Friday 1 February 2013

Literary Salon

On Jan 30th I did a talk for the Leamington Spa Literary Salon, in Leamington's Real Tennis club, which is in the city centre. We have a court in Cambridge, but I've never been. Before the talk I had a chance to watch a few points being played - looks like a mix of tennis and squash.

I read 2 poems from "Moving Parts" and 2 stories (one from "By All Means") to an audience of 40 or so, talked about creating characters (the risks of using family, etc), and tried to provoke a discussion about the state of poetry and short stories in the UK, especially regarding sales. I said that a long time ago all literature was poetry but now it's barely read. Though cultural people are polite about it, they don't feel obliged to read the latest poetry book in the way that they'd watch a film or read a talked-about novel. My limiting definition of poetry quite rightly came into the discussion.

I tried to approach it rather like an upmarket, cultural stand-up gig (indeed, I was followed by a stand-up comedian/ artist, who was jolly). Having read about how stand-ups can have bad experiences, I was rather apprehensive about dealing with an unknown audience. It was the first talk of that type that I've done - useful practise. On How much should writers charge for events? it suggests fees of £150 but the groups I know couldn't cope with that (Jeffrey Archer spoke to our local writers group for nothing), and anyway it was good to see so many people coming out for the evening. See An evening of short stories, poetry and comedy for another write-up.


  1. I do feel guilty for not being more excited (or even at all excited) over new poetry releases. Never once have I felt that desperate urge to rush out and buy the new book by such-and-such; most of the poets who might have engendered that feeling had already been laid to rest by the time I’d started buying books myself or at least were on their last legs. I read a Facebook entry a couple of days ago where the only person I know who actually does get excited about new books of poetry was debating which of three to buy and I didn’t know who any of the poets were. Other than the current poet laureate I doubt I could name a half dozen big name British poets, i.e. people published by the likes of Bloodaxe of Faber. And I’m not worried by that fact. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit it though. I’m a poet and so I should be interested in the poetry of my peers but here’s the thing—I don’t really think of these people as my peers; they belong to some other strange world that I’m not a part of nor feel the slightest bit attracted to. There’s a bit of inverse snobbery going on here I’m sure.

  2. I'm in no rush to buy poetry books either (though I was anxious to get 2 books about poetry, edited by Tom Chivers).

    I asked them if they'd bought any poetry books in the last year. About 5% had, and not just as presents. I asked them to name some living UK poets and they named several - Cope, etc.

    I'd meant to ask them similar questions about short story writers ...