Monday, 13 June 2011

Marksmanship

Eyewear has just returned from the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets, supported by the Michael Marks Charitable Trust, and the British Library.  One can hardly think of better supporters for such an ephemeral and perishable form as the chapbook, or as they tend to call it in the UK, pamphlet.  More people should attend this event, it is in its way as thrilling as the T.S. Eliot Prize - it buzzes with enthusiasm for the subterranean, the innovative, and the unsung.  This year, the pamphlets in contention were Neil Addison's Apocapulco (Salt); Simon Armitage's The Motorway Service Station as a Destination in its Own Right (Smith/Doorstep); Olive Broderick's Darkhaired (Templar); Sean Burn's mo thunder from Knives, Forks and Spoon; Ralph Hawkins for Happy Whale Fat Smile (Oystercatcher); James McGonigal's Cloud Pibroch (Mariscat); and The Lotion by Sophie Robinson (Oystercatcher).


Cloud Pibroch won; it is beautifully printed 32 page collection with two short poems to each page (in some senses, a full collection in disguise, as it has 45 poems).  Armitage, as always, read splendidly.  Edmund Hardy read for Ralph Hawkins who couldn't be there.  Lavinia Greenlaw wittily hosted as chair of judges, with Richard Price and Robert Hampson - an impressive panel perfectly balancing the full spectrum of the contemporary poetics of the UK now.  It seems that the pamphlet is really coming back into its stride with this prize - there were a 118 entrants.

The winner of the Publishers' Award was The Crater Press, a small family-run enterprise that has published, among others, Keston Sutherland and Peter Hughes.  Perhaps the most astonishing claim of the night, which was met with embarrassed silence, was when the publisher of also-nominated Mariscat Press observed that he didn't make money from pamphlets and didn't seek to; they were flexible, supple, tough things, so that "pamphlets don't need subsidies to survive".  A good point.  The free-wheeling and perhaps tipsy publisher of The Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, failing to recall the name of any of his poets at first, claimed to have sold over 4,000 units since starting last year, and enjoyed "pumping them out".  Rude health, then it looks like. Attend next year!  On a final note, the highlight of the evening for me was chatting with Simon Armitage about the latest Arctic Monkeys album.
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