The Process of Pamphlet Publication pt 2

“I would like to thank my goldfish …” 

Writing the poems in ‘Codes of Conduct’, my pamphlet that won the Cinnamon Press Poetry Pamphlet Competition, was tricky, but the real challenge came when I was asked by Jan Fortune at Cinnamon Press to provide any acknowledgements and any dedication that I might want in the pamphlet.

Cinnamon logo new

I have always struggled with those little biographical pieces you see at the back of magazines – it seems to me you can try too hard to try to sound ‘interesting’ so that you simply end up sounding like a pretentious wally . Occasional deviations into humour or the original can work, but it is a fine line and so I tend to play safe and provide a pretty straight piece saying I have been published in blah blah blah and come from North West London.

There is an academic paper waiting to be written on the subject of acknowledgements and dedications, but here are just four excerpts from biographical notes that appear in the same edition of a poetry magazine – obviously I have removed certain identifying parts (some are unavoidable). You decide which works and which does not –

Example 1 – X was born in 19XX. Ex photocopier-salesman, ex-drunk. Highest break in snooker 58 ….

Example 2 -… her adventure sharing her poetry with others is just beginning.

Example 3 – X is an award winning artist and designer, she has exhibited both in the U.K and internationally. Her inspiration comes from the intuitive interpretation of narratives, poetry, memories and observation, she tries to capture the essence of something; a moment in time, a tree, a deer, a melancholic or humorous event.

Example 4 – X lives and writes in Manchester. His poetry has appeared in The Rialto, Magma Poetry, and The Bow-Wow Shop.

Okay, so back to my pamphlet. I’m going to play safe. I look at the pamphlets and first collections I have on my shelves and get a sense of what works as a professional but approachable style. The acknowledgements fall into two halves. 1 – Listing the magazines/journals where the poems have appeared and 2) giving a thank you or two to people who have helped along the way. The second category has its own pitfalls and problems that I might return to in the future. Suffice to say some acknowledgements carry the shadow of the in-joke(thanks to Dave for all the tuna), the sugar of sentimentality (thank you to my wonderful husband Dave. Without your inspiration these poems would never have been written) or there is the cold and lonely type who simply gives thanks to my editor.

Another danger exists in omission – if you list a dozen people in your acknowledgements then you better hope you haven’t missed out the person who really needs to be included.

Rotman dedication Joseph Rotman’s twist on the conventional.

The dedication carries all of the pitfalls of the acknowledgements but perhaps to an even greater extent. The chances are the dedication will have a page of its own – nothing but white space and it. Look through the annals and you will find authors from Salinger to Agatha Christie being witty, while e.e. cummings composed a concrete poem listing the people he gave “no thanks to”. However, in the grand reckoning parents and children are the main beneficiaries of dedications. I do like the twist Joseph J Rotman gave to the process with his dedication “To my wife and my children, without whom this book would have been completed two years earlier.”

Cummings dedication

e.e. cummings makes his feelings clear.

I agonized. I tried to avoid the dangers and then pressed send on the email. It ended up pretty safe but with, I hope, a humorous twist. What did I write? Well in a few months you will be able to see for yourself and then you will know if I missed you out or tried too hard. But then again, maybe I should relax, after all, in the spirit of part one of ‘Codes of Conduct’ how many people read the small print anyway?


The Process of Pamphlet Publication pt 1

Had I really won?


This year I was a winner of the Cinnamon Press Poetry Pamphlet Prize. Part of the prize is a publishing contract; my pamphlet will be published in 2016. I thought following the process, from hearing I had won through to publication, might be something worth following in occasional blogs. Here is the first piece on following ‘Codes of Conduct’ through to publication.

In May of this year I returned from holiday to the following email:

The longlist for the pamphlet competition was very long, but we whittled it down to … (poets and titles listed)

The four winning pamphlets were: Louisa Adjoa Parker – Blinking in the light; Neil Elder – Codes of Conduct; Kevin Mills – Stations of the Boar; Louise Warren – In the scullery with John Keats.

Congratulations to the winners, whose pamphlets will be published in February 2016.

I was (still am) delighted, though somewhat dazed, and I hastily sent a response to Jan Fortune, the editor of Cinnamon Press, expressing my sentiments. Despite my excitement I told only my wife and a friend; I wanted to be certain there was no error before I made a noise about my news.

Then doubt crept in. I became convinced that the fact that some of the poems in my pamphlet entry had been published elsewhere as single poems would be a problem.  I scanned the rules of the competition again and again but there was no mention of the matter concerning previously published poems (there are publishers and competitions where previous publication will be a problem). Even though the comments from Ian Gregson, competition judge , were on the website, I still fretted about things.

I was keeping quiet about the win and waiting for something more solid from Cinnamon when I received congratulations via Facebook and by email from Hannah Lowe and Mona Arshi.  Wait a minute, I thought, if they know about the win (and I still don’t know how they knew) then perhaps I better get proactive and contact Jan at Cinnamon myself, telling her some of the poems had appeared elsewhere.  I would soon know if I could relax and celebrate or feel sorry for myself – either way I’d know if congratulations from other poets were due.  Jan’s response was wonderfully positive and I finally had pleasure in telling people about the pamphlet.