The 5th Free Verse Poetry Book Fair at the Conway Hall last Saturday was . . .

. . . grrrreat.

Brilliantly organised, brilliantly achieved. Sorry to tell you this, if you weren’t there. I thought it was going to be quieter than usual, but at some point in the afternoon I realised the buzz was buzzier than ever before. A lot of fun, joking, chatting, and some really lovely folk around. A great atmosphere. b2ap3_thumbnail_DSC03606.jpg

Yes, there were a few poets pursuing publishers, almost certainly hopelessly, but hey — that too is part of the fun and it seems less painful than the usual postal process. The publisher (or his or her envoys) stands there wanting to sell STUFF. The poet approaches hoping the publisher may secretly want more STUFF (from her or him) to sell. Most of the poets are too shy to mention the poetry they have hidden in their vests. Most of the publishers pretend they don’t sense the indivested.

Everybody is able to feel, at least temporarily, that they LIKE poetry. It feels like a Good Thing — otherwise why would everybody be so jolly?

Meanwhile, the publisher (at least this publisher) is desperately hoping to go home carrying less than s/he came with. The bargains in the bargain book box get better and better as the day goes on (a top tip for buyers next year). There is a point at which it might even be possible to pay people to take the publications away with them.

I exaggerate. The punters were good and generous. They ate the jelly bears. They bought pamphlets. They bought books (which is even better because they’re heavier to carry home). And best of all, they let me give them the challenges I had carefully sealed inside 100 envelopes. Poetry challenges. It seemed like a nice idea. It’s much more fun giving people things than selling them.

And I did get more than twenty back again, which is pretty good going compared to your average consumer survey, especially when accepting the challenge meant significant mental processing, and a pen.

This was the challenge on the piece of paper inside the envelope handed to people as they drifted past the HappenStance table:

Think Ezra Pound. Think ‘In a Station of the Metro’.

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;    
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Your challenge? On the back of this piece of paper, write your own imagist poem. Capture one image that has stuck in your mind from today’s Free Verse Poetry Book Fair.  Not more than 14 words, one of which should rhyme with ‘bough’.

Mostly people brought them back within a couple of hours. Some broke the rules, of course. One was really hard to read. Three emailed them later that same day. One sent a photograph of hers via Twitter. Did they add up to a better account of the day than I can give you? I don’t know. But they are, because poetry is sometimes fun.


Then, the Metro reeked of Gauloises, onions, scent and sweat; but now
Nothing much. 

A poet imitates a car alarm, EEEE
To happy laughter but alas no dough.

Searching for his red T-shirt,
a buoy to cling to in this drowning sea.

A half-bitten strawberry,
sharp, neatly frilled
with absence from
a prow of teethb2ap3_thumbnail_DSC03599_2.jpg

Assembling – Poets, Poems
How did they all decide,
these little black characters,
words, now . . .

Aerial photographs of Slough
Did Nothing
Green leaves upon a crooked bough.

Friends Meeting by Happy Chance at Poetry Book Fair
– a hug, & shared grin
of mock despair: so, how many
have you bought?

Ezra Pound
was a

All this know-how,
Solid brass handles,
Serious doors.

‘Quiet seats up here’.
Quiet? How?
Silent seats don’t spill beans about bottoms.

Poets seeking words to peddle:
further through the crowds they plough.

In hedgerow ripe with fruit to browse
Glut of glut, the dormice drowse.

At the Free Verse Fair
Leaves whirling, flying in the gale of language,
leaves turning in September now.

Faces dance, letters on the page;
only now, glasses on
the words come clear.

Black bony t-shirt, how
he bends to the bookstall;
a crow stabbing for food.

slantend i w lav to the Conway Hall
sensing overheated armits’ logo

The worry of poetsb2ap3_thumbnail_DSC03597_20151001-180657_1.jpg
bends the bough of an
oak trestle

slipping tight tables
wondering how to get by
till stopped by a shimmering skirt

Melancholy human panels, brown wooden ones
Now the clock moves on with us.

she says, yes and yes.
No, he says, not now. And means it.

One little girl how high on his shoulders.


She’s talking right over our heads.

Does a slant rhyme count?
It could. It depends.
How slanted
do you allow?


Are all these poetry books?
How awful! Whose idea was this?
Where is he?


Thanks to: Anon, Oliver Comins, David Collard, A.B. Cooper, Harry Gilonis, Elizabeth Hourston, Nigel Hutchinson, T.O.Ilets (!), Marion Tracy, Julie Mclean, Sarah Miles, Diane Mulholland, D.A. Prince, Terry Quinn, Sally@trp, Helen Tookey, Webleaf, Gareth Writer-Davies.




4 thoughts on “POETRY BOOK FAIR FIVE”

  1. Ah! Great fun! I like the slanted one (Emily-esque) and I think I might be able to guess which is David Collard’s 🙂

  2. Oh I’d have loved to be there, and how?
    But… for once I loved where I was even more –
    BookFest in Appledore, gnawing my nails
    then reading, telling, signing, selling –
    (well, Waterstones selling) and suddenly
    Grandma isn’t just Grandma but a poet
    with a book to buy, to draw pictures in
    where Grandma’s left plenty of room.

  3. A lovely round-up of the day. I was very pleased to have met you (though at Red Squirrel’s stall, and not your stall!) and look forward to meeting you again (when it’s less noisy…?).

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