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October 26, 2006



Rock on! good common sense. thank you.


He seems to have a Messiah complex, mixed with liberal self-hatred (& a desire to be ethnic); how can he criticise other publishers for being white?

I don't get how he attacks others for publishing what they like, i.e. for having their own tastes. Whereas - of course - his tastes are informed by objective criteria/motives of public service. I suppose if you're that holy, any amount of hypocrisy is justified.

Michael Peverett

"pretty much everyone has access to everything, thanks to the internet. " - Except in one respect, martin. - It's still really difficult to buy foreign-languge poetry. Sure, you can go to amazon.transylvania and find your book, pop it in your basket and head to the checkout but - shucks, it only delivers to addresses in transylvania! It's really frustrating. Because now we can see what we're missing! (But they have pretty much sorted this out for poetry in English - you can usually get US stuff delivered here).

I don't follow Astley's thinking (this has got to be marketing, hasn't it?) but I'm never going to slag off Bloodaxe while it continues to publish so many poetry translations.


Michael, that's a good point. When I wrote that bit I was thinking "everyone?", which is why I put in the "pretty much....." but I am so scared of generalisations...

Anyway, if you can write an article about Transylvanian poetry for me, I'd love that....

Jane Holland

Yep, the internet has changed everything. But I still don't know how much is out there or whether I'd like it, not without trawling for hours and taking advice, and even then, you have to buy blind. You can't pick up the book and read the back cover and some of the poems inside, and think, 'Mmm, I like that' or 'No way!' You have to buy first, regret later. And that's assuming you find what you were looking for, which is easy if you KNOW what you're looking for. But often, I don't. Often, I'm just browsing. The internet is like a maze or a rabbit warren, somewhere with many different choices of direction. Too many, sometimes. You think 'I want this' and start browsing, and you end up with something completely different because you failed to find the first thing and got sidetracked instead, which can be fun or it can be a dreadful and expensive mistake.

So I like bookshops. Real not cyber bookshops. Where you can squeeze the poetry books and weigh them before buying, check them for ripeness or immaturity. But that's impossible when you walk in and it's always the same old books on display - unless you're lucky enough to live within spitting distance of Charing Cross Road - the same old publishers and the same old tired anthologies, blah-dee-blah.

So I'm with Astley when it comes to getting more new and varied poetry into the bookshops. It seems like a perfectly sane suggestion to me and one we should all be insisting upon, not fighting about. Happy days!


Yes - it's being in a bookshop, surrounded by the stuff. I wonder (naively) why there aren't some specialist new/secondhand poetry bookshops, in cheap locations (off high street). If they linked it to a cafe for reading, it would presumably work - it does for cartoon/graphic novels. Anne Stevenson (I think) had one in Hay on Wye

If Astley was saying he wanted more varied poetry in bookshops, yes I agree too. But the bit about publishing and "ignoring their readership"?

Just bought your book, on Salt. Their productions are fantastic now - just reviewed Giles Goodland's book, which has an amazing cover (and contents).


I'm not sure Astley is really arguing for more new and varied poetry in bookshops; isn't he saying that bookshops don't stock much poetry because the poetry being written and published won't sell, and the reason it won't sell is because it's not what readers want? So,

"If bookshops ignore their customers, they go out of business. When poetry publishers and reviewers ignore their readership, this is called "maintaining critical standards". And they still expect the public to defer to their judgement and accept their offerings, because they know best."

That's how I read this, anyway, and that's why I think he's talking rubbish most of the time.

Michael Peverett

Well I like bookshops too - all of them, charity shops, remaindered cheapies, antiquarian stuff and my local one; yes, they're the still the best places for running across books in other genres that you didn't know existed and never thought you wanted. But I think they're useless for contemporary poetry.

I don't really agree with Jane about not being able to browse poetry in advance. Nearly all the poets I've got interested in recently - the interest probably sparked from someone saying something that stopped me in my tracks on sites like this - nearly all those poets had generous groups of poems on ezines and elsewhere, and increasingly, free eBooks which are becoming a crucial nexus for a poet seeking to extend their audience beyond the already committed. So when I went on to buy - as a recent example - Catherine Daly's books, I'd never seen them in a shop but I was already completely confident that I had to have them.

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