Friday, June 26, 2009

The Pleasant Sound of Poetry Sales Increasing

A wee while back, I speculated about the preception and truth of poetry sales. This was before the BBC's admirable poetry season and Salt's cash crisis. Now, today, courtesy of Matt Merritt, I found this article on the effect the Beeb's tranche of programmes has had on poetry sales.

Or, to be more precise, the sales of some poetry books. All by dead white poets, though one of them isn't male. Some of the percentages are staggering, and I can't help but wonder whether there was any similar effect on sales for the contemporary poets who featured as talking heads in Owen Sheers's series on BBC4. They each got to read a poem of theirs, but they were largely there to discuss the poet and poem under scrutiny (and a good thing it was too; I'd much rather have fellow poets do that than non-poet academics).

Would a similar run of programmes on living poets have a similar effect on sales of their works? I guess the Beeb might not find it so easy to get hold of knowledgable, articulate, well-known enthusiasts to present flagship programmes for such a season, but it's well worth a shot. (Any commissioning editors reading this?)

In not unconnected news, Chris Hamilton-Emery blogs compellingly about the origins of, and response to, Salt's "Just One Book" campaign. This, like the response to the BBC season, demonstrates that there is a market for poetry*. The problem is 1) tapping it and 2) broadening it. That's where a well-researched, well-produced, well-presented season on contemporary poetry could do the art a world of good. The public, of course, needs a way into any art form, especially when the reality of its practice challenges their perceptions. The Beeb has shown how it can achieve that. The challenge now is to take that into new territory.

*The Ambulance Box is now into its third print run!

Taking Lines for a Walk

Today's tour stop is at the blog of Dundee-born artist Douglas Robertson. Doug has turned our chat via Facebook messages into a fine post about my sequence of "Hebridean Thumbnails", incorporating the poems themselves and beautiful, deft sketches he has created to accompany them. I say it's about the sequence, but that's really only the jumping-off point for a discussion of monostiches and minimalism in art more generally, exploring some of the connections between writing and visual art.

Next week also sees two tour stops: on Monday, Dumbfoundry hosts Ivy Alvarez's interview with me; on Thursday, I'll be getting slightly political and theological over at Mark Calder's Boxologies blog. Owing to the London gig and some redecorating at home, I might not get the chance to link to Ivy's post until Thursday. Should be quicker off the mark with Mark's, though.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

One Day Late

Whoops! I've got a day behind myself in posting the links to my Cylone virtual book tour. Thankfully, Claire Askew is on the ball and posted her interview with me on her One Night Stanzas blog yesterday as advertised. Drop by and read about how I became a writer, how I got from my first poem to my first collection, why I think literary blogs are a good thing and more.

If you're following the tour, you're in for a treat on Friday, when we stop by the blog of Scottish artist Douglas Robertson. Words and pictures ...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Lemon Monkey Approaches

Less than a week now till Rob A Mackenzie and I hit Stoke Newington! I'm hugely excited about this opportunity for us to read with Katy Evans-Bush and Yang Lian. Katy read a great set at the Jekyll and Hyde a week past Sunday.

I first came across Yang Lian when I did some Chinese lit -- in translation, I hasten to add -- at uni. I was impressed with the movement to which he belongs, the misty poets, though we focused on Bei Dao. I also heard Yang Lian read at Edinburgh international book festival a few years ago with his Scottish translators, the Holton brothers. There were some particularly striking Scots translations of some of his work, which are available as the Kettilonia pamphlet. Whaur the Deep Sea Devauls. He'll be reading from his next book, Lee Valley Poems -- his first based on his life as a Londoner.

If you're in or near London, come and join us at Lemon Monkey between 7 pm and 9 pm on Monday 29 June. (Facebook event here.) Meanwhile, here's a taste of Yang Lian, speaking about his book Concentric Circles, courtesy of Bloodaxe:

Yang Lian from Neil Astley on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

thePROJECT2: In the Flesh

I'll be busy on Saturday: besides the Word Power reading (see the post below), I'll be popping up along with Rob A Mackenzie at the thePROJECT2. Twice, in fact: 2 pm at the Lot and 7:30 pm at the Pleasance Cabaret Bar. Booking information here. It's a varied and interesting programme.

thePROJECT is an exploration of the arts from a Christian perspective. Or of faith from an artistic perspective. Or of life, from a third perspective I can't think up. The universe and everything are probably in there too. Anyway, as part of the journey towards a larger festival in 2011, thePROJECT is putting on a series of small, more organic events this year and next, starting with a half-day festival that doesn't seem that small scale on Saturday. More information here.

Powering Up

Come to Word Power, 43-45 West Nicolson Street, Edinburgh this Saturday for a feast of fine verse. The reading starts at 12 noon sharp, finishes at 1pm. And it’s free! We'll all have books for sale.

Matt Merritt lives near Leicester. His first collection, Troy Town, was published in March 2008 by Arrowhead Press and his chapbook, Making The Most Of The Light, in 2005 by Happenstance Press.

Rob A Mackenzie’s chapbook, The Clown of Natural Sorrow, was published by HappenStance Press in 2005. His first collection, The Opposite of Cabbage was published by Salt in March 2009.

Andrew Philip has published two poetry pamphlets with HappenStance Press—Tonguefire and Andrew Philip: A Sampler. The Ambulance Box, his first book of poems, was published in March by Salt.

James W Wood’s pamphlet, The Theory of Everything, was published by Happenstance Press in 2006, and Inextinguishable by Knucker Press in 2008.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Getting Crafty

This week, the Ambulance Box virtual book tour stops off at Fiona Veitch Smith's fine blog The Crafty Writer, a rich resource of information about the craft and business of writing. Click here to read my poem "Lullaby", our discussion of writing as therapy, the marketing of writing in Scots, getting your poetry published and more besides.

Next week, things hot up with two stops. More of that anon ...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Weebles Wobble but How Do They Write?

Lifting the Lid: the Ambulance Box virtual book tour gets under way today over at Our sweet old etcetera ... the blog of the Scottish Poetry Library. Pop by and read about my earliest influences, Weebles, my writing methods and more besides.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Word(s) on Sunday

April, may be the cruelest month, but June is shaping up to be the busiest. This Sunday coming (14th), I'll be doing not one but two readings. First of all, you can join me and a variety of other Linlithgow-based authors in the marquee at the Rugby Club for "Take Tea With an Author", a free event, with all donations going to Donaldson's school for the deaf, which is now based in the town. There will be tea, coffee, home baking and books. The other authors are: Ian Emerson, Harry Knox, Douglas Watt, Jane McKie, Wallace Lockhart and Ewan McVicar.

In the evening, you'll find me sharing the Crypt Bar of the Jekyll & Hyde in Edinburgh with Zorras, my fellow former Shore Poet Allan Crosbie, and fellow Salt poet and blogger exraordinaire, Katy Evans-Bush. You can read my poem "Lullaby" and a biog note at the Poetry at the ... site. In fact, it's been up there since 31 May, but I've been rather tardy in blogging it (sorry, Rob!). Should be a great evening.

More gigs to come this month, including a bundle in Edinburgh on Sat 20th and what promises to be a cracker in London on 29th, where I'll be reading with Rob A Mackenzie, Katy Evans-Bush again and the distinguished Chinese "misty poet" Yang Lian.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Sustainable Development

This latest update on Just One Book comes courtesy of the blog of Salt short story writer Elizabeth Baines:

We’ve been busy campaigning over the last two weeks to save Salt. The business has faced some serious financial difficulties as the recession hit us hard. I’m pleased to say we’ve stabilised the business, but we still need to build our cash reserves to secure our future. We’d like to thank all our customers for supporting us; but more than that, we thought we’d offer everyone a summer treat:—


We’re now giving you a huge 33% off ALL books till the end of June. Use the coupon code G3SRT453 when in the checkout to benefit. Don't forget if you spend £30 or $30 you get free shipping too.

Please continue to spread the word, and spread news of this offer. Please don't let up. It's been extraordinary, but we're not out of danger yet. Every penny goes into developing Salt's books and services. We want to start a new children's list, and offer more resources to teachers and schools. We want to extend our publishing in new areas including our translations programme, we want to offer you more free magazines online. We want to help develop more support for debuts with the enhancement of our Crashaw and Scott prizes. We're planning audio books, ebooks and new videos for you. We only want to move forward, to develop and expand what we do and deliver great books in new ways to you and yours.

We need your support throughout June. We'll try and organise more readings and promotions with our authors. Virtual book tours. More launches. We'll work with bookstores to bring you short story and poety evenings. Stick with us throughout June and we can do something astonishing. That's the power of Just One Book — we want you to be a part of it. Follow us on Twitter look for #SaltBooks and #JustOneBook. Join our Facebook Group.

And have a giggle at the vid, too.

Oh, and one last special offer — Catherine Eisner’s magnificent crime novel, Sister Morphine for £7.50 plus P&P, simply enter coupon code EISNER in the UK checkout

Watch out for more special offers throughout June.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

A Whale of a Cabbage

While you're waiting for the All New Ambulance Box Tour to begin, why not have a look at Rob A Mackenzie's De-Cabbage Yourself Tour? It kicked off this week at Very Like A Whale, where Rob answers questions about Scottish identity and his writing; cabbages (such a solid vegetable); putting his book together; being classed as an urban writer; and emotional impact versus detached irony. If any of that sounds dry or academic, you obviously don't know Rob.

"Rapturous even in despair"

Many thanks to Robert Peake for his sensitive and enthusiastic review of The Ambulance Box. As Robert says, he and I share the grief of having lost a newborn son, so his assessment of the book is of particular significance to me. Here's a taste:

Sentimentality and easy words seem as though they might never have been invented in the remarkable worldview Andrew hands us in this book.

Robert's blog is well worth a look. He too writes movingly about his loss and intelligently about poetry. As you'll have seen below, I'll be stopping by his site for my virtual book tour on 8 July. I think that promises to be a very special leg of the journey.

It worked!

I was delighted to read this Facebook status update from Salt's Chris Hamilton-Emery mid afternoon today:

Salt is now commissioning again, including a children's poetry list. Thanks for buying us time & for saving the press.

Tremendous news! Many thanks to everyone who bought books and helped this vital publisher not only continue but push forward. Double helpings of thanks to those of you who bought The Ambulance Box.

Of course, like any business, Salt needs to maintain sales to keep going, so please continue to buy from their great poetry, short story and other lists. As an extra enticement, there's 33% off throughout June. Just use the coupon code G3SRT453 in the checkout of Salt's online store (US store here).

Lifiting the Lid: the Ambulance Box Virtual Book Tour!

From Wednesday next week, I'll be popping up here and there on the blogosphere, subjecting myself to the inquisitions of a varied bunch of bloggers. Here's the full itinerary*:

The links above will magically trasform into permalinks for each post as we progress and the same will happen over at Salt's repository for virtual tours, Cyclone, where you'll also be able to read profiles of participating blogs.

Tag along. Ask questions. Make comments. View the video. Buy the T-shirt**. Most of all, enjoy yourselves.

*The 2, 15 and 22 July dates are still to be confirmed.

**Just kidding about the T-shirt. But then again ...

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Reading the Leaves This Friday

On Friday this week, I'll be through in Glasgow to read at Tchai Ovna, Otago Lane. The reading starts at 8 pm. Also appearing are poets Colin Donati and Jim Carruth, crime fiction writer Alex Gray and writer/poet Stewart Ennis.

What's New on Tonguefire