This time last Sunday the table downstairs was covered in endless printed copies of flyers to send out with chapter 4. Flyers for the three new publications, 'in print' lists, Sphinx lists, birthday party invitations. And so on.
It was a gruelling day. All day and into the evening. Fortunately (well, unfortunately for him) Matt has had some kind of nasty dermatitis-type infection on the soles of his feet, so while he sat with his feet in a bath of salted water, I gave him a box of envelopes and stamps.
Next day I filled two postboxes to the brim and staggered into Pitteuchar Post Office with two more enormous bagsful of ready-stamped packets.
I had thought my subscribers were down (some have died, some have lapsed) to about 100 but I underestimated. There are about 130, and thanks to the mailshot some wonderful people have enrolled new ones this week - another 6 or so already. And lots of them have sent in orders for the new publications. Thank you folk! So now there's another mountain of parcels downstairs.
Meanwhile, Clare Best's Treasure Ground is breaking HappenStance records by selling faster than any other publication so far. I've just packed up another 50 to send to Woodlands farmer Andrew Dennis who is selling them like hot carrots at Farmers' Markets. That leaves only 30 out of the entire print run. I think we really have reached Reader A this time.
Sphinx 12 will be in the hands of Levenmouth Printer's tomorrow, so that's me braced for the last mega post-out for that. A friend sent a postcard saying 'I hope you get that Marks and Spencers Award this year'. So that's it Michael Marks. Renamed forever, though only in secret on this public blog.
Today is for writing reviews, and I might get time to read a couple of magazines (and buy some food). Two of my favourites, The Dark Horse (which came last week and is still unopened) and The Rialto are still unread (the current Rialto cover is gorgeous).
And I am starting on the next pamphlets. Just tentatively. Just a wee nibble. The HappenStance bank account is not balanced enough to pay for the next lot yet, though Treasure Ground is helping. I have been thinking a lot about the financial side of things, about how poetry is not commercially viable really -- or I can't see that it is -- or I can't see that pamphlets can be -- not without ready outlets other than the poets themselves. Farmers Markets could never sell multiple poetry pamphlets. Fine words butter no parsnips.
But this means the role of the poet herself in selling the publications is incredibly important, which means active, out-there poets are valuable indeed. But not all poets can be 'active and out-there'.
And there is so much poetry. I often feel so saturated with contemporary verse that I have to read something older, something dyed-in-the-wool (which reminds me of Clare's sheep last week), some Coleridge, some Rossetti, some Soutar. I veer between celebrating the multiplicity of modern poets and being wholly overwhelmed by the impossibility of keeping up.
I wonder whether plays could ever sell without theatres and performances, and whether there isn't a connection with poetry-problem here. Not all poetry lends itself to performance maybe but there is more than one way of doing things. That relationship between the poetry and the person reading or hearing it, that dialogue. And yet there are so few plays compared to books of poetry. And plays have narrative and characters and lots of poetry doesn't. Thinking aloud in a blog is not a good idea. All the same, I am dying to hear Robin Vaughan-Williams perform The Manager. If that sequence isn't theatrical, I don't know what is. Meanwhile, Jon Stone is busily folding paper-characters, some of the strange strange characters in Scarecrows. . . .