Last night Scottish Pamphlet Poetry organised a pamphlet fair, to which I was invited by Mary Thomson, who produces the most beautiful small books of illustrated poems – she doesn’t have a web-site, so I can’t post a link.
I was feeling fairly discouraged when I arrived. The night was wet and cold, the library appeared to be locked, and I’d just had the worst chicken Caesar salad I have ever seen in my life. However, there were signs helpfully directing us to a door that was open, and after that things looked up dramatically.
Inside there were tables where people were selling their pamphlets. It’s unbelievable how much good poetry you can get for a couple of quid, and some publishers – perhaps it would be unfair to single out Perjink Press, but they’re the ones I remember – go out of their way to make the pamphlets look and feel really lovely to handle and read. I didn’t buy nearly enough, and not half as much as the sellers would have liked, I bet, but I have more than exceeded my poetry budget this year (again) so it will have to do. Nobody any good is allowed to bring out a book until the start of the next financial year!
I met a great many friends, largely, but not confined to, people I knew from Callander. Poetry is such a solitary occupation that is is more than usually cheering to meet up with other poets, and it was nice to have it assumed I would have something to sell! There were readings, limited with ferocious military precision, to two minutes, which meant they could fit thirty-six readings into three hours (with intervals). And if you incurred the penalty, you got a bag of chocolate coins, which must have sweetened the blow more than somewhat.
In the intervals there was wine, (or orange juice)and home-made mince pies, and the bran tub, where for a pound I got AC Clark’s The Gallery on the Left, full of excellent poems about Vermeer and Cezanne. And music. I wish I could remember the names of the musicians because they played wonderful traditional music.
I had to leave early, because trains to Stirling run only once an hour after seven, and I had no idea how long it would take me to get to the station. But I left full of admiration not only for the poets, but for the organisation which could bring together so many talented people to put on such an event.