Monday, 20 December 2010

How not to get your poetry published

The wonderful Helena Nelson has cropped up in this blog before, over her editorship of Sphinx and a recent book launch shared between her and our writer (and her publisher, for she is a poet too) John Lucas. Last year Helena published How Not to Get Your Poetry Published, a nicely produced pamphlet available for a fiver from, or from bookshops via 978-1-905939-32-9. That's an ISBN, an International Standard Book Number, not, as she says in the pamphlet, an International Standard Serial Number, and not, as she says elsewhere in the pamphlet, an ISBN number ie an ISB Number number. But ignore these trivial errors, this pamphlet should be bought by every aspiring poet. If every aspiring poet read this pamphlet - as well as reading poetry - they would save themselves, and publishers, much time. I might argue with Helena over a later chapter where she, while not advocating self-publishing, gives some handy hints on that, but I would not argue with her when she says "publishing poetry makes me poorer". Publishing poetry makes most publishers poorer, and, even if it doesn't, it takes up a lot of time - Helena usefully describes what publishers actually do. Even more usefully she simply, chattily, and by giving examples, leads any poet aspiring to be published, through the maze. She also suggests that the poet might ask themselves why they feel they really need to write, to be published, rather than simply "become a quality reader". She ends by quoting the four lines from Lawrence Binyon "They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:/Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn./ At the going down of the sun and in the morning/ We will remember them." - probably the only lines of his that we know, and most people would not know who wrote them, but the lines remind us that "[poets] end up trying to market .... ourselves... when the most important use of our time is ... to develop our skills with language and to write as well (and as simply) as we can."
ps - the image above is from the cover of the pamphlet under review, see for more, and for terms of use

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