|Readings in Red Lion Square|
The day consisted of readings and discussions in one of the rooms and exhibitors, mainly book publishers, in the main hall. In Red Lion Square (just over the road) there were also readings going on all day. At 5pm there was a 'do' at the Rugby Tavern (round the corner) with more readings.
At first it was difficult to know where to start and I had to pace myself, especially with my cash! I already had an idea of the readings/discussions I wanted to listen to so I headed off to the first event at 10.30. Imtiaz Dharker read from her fifth book from Bloodaxe entitled Over the Moon. I enjoyed her poetry which switched between the continents and spoke of loss, reminiscence, wistfulness. Her poetry was often amusing.
The next event I attended was the launch by Happenstance Press of their anthology Blame Montezuma, a collection of poetry about chocolate! During the readings by various contributors were were plied with different flavoured chocolate buttons! At the end there was quite a collection on the back row! It was a fun event. (I did later go and visit their stand but I couldn't buy the book as I was out of cash and they had no card machine. Instead, taking pity on me, they gave me a lovely chocolate!)
I stayed on for the event following which was a discussion entitled Where is Poetry Going? The panel consisted of Tom Chivers (Adventures in Form), Mark Ford (Best British Poetry) and Karen McCarthy Woolf (Ten: The New Wave). I found this discussion a little bogged down at times and only Tom Chivers had things to say that inspired me. I took a course with The Poetry School on Adventures in Form using exercises from Tom's book. I loved it because I enjoy experimental stuff and Tom's ideas for poetry in the future I felt very akin to. At some time I must buy the book!
At that point it was time for lunch so I headed over to Red Lion Square to the Garden cafe. I knew there was to be a rally by NHS staff meeting in Red Lion Square so it was a little chaotic with new people turning up all the time with banners and placards but they were a nice bunch of people. I got talking to a few while standing in the queue for tea and pannini. The Police were standing on the sidelines and they all got some free entertainment as they took their refreshments. They seemed to enjoy the poetry and clapped as readers came up one by one (Ward Wood - Royal Holloway MA students were reading while I was there). We in turn cheered the marchers! I was able to direct a few to the toilet facilities in Conway Hall!
Back in the hall I began buying up books. I think before lunch I had maybe bought two books. I had taken quite a bit of cash because I know these events often don't have card facilities and I was right. I was able to use my card twice and once I had to split a twenty pound note elsewhere so I could go back and buy one book (small change is also a problem). The lady who changed my money was the editor of Acumen, Patricia Oxley. What a lovely lady. We had quite a chat. The man on that stall may have been her husband (I note the interview editor is a William Oxley) and they liked my analogy of my writing career being like a kids game where you play to move on to another level. I am moving through levels but am stuck right now between levels! Patricia was very encouraging and asked me to submit to them because publication there would move me up another level. She asked me my name and said to remind her when I write. She gave me some good advice and I left (with the latest copy of their journal) feeling very encouraged.
I also met other small press publishers who were so nice and I particularly fell in love with Roncadora Press because of their artwork and doing something different. The chap who runs it block prints pictures in black and white which is so effective and produces postcards, fold outs with a picture on one side and poetry on the other. It was beautiful. I bought Windows for Burns Night 2012 where all the poems are hand written or typed to fit on a small window. The little book is even stitched together and reminded me of the days when I worked for a Solicitor and we had to hand stitch Wills, Leases and other legal documents together. There is something very nostalgic about Roncadora Press which touches me.
I got to visit The Emma Press stand which I was thrilled about. This is another press I admire because again they are doing something different with poetry and design. I already have one of their books but yesterday I added to it with Anthology of Mildly Erotic Verse.
I bought a few other books by people I've read before, Christopher James and Marion McCready and a couple by poets new to me and suddenly I was out of cash! There was one more discussion I wanted to attend so I headed off to the event room to sit in on the current reading before the discussion started. This was the publisher ZimZalla with readings by Pascal O'Loughlin and Jesse Glass. The former I did not like at all. I found his poetry annoying and uncomfortable and he had that 'poetry voice' I hate - the one that seems on all one note, monotone. Who teaches that? Several poets seem to speak that way and it turns me off. Jesse Glass had flown in from Japan to read and was at least entertaining even if I wasn't keen on his poetry, sorry Jesse.
The discussion was What Do Pamphlet Editors Look For? On the panel was Peter Hughes (Oystercatcher Press), Helena Nelson (HappenStance) and Emma Wright (The Emma Press). This was a good discussion and I particularly liked what Emma and Helena had to say. They seemed very engaged and enthusiastic about what they do. I found them inspiring and would love to be published by them.
I left after that clutching my red bag full of books. It was a good day, a bit of buying, reading, discussions and a small amount of networking, It was great to be asked 'Are you a writer?' and to say yes! I still find it hard to tell people that's what I do especially as I don't have a book but I spend much of my time writing in some form these days. This year has been so different from others in that respect.