Saturday, February 10, 2007

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE MANAGERS AT WATERSTONE'S

this will go out today to the two or three waterstone's branches in my area

Dear Sir/ Madam,

I am writing to you in the interests of friendship and brotherhood--we all play our part in the literary and intellectual life of the country in different ways--to let you know about some writers and poets whose works you should be stocking in your bookshop.

There is a remarkable, dynamic global poetry scene today, which the authors I want to bring to your attention are a vital part of, and along with major publishing houses and mainstream media, the bookshops (by no means only Waterstone's), are ignoring it completely. Can this be right?

Yes, a few large publishers have a regular output of new poets, and to your credit, you do stock some of them from time to time. But they do not represent any of the contemporary schools, or bring anything to the table that hasn't been there since the first books of Ted Hughes; they are seen, perhaps a little unfairly, but they are seen nevertheless, as men and women who have come up through the mainstream, with their publishing contracts being more of a reward for knowing and serving the interests and the egos of the "right" people rather than for their poetry talents.

I appreciate that a bookshop is a business, and that if you don't make a profit you won't be able to pay your staff or keep the shop open; and a High Street needs at least one bookshop, even if it is understocked. And though I don't know how it all works, I would imagine that doing business with the major publishers is good business. I am not suggesting that you cut your ties with them. Nor am I suggesting that you stop selling all these new waves and new generations of polite and well-fed men and women referred to in the paragraph above. They have to make a living also--though I might (rather cheaply) suggest that reviewing their friends' works forever in the Observer or on Radio Four ought to be enough to put food on the table.

But don't you, if only in the interest of not misrepresenting yourselves, but also as one of the last bastions of intelligent life on the High Street, have some degree of responsibility for selling works that accurately reflect what's happening in the literary world now? Can it be right that none of the best living poets are currently available for purchase in your shops?

You mustn't sell your customers short. Author recognition may be a key factor in prompting somebody to buy a book, but could it be possible that curiosity might inspire a purchase also? Could it be possible, also, that your customers might already know some of the authors I am going to list for you below, and are waiting with credit card poised for a bookshop to have the courage to stock them? I know I'd pay good money for them, and I am an occasional Waterstone's customer (though I come into the shop less and less because I can't find what I'm looking for in there.)

And so to the list. Twenty living writers and poets whose works I haven't seen in any Waterstone's branch anywhere in the country, but whom, I would politely suggest, you should be stocking as important young/ old heroes and innovators of the contemporary literary scene. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but it will serve as an aperitif for the amazing feast that waits for anybody with the courage and the imagination to investigate it.

I can put you in touch with most of these authors if you wish to contact them.

TWENTY IMPORTANT CONTEMPORARY POETS AND WRITERS FOR THE BOOKSHOPS OF THE WORLD

in no specific order of talent

Norbert Blei
t.kilgore splake
Glenn Cooper
Paul Skyrm
Sharon Auberle
Todd Moore
Ralph Murre
Wild Bill Blackolive
Charles Plymell
Delphine Lecompte
John Dorsey
s.a.griffin
Antler
Ronald Baatz
Wred Fright
King Wenclas
Warren Dean Fulton
Pat King
Brenda Williams
Gerald Nicosia

I hope you will give some consideration to the points I've made and consider, either individually or as a company, investigating some of the authors listed. They have contributed to a general renaissance in world literature such as we haven't seen in at least five decades, and it is a crime their works aren't available for the reading public to enjoy.

Yours in hope of more enlightened times ahead,

Bruce Hodder

Poet, Critic, Founder Blue Fred Press.
bruce.hodder@tesco.net

7 comments:

tom said...

great list

i'd probably add carter monroe, mark hartenbach and ron androla to it. i've read most of the poets and have been lucky enough to publish a few. what is Wred Fright up to now days?

Hopefully the bookstores will take your advice. Big press and fancy binding doesn't always mean good writing.

Bruce Hodder said...

Yeah, I thought of Dave Church, Mark Weber and Mark Sonnenfeld as soon as I published the letter, and other names keep popping into my head all day, but it'll do as a support for my general statement. All of those people listed are fine authors, though I feel Norb is probably the Daddy, his comparative invisibility in literary terms the greatest crime--a couple of his novels should be in every bookshop in the world.

Where did you publish these guys?

Wred has just published a novel "The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus" (I think that's the title.) I've read the first chapter and it's wonderful. He's an active member of the Underground Literary Alliance, along with Blackolive, Pat King and Wenclas. All extremely good writers.

I doubt my letter will do much, but you never know. And as Henry Miller said to Lawrence Durrell, "They will shit on you anyway, so have your say first."

tom said...

over the years i have published several magazines - tandava 1981 to 1992

peshekee - in print and online 1998 - 2003

mt houghton miscellany and buddhas on ice - occasional magazines

also have done chapbooks - for a few folks over the years

often life has interfered and projects have been begun and abandoned

trying to get going on a new idea - occasional zines that will be more like anthologies - different name for each issue

saw a proof copy of the new winter edition of cliff soundings - looks great - photos by joe kirkish who is a copper country photographer - very very good - some nudes in the issue - joe is in his 80's and a retired english prof from Michigan Tech - one of only 4 profs that i remember from my 3 years at tech in the 60's - good man

as to the letter - who knows - maybe someone will take a look at them - i agree with your additions - have you ever been to ron's board
pressure press - glenn posts there, so does mark weber on occasion - bart solarczyk, cat townsend, and others you might have read over the years -

the book title for fred is (i think) the name of his band - and i believe i have read parts of it in a chapbook he sent me.

his doctoral thesis was on the small press- i have read parts of that too - good work

Glenn said...

Good work, Bruce. You can only try. And thanks for thinking of me. :)

Bruce Hodder said...

Tom,
Forgive me for my ignorance, you've obviously been doing good work for a long time. One of the great--and frustrating--things about the poetry racket is that however long you're in it, you can only ever scratch the surface of what is out there.

I have been to Androla's board from time to time, but not for a while. I wrote something about him a few months ago after reading an interview with him on Todd Moore's "Outlaw" site, and though it was meant to be a complex and well-reasoned article, I think it came across as a little insulting, judging by Ron's reply. Oh well, can't win them all...

Glenn said...

Hmmm, that doesn't sound like Ron. He must have misinterpreted what you'd written. I've never heard a nasty word from him about anyone -- except George Bush! :)

Bruce Hodder said...

I can be an arsehole at times, though, fighting the wrong battles with the wrong people for the wrong reasons. Like a liberal Ezra Pound without the mitigating brilliance. I can't really remember what I said about Ron, but it had something to do with cliques publishing each other's works, or big names automatically getting into magazines while better poets were sometimes overlooked--something like that. Or I was saying that the small press poets despite their outlaw pretensions were really conformists because they wrote to please each other, whereas I (the great "I") wrote only for me and my poetry was like a growl thrown into the wind because nobody liked it.

Yeah, anybody else smell the self-pity?

This is what I said somewhere about reconsidering my old habit of postiong too recklessly on "Suffolk Punch". It may briefly entertain those who like their coffee strong and bitter, but it does make you look an idiot at times.

The irony is, I really like Androla as a poet. His "Poet Head" collection is one of my favourite books by a living poet.