and I feel pretty alert. I’ll do it quicker tonight, I think. It can’t take long to read 12 poems.

But it can. There is no way to do this properly and do it quickly. And often there are more than 12 poems because it’s a second or third or fourth sending.

All the same, nobody who had read The Mac is Not a Typewriter would underline headings, or type two spaces after a full stop. (You don’t have to have a Mac to read this book, and I recommend it.)

Still seeing a lot of couplets. There was a time when couplets were always rhyming couplets. There’s a strong case for a two-line stanza when the two lines rhyme. Here’s my favourite Winter poem in couplets, and it’s by Robert Nye. It borrows, and intensifies, one of Christina Rossetti’s best phrases. Many years ago, this poem was included in a pamphlet anthology I did, now long sold out, called Winter Gifts. I glued a silver star onto the cover of each and every one. That was sweetly painstaking but also a result of my not having realised at that time that a dark blue cover would not look great with a black design. You live and learn.


Winter More

When it was Winter what I saw
Was not enough for my heart’s claw.

I wanted the North Wind to blow
Like God the Father shouting No.

My heart was greedy for pure cold;
I wanted icicles of gold.

I wanted Taj Mahals of ice
And no mere Arctic could suffice.

Winter extreme, Winter complete
Was what I longed for in my heat

To reach an absolute North Pole
And know in body and in soul

Some more-than-polar vertigo,
The truth of snow on snow on snow.

This was my secret lust and lore:
I always wanted Winter more.

Robert Nye

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