22 October 2017
Next week, Monday 30 October, is a red letter day for me. After a gap of thirty nine years, my second collection of poems, ‘Sax Burglar Blues’, will appear, published by Seren Books. This has been a dream journey. Although I always tell my students about the importance of putting their writing ‘out there’, into the world of journals and magazines, I’m a poor model and very slow at sending my poems out.
I do love poetry readings, however: the immediacy of the heard word. And for a number of years, my favourite event has been First Thursday at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff, run by Seren Books and the Mulfran Press. The format is simple. Two or three guest readers are featured in the first half, given 15 minutes each to read from their books – occasionally prose, but mostly poetry – then there’s an open mic in the second half for the wide range of people who come along. The wonderful Seren Poetry Editor, Amy Wack, acts as compere and she must be the most encouraging editor in the world, always finding something to say in response to the open mic contributions.
I owe ‘Sax Burglar Blues’ to Amy. After I’d been attending First Thursday for six or eight months and taking part in the open mic, Amy had a quiet word and suggested that I send her a collection. I was excited but also anxious because at the time I just didn’t have enough stuff ready to submit. It was an opportunity I didn’t want to lose, desperately didn’t want to let pass me by, but I think it must have taken the best part of a year to reach the point where I had just about enough poems to put together into a draft collection. And you can’t imagine – well, perhaps you can, anyone could – how overjoyed I was when Amy said she’d put my collection to the Seren Board with a view to publication. Several nervous months later, I got the text from Amy one afternoon: ‘You’re through! Autumn 2017.’
Eighteen months later, we’re almost there. It seemed like a long run-in time at the start but looking back, time has flown. Re-working, re-organising, cutting poems out, putting new ones in, proof-reading, agreeing the cover-design, finding endorsements, booking gigs – it has been busy, energising and fruitful. Now I have copies in front of me. They look like creatures of beauty to me. Beautiful and a little wild with the fabulous cover-art by New York jazz artist, Jeff Schlanger. But I am particularly looking forward to the launch next Monday evening in Bristol when I will be able to read to many lovely friends and to acquaintances from the Bristol poetry world, and I’m looking forward, too, to Thursday 2 November, when I will be back in Cardiff at First Thursday, reading as one of the featured guest writers alongside the fabulous stalwart Red Poet from Merthyr, Mike Jenkins.
My 2012 pamphlet from Pighog Press in Brighton was called ‘Waiting for the Wave’. The wave is about to arrive.