Skip to main content

The Writers Handbook 2011

The Writers Handbook is an invalauble source for British-based writers and poets, and I have most of its issues for the last decade. 2011 is quite a departure - at least in one way.  Chris Hamilton-Emery's poetry section provides an extraordinary list of the ten best things in poetry of the "noughties" - which I found somewhat eyebrow-raising, to be sure.

Among the people and events and developments selected as the most important of the last decade are Andrew Motion, for being a great poet laureate (which he was); a key figure at Faber & Faber; and Keston Sutherland - the only poet singled out as such - for all he has done and does, etc.  Also mentioned are the publishers Salt and Shearsman, and the appearance of digital networking communities.

The article goes on to predict that in "ten years" there will not be much in the way of printed books of poetry, in the UK, and they will not be sold or marketed in "bricks and mortar" ways.  Instead, almost all poets will self-publish in digital formats - he predicts there may even be a Don Paterson Inc. - and seek audiences of mutual aesthetic interest.  Poems, not poetry collections, will be bought or acquired, and in fact, most ebooks will be free.

Hamilton-Emery was not the only evangelist for digital and online poetry - I was, along with many others.  Dan Mitchell and I started the first Facebook Poetry group, for example, and now have over 22,000 members. So I feel I can add to this debate. I think his article is wrong, in some ways, though correct in others, though it is a bit dramatic.

Luke Kennard seems to be more influential on his generation than Sutherland, who, though brilliant, has not had the same aesthetic impact on how most young British poets actually write.  Giles Goodland is a more intriguing hybrid poet, anyway.  Or Tom Chivers.  Roddy Lumsden has done more than Sutherland as editor and mentor to shape the current climate.

More to the point, I don't think poetry books (printed) will disappear in ten years.  I think ebooks will be part of the market, but people who love poetry will continue to want collections.  I think poetry is a strange market, to be sure.  Faber had 80% of the UK market in 2000 - has that changed?

To my mind, the five most important developments in poetry of the last decade in the UK were:

1. The rise of Facebook, Myspace, and digital networking and electronic dissemination of poetry;
2. Post 9/11, the rise of a new politicisation of poetry, and interest in eco-poetics, and consequent return of an art-for-art alternative;
3. The YBP wave, heralded and supported by a new respect for pamphlets, and Creative Writing MAs in Britain;
4. A rise in hybrid/ fusion poetics that avoid the us-and-them divides of mainstream-experimental
5. Fiona Sampson as editor of Poetry Review

I do agree that the death of Michael Donaghy was galvanising and important, as was the death of Mick Imlah, an equally talented poet, and the Bloodaxe anthologies have done a great service to new readers of poetry.  Hopefully, this list of his will get people talking.  But for someone who sells books, it is worrying to hear the looming demise of the physical print book being tolled so soon.  Hold them bells!
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog


According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…


Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…


The Oscars - Academy Awards officially - were once huge cultural events - in 1975, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Shirley MacLaineandBob Hope co-hosted, for example - and Best Picture noms included The Conversation and Chinatown. Godfather Part 2 won. Last two years, movies titled Birdman and Spotlight won, and the hosts and those films are retrospectively minor, trifling. This year, some important, resonant films are up for consideration - including Hidden Figures and Moonlight, two favourites of this blog. Viola Davis and Denzel Washington will hopefully win for their sterling performances in Fences. However, La La Land - the most superficial and empty Best Picture contender since Gigi in 1959 (which beat Vertigo) - could smite all comers, and render this year's awards historically trivial, even idiotic.

The Oscars often opt for safe, optimistic films, or safe, pessimistic films, that are usually about white men (less often, white women) finding their path to doing the right thin…