The thrill of it all: a big night out with the Best of Manchester Poets
Having never been to a book launch before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I knew was that I was really excited about attending and reading, but most of all, utterly thrilled that the editors thought one of my poems good enough to be included in the book, as it seems to me that the Best of Manchester Poets, published by Puppywolf, carries a certain amount of kudos. Write Out Loud members are well-represented in volume 2 of the anthology, with at least 21 names that I recognise – there may well be more.
It feels quite bizarre actually – I only started writing poetry in September 2010, and here I am, a published poet already! I try to be all nonchalant and cool about it, like this is just an everyday thing to happen to me, but the fact is I’m like a kid on too much sherbert and have told absolutely everyone I know, twice.
The brilliant performance poet and compere Dominic Berry, pictured, centre, was the host with the most at the Eighth Day Cafe on Oxford Road. The café offers a wonderful range of vegan and vegetarian food, and also holds regular music nights, art exhibitions, and other events. The venue was packed to the rafters with standing room only, the room buzzing with anticipation, and the timing for the event impeccable. Dominic kept an extremely tight schedule, managing to fit 40 performances into two hours, which was no mean feat. I don’t have the space to list all those included in the book, but if you buy a copy you can see for yourself. These were the poets who were able to read on the night:
First half: Rod Tame, Fernando Smith, Rosie Garland (aka Rosie Lugosi), Tony Webb (aka Des Lexic of the Nearly Dead Poets Society), Joyce Reed, Dave Rigby, Cora Greenhill, Charlotte Gringras, Johnny Rogers, Angela Smith, Lynn Walton, Neil Fawcett, Harry Matthews, Janet Loverseed, Steven Waling, Laura Taylor, David Hulme, Brian Jones, Cynthia Buell Thomas, and Leanne Bridgewater.
Second half: Dave Viney, Stevie Turner (graceful in lace-up pink high heels!), KM Hallenberg, Gareth Twose, Steve Regan, Sue Stern, Dominic Berry, Matt Goodfellow, Sally Paradise, Stephen Hornby, Dai Parsons, Sue Barnard, Matthew Curry, Mantz Yorke, Rhiannon L Cree, Neil McCall, Charlotte Henson, Frances Sackett, Zach Roddis, and to finish, our very own lovely Joy France, the official WOL photographer for the night. Love the toaster hat, Joy!
At least one of the poets there, Brian Jones, was not only being published for the first time, but it was also his debut poetry performance. What a night to pick for your first time - and a great performance to boot. Brian is studying with the Open University, and his poem, Valium Skies, was written for an assignment. He submitted it to Puppywolf not daring to believe it would be accepted, and was amazed and delighted to find out it had been included. We both agree that BoMP will make the perfect Christmas gift for friends and family!
The book’s publishers Puppywolf are an independent company owned and run by Keir Thomas, pictured, right. Keir loves Manchester, and believes the city is “fast becoming the creative engine of the country”. The editorial team, including Keir, read through over 500 poems whilst maintaining a strict critical focus, and all on a voluntary basis. He said he had only recently realised that “Best of Manchester Poets is one of the biggest community arts projects in Manchester, if not the north-west. That caught me by surprise. We started it simply because we thought it would be useful, and to celebrate the Manchester poetry scene, which we reckon is unique.”
Puppywolf intend to publish BoMP every year, which is good news for us poets. Submissions for volume 3 will be invited around the middle of 2012, with a similar publication date to this year. They have already published two individual poetry collections by Manchester indie favourites Cathy Bryant and Angela Smith. Keir is passionate about pushing against what he refers to as the “blokeish culture” which he believes can be a big part of the poetry scene. You should come to Wigan, Keir – it is a hotbed of female creativity; we have so many talented female poets on the scene.
I was interested in whether Puppywolf receive funding or donations, or whether it is an entirely self-financed concern, and discovered that it could not exist without voluntary input, and the love of lots of people. Although he pays for the printing, Keir believes that it will never make any money. This brought it home to me how dedicated Keir and his team must be to invest such a huge effort in putting our “home-grown” poetry out there on the streets and the bookshelves. How many books of poetry did you buy lately? Me? None until now, which made me feel a little ashamed. We all want to be published, otherwise we wouldn’t submit our work to the likes of Puppywolf, but how many of us have gone to the bother of buying new poetry books by small publishers? Perhaps we need to put our money where our mouths and pens are, and try and support the small poetry publishers a little more, in whatever way we can. If anyone has any suggestions or advice on funding or donations for Puppywolf, Write Out Loud or any of the other hugely important resources out there, do please get in touch with Keir at email@example.com, or the team at WOL at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until 31 December 2011 WOL readers can buy BoMP2 from Puppywolf for just £8.99, including free p&p. The rrp is £9.99. For overseas orders, please email Keir at the email address above and he will be happy to give you a price.
I totally enjoyed my first book launch (yes, I am hoping for more!). Such a massive buzz, being amongst all that talent, knowing that I share pages with them. I would like to extend my thanks and admiration to Keir and his editors, on behalf of all the writers who submitted their work, and to all the poets who entertained us with their funny, moving, poignant, and lyrical words.
Photograph: Joy France