Everything moved at what to us then was a fair pace.
A package from War Dog magazine landed on the mat, my subscription copy plus a few complimentaries because I had three poems in it. I went round to show them to Chris Davenant who lived not far from the Racehorse pub.
He looked at this flimsy thing with respect. Though he was by no means a literary cove, he did admire George Orwell and had made his pilgrimage to Jura.
Chris conned the magazine, read my three poems, and handed it back without comment. It was evident from his face that he accepted I’d scored a palpable success.
He could talk about these literary gems later, to Magnus Parfitt. He could mention them to Roy Leakes. And he would, I knew it.
This was the carousel of fame, as we conceived of it, in motion. They would have received their copy in the post, no doubt, probably the same day as I did. The magazine emanated from Huddersfield which back then (the early ‘90s) was considered a new Athens of poesy. (Didn’t it have Simon Armitage, Janet Fisher and Peter Sansom to its credit, plus numerous others?)
I’d visited Huddersfield and seen nearby Wakefield, where the prison stands, from the train.
Nowadays, you get something on a website, so what?
You set up a home page—anyone looking at it? No. Not many.
In fact, you may actually be getting further and reaching more people than you would through the mails, but your perception of your success is less.
At least now you know where you stand, you’re not rhapsodising as you piss into the hollyhocks. The fluffy dream of authorship with its pipe cases, blotting paper and leather reinforced elbows on the cord jacket can be abandoned.
Back then old Campbell Gooch the optician, quite a rich man in our way of viewing it, could spend plenty of money and put together a thin, well-printed magazine which actually paid its poets.
He could believe and did believe he was achieving something. Though it was a coolish fire, a bit over-rural, that it purveyed, the magazine did achieve something. Not white-hot, no. But it achieved something.
In ebooks the literary is nowhere. Doesn’t sell. Probably, it never really sold. We just didn’t know it.
In the same way, the second hand book trade has taken a blow. We know now how rare most First Editions are NOT. And how cheap they are to have sent to you from someone in Middlesex or Manitoba.
What sells is genre stuff, particularly romance and, they say, erotica. Maybe the vampires too.
If you cuddle your soul and push out a few words of poetry, or a little essay for connoisseurs, you’ll be lucky to make back what your Internet Service Provider charges. Have you got the scales out of your eyes? Accepted that you were a dilettante kidding himself all those years?
Now you’ve got more opportunities than ever. Embrace them.
Could be we were all grasshoppers back then, but we were happy in our way, always hoping to make it. The world allowed us to believe that we might make it and let us build dreams on slender props.
We were relatively happy to be grasshoppers chirping, as Keats knew he was, “for a little clan”. More like microscopic.
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A stand-alone short story about Vauclare, the anti-hero of Easy Blood, has been put online at the fabulous Back Road Café. Check it out here.
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