Summer in Fife has gone away again. Yesterday it rained most of the day and was grey and chilly. Meanwhile news reports persist of heat waves and droughts in England. No need to water the garden here. And who cares? The smell of honeysuckle in the rain is amazing. And lilac. I have no lilac in my garden but I love lilac in the rain so much I would tramp miles just to breathe it in.
Last week was spent achieving much less than expected (as usual). This is submissions month and they have been steadily arriving. However, it's been good carefully reading them and finding interesting things in every envelope. I am predisposed in favour of those who have researched the press. It isn't difficult to find out something about the way I work. Nor is it rocket science to have read (and sent feedback on) some of the publications.
I also brood a lot about this business of expecting a poet to promote and sell the work, since some people sending work in clearly haven't thought about this side of things. I don't like the idea of poet as promotional whizzkid but without their active involvement, sales will be low. I go daft doing flyers and publicity, and sending out things to those and such as those, and PBS choice and Callum Macdonald and Michael Marks, and review copies and word of mouth. Even then, so much more could be done if I had more time. I'm endlessly grateful to my own poets, most of whom are wonderfully effective in drumming up trade -- and not just for their own publications -- for HappenStance in general.
Chris Hamilton-Emery says somewhere that not all poets want to sell their work. That sounds crazy but there's truth in it. Poets want readers but not the messy business of selling. Poetry should be purer than that, poets uncontaminated by filthy lucre. Publishers are obliged to get contaminated. Otherwise, they can't stay in the business of printing the next harvest from Mount Parnassus. Although it would be nice just to give the poetry away. Secretly I do quite a lot of that.
Generosity's an underrated poetic attribute. Generous poets buy (and help promote) the work of their friends and peers. I learned this early on, when my first collection was published. A couple of established poet friends sent for several copies and passed them on to friends. I was deeply touched (and surprised), but I remembered this, and have done it for others since. What goes around comes around, as they say in Fife. Generous poets sell well because their friends and peers return the favour.
I've been working on the current set of Sphinx reviews too. It takes a long time to edit all the work and subdue it into the correct format (three reviews on each pamphlet). Assembling three reviews, doing the edit, working out the stripe rating, getting it into web format and posting it on the website takes at least an hour per pamphlet, and currently I'm working on 21 of these, with some still to come in.
I'm planning to give some sort of fanfare to those with the highest rating this time: Sphinx high-stripers. Not money, but kudos. Here's a useless but interesting fact: the mistaken idea that 'kudos' is a plural noun has led to another word, 'kudo'. You could, theoretically, be awarded one kudo. How many kudos did you expect, kiddo?