Sunday, 27 September 2015

The Poetry Book Fair

My purchases and freebies from The Poetry Book Fair
I had an early start yesterday as I wanted to arrive at The Poetry Book Fair, Conway Hall, London, in time for the first event which began at 10.30am. This was a panel discussion with three editors on how to get published. I made it there a little after 10am which gave me time to have a quick look around the main room where all the publishers were. Before I even got to the discussion I had bought two books, including one I've been dying to get my hands on - Kith by Jo Bell.

The editors for the discussion panel were Sheila Wakefield from Red Squirrel, Jane Commane from Nine Arches Press and Briony Bax from Ambit. All spoke about the worst submissions (I cannot believe people send dog-eared and coffee ringed manuscripts) and the worst covering letter (my dog likes my poetry). They then discussed how to write a covering letter - short, bio not more than 70-80 words and don't brag, get the editor's name right, put the right postage on and read the magazine first to make sure what you are writing fits with what they publish. Most of this is common sense. What did these editors look out for in submissions? An original voice, wacky, risk taking, unusual, something that holds them. Poems about the sea and birds seem to be the most popular submissions so if you write these they must stand out above all the rest. One thing at least two of them agreed on was that often they look at the poems before the covering letter (though this does not mean you can skimp on this).

There was time for some questions from the audience and one was about the internet and how much that had changed things for poets and publishers. The editors were adamant that they would not publish anything that had been published previously on a blog, Facebook or website because they wanted original previously unpublished work. There are outlets for people who wish to publish online, ezines etc. I use some publishing sites, but I know when I put them there (as on this blog) that I cannot send them to magazines or competitions. So, it is always worth thinking about that. If you hope for a poem to be published don't post it on your blog first!

This was a very interesting discussion and I liked the editors. As it happened I had visited the Red Squirrel table before the discussion and Sheila handed me some freebies! I haven't had time to go through everything in detail yet.

After the discussion I went back to main room and.....bought some more books. Things were getting out of hand and the money was running out so I decided to go and listen to some readings. Graham Fulton was reading but I then felt a tickle in my throat and was  trying not to cough. I had to leave because I knew it wasn't going to go with sips of water and I didn't want to murder his reading! Once I'd recovered I decided lunch was in order so I went over to Red Lion Garden and ate my sandwich. Afterwards I went in search of a cash machine as there were two or three other books I wanted to buy. With money in my pocket I stopped back at the gardens for a cup of tea and read my book before hitting the Poetry Book Fair again. It was much busier and was quite a squeeze and shuffle with a rucksack on my back, I went over to Telltale Press to say hello to Robin Houghton and buy her book The Great Vowel Shift. I've followed Robin's blog for some time and it was good to finally meet her. I asked her to sign her book for me. I bought one more book and then headed back to hear some readings and caught the end of Tim Wells witty poetry. Valley Press followed and I enjoyed readings from Richard Barnett, Robert Powell and Jo Reed. Lastly I stayed for Veer Books and readings from Tom Bamford, Rosa van Hensbergen and Mark O'Leary.

Maybe I am getting too old but I found the readers from Veer Books didn't do it for me at all. I know they are young and have different ideas of poetry but for me they read too fast, one had an accent and at speed I didn't have the chance to understand it. I'm afraid I switched off, at which point I decided to go home. I couldn't afford to spend anymore money anyway!

I certainly have enough books to keep me going until next years' fair. I always like to have a mix of books - books from poets I know/enjoy and new poets. I'm pleased with my purchases and shall enjoy exploring them.

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