Just back a week or so from the contemporary equivalent of the nineteenth century Grand Tour. A conference, a spot of business, a day or two of holidays, and of course some modest spruiking for the new poetry imprint.
First stop was Paris, where we had hoped The Red Wheelbarrow would stock our books. But the place is up for sale, the owner is going back home. Sad, really, for a charming bookshop with a nostalgic metonym of a name. As it turned out Brian Spence at the Abbey Bookshop in the rue de la Parcheminerie in the 5th is more than happy to carry our books, so we left him with a complete selection. This Aladdin’s cave has been an outlet for Anglophone Commonwealth writers on the left bank since 1989; the books spilling out on the street from an impossibly narrow space in an 18th century townhouse. Thanks for the coffee, Brian.
On to London and a dodgy art pub called The Three Compasses in Dalston (Arsenal territory) where we met up with young Tim Cumming, who read from his new PSP pamphlet Etruscan Miniatures to an enthusiastic crowd of solid drinkers. On the menu you could eat absolutely anything you wanted, as long as it was burgers. Tim is clearly a rising star on the British poetry scene – his latest book The Rapture published by Salt is making satisfactory waves. Our little pamphlet is a shimmering snapshot of a summer holiday in Italy, self-illustrated with six understated watercolours – the felicitous product of a chance encounter on Twitter. Imbibe a lowlight video of his reading over on the Videmus page.
On our last day in London the two Davids at the Poetry Book Society in High Holborn made us more than welcome on a cold, wet summer’s day. We met in their conference room, the long table piled high with unpublished manuscripts submitted to be the next PBS recommendations.
Unfathomable that the Arts Council would withdraw funding from this cherished national institution, famously founded by TS Eliot in 1953. (NB quite a good year that one – DNA discovered by James Watson and the other chap, a second Elizabeth crowned, and the present writer born with the cord around his neck. Report card: would have done better with more oxygen).
Anyway, these days the Poetry Book Society is the UK’s leading poetry retailer, dispatching a chosen volume quarterly to around 3000 faithful subscribers, and maintaining an on-line bookstore of just about every poetry book in print in English, currently around 90,000 volumes. In addition to their “choice” each quarter they also recommend several additional books, a pamphlet and a volume of translations. And then there’s the TS Eliot prize, probably the most coveted award in modern poetry, and recently the subject of some spicy political controversy. Whatever the outcome of that particular debate, it is essential that the PBS survives the UK economic downturn – so get on over there now and buy a subscription.
You will appreciate, then, what a great source of pride it is for us that the PBS has agreed to be the exclusive outlet for Pitt Street Poetry’s offerings in the UK. We left them with copies of Light Pressure and Etruscan Miniatures and to our surprise and joy that lovely old 1983 classic. John Foulcher’s ‘Loch Ard Gorge’ was their poem of the week just the other day. We are supremely confident they will survive and flourish, and look forward to a long and happy partnership.