Buy this book (please). No, really. I mean it.

Cover of How Not to, bright yellow, featuring anguished poet graphic and title in dark blue and red

I would prefer to give books away.

However, yesterday at the StAnza bookfair, I did my best to sell as many copies of How (Not) to Get Your Poetry Published as humanly possible. I told a number of poets they ‘ought’ to read it. What a presumption!

But it’s like this: poets ask things.Cover of How Not to, bright yellow, featuring anguished poet graphic and title in dark blue and red

They ask things like ‘what did you think of the recent publication by xxxx’? Or they ask, ‘I’m thinking of approaching xxxx. What do you think?’ Or, most worryingly of all, ‘I wonder if I might send you some of my poems?’

‘You need to read this book,’ I say. ‘It’s only taken eleven years to be able to write it, and it might save you a lot of time.’ It’s not the same as the pamphlet publication that preceded it, many copies of which I used to send (free) to poets who sent me their poems and didn’t know what they hadn’t done, but should have done, first.

I hate the way life is full of secret rules. You only find out later what you should have known to start with. To make it worse: some people seem to know these rules. Who told them?

I must get back to poetry, which is so very much more important, but I hope this book will do two things.

1. It will make some money to spend on publishing some poetry.

2.It will share the secret rules which you may, of course, learn eventually, but only after considerable pain. Save the pain.

It’s not just for new poets. Sometimes those who have one, or more than one, collection already in print have even more cause to read it. You don’t know what you don’t know.

The poetry publishing thing stirs up all sorts of emotions, and adjectives start flying in private conversations: unfair, unjust, unbalanced, nepotism, power, corruption, Private Eye. Please deliver us from temptation. Let us not mention funding. Let us not mention gate keepers. Read the book. It is funny in places, which is as it should be. Poetry is a serious matter, but poets should not take themselves too seriously.

I could say more, but today I’m going to StAnza to be on a panel discussing small magazines in the context of one of the best longstanding publications, Gerry Cambridge’s The Dark Horse, with Dana Gioa streamed in virtually from the States.

So no more from me today. Instead, here’s the link to what I wrote about StAnza in 2012. It still sums it up.

This is a poster/banner for The Dark Horse magazine, feating a giant horse looking round four covers of back issues, one on top of the next. You see the characteristic design of the magazine, and there's a big quote from the late Dennis O'Driscoll bottom left saying 'among the trully outstanding poetry mgazines of the English-speaking world'

3 thoughts on “Buy this book (please). No, really. I mean it.”

  1. I have ordered my own copy and am now busy totalling up how many I would like to buy for friends as gifts! Can’t wait to read it… Thank you; a much-needed book.

  2. Dear Nell – delighted to say that a cheque was put in the post to you on Friday last, so chalk up another sale!

  3. Bought, read, inwardly digested and loved it. I now realise that I’m way too lazy to be a successful poet, which is rather liberating.

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