litel myn tragedye,/Ther God thi makere yet, er that he dye, / So sende myght to make in som comedye! / But litel book, no makyng thow n’envie, / But subgit be to alle poesye; / And kis the steppes where as thow seest pace / Virgile, Ovide, Omer, Lucan, and Stace.
Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde c. 1380, lines 1786 – 1792.
But why am I thinking of Chaucer and his epic poem? Because I have a little book out myself! LOOK!
It really is a little book – a pamphlet, 24 poems, some of them over several pages – and I’m so pleased with the excellent job that Salt have done. I’ve said this before, but I find the pamphlet format very satisfying; the size allows for a tightly-controlled sequencing, where you’re able to create a clear trajectory of thought, or narrative arc or just a very strongly pointed-up series of connections between poems.
Not that I’m against publishing in a longer format. I’d love the chance to do that too. But in these straitened times, with the poetry presses’ lists getting fuller and fuller, those opportunities are a bit more squeezed. And while waiting for one of those opportunities, why not make use of the pamphlet? Or maybe, the pamphlet is the way forward in poetry publishing, and longer, single author volumes will be no longer viable? Scary but exciting thought…
Mine is perhaps a more conventional use of the format – genuinely, a little book – but artists and writers throughout history have made very creative and original uses of the pamphlet that challenge how we think about reading, books-as-objects… One excellent starting point for investigating this would be UCL’s Little Magazines, Alternative Press & Poetry Store Collections . Another would be the British Library – who host the Michael Marks Pamphlet Awards and have, as you’d expect, an extensive collection of independent and small press publications.
But I digress. The Bridle will be out at the end of November.