They are arriving from all quarters, by mail, by email, by Facebook, by hand, in my sleep and waking. Can't keep up. Ever felt like that? Yep. I thought so.

Then you calm down a bit and one little line or so gets through with its calm, quiet voice and things are all right again.


Pile of pamphlets
Pile of pamphlets

Snow has gone. It's raining poems instead. I can't keep up with the pamphlet update. I'm trying valiantly to get the tripartite reviews edited and online, but I cannot tell a lie: I'm behind on that too.

Working on Sphinx 12 still. Great interviews with Alex McMillen (Templar) and Chris Hamilton-Emery (Salt). And I've got Gerry Cambridge talking about professional type-setting -- must read for anyone thinking of calling in a typesetter, and GC is The Best. His work on the two recent Mariscat pamphlets, Susie Maguire's How to Hug and Lesley Harrison's One Bird Flying, is superb. These are gorgeous publications to have and hold. Great reading too.

Back at the range, A Conversation with Ruth Pitter -- a record of Thomas McKean's visits to her home in Long Crendon in the 80s -- is mainly ready. Just huffing and puffing about the cover just now. Ruth was a wonderful person, and the end is particularly moving (and comforting).

Submissions still arriving. I'm getting less subtle. Last year I lost money on publications, quite a bit. Sphinx has a lot to do with that so I hope things will get back to a balance after the paper issue ceases. But now when poets send work I'm starting to say outright, "Subscribe. Help the press. Subscribe." It's not just a matter of helping the cash flow (though it does help if people not only subscribe but also buy three or four pamphlets during the year); it's the whole business of establishing a good quality reader base. I like subscribers who tell me what they think of the publications (good or bad). It's important. Lots of them go on to become Sphinx reviewers too. I think quality reading and quality writing are inextricably bound up. Most of the poets I've published stay subscribers too, and the invisible network grows. I am grateful to them.

If a person sending me work doesn't seem to have taken an interest in the publications on the list, makes no mention of reading or liking them, a feeling of intense (and unreasonable) gloom starts to afflict me.

It's not their fault. They just don't understand how it works. They probably still think publishers are powerful and anonymous people who have vast power to sell poetry all over the place. Poetry is hard to shift, especially if you want it to go to people who will read it -- not just the aunts, uncles, cousins and writer-pals of the poet. Sphinx (among other publications) has tried to open up the truth of all this -- all the stories of all the independent publishers, the self-publishers, the poet -- but it's only ever had a relatively small readership. And it takes time.

The very nice people at Inpress invited me to join up. They help sell stuff. They produce a very nice brochure too -- and a poet friend sent a copy recently. But there are two problems with that. 1. You have to pay for their service. 2. You have to send them a stream of information, jpgs of book covers, marketing information etc, as well as doing all this for your own website, for the various other places you have to send it and so on. That takes time.

Time! The most precious thing in human existence, with the exception of Health.

And even with a special offer and online only, someone who is not making profit has reservations about paying an agency to do what you're already doing, unless you're wholly convinced they are doing much better, or more advantageously.