Saturday, 20 February 2010

Guest Post from Dave Lordan - Poetry Chapbooks

I'm delighted to welcome the poet, Dave Lordan to my blog for my inaugural guest blog post. I'd love to hear what you think of the idea and any suggestions or volunteers for future guest posts on other subjects welcome.

I put out my first chapbook when I was 18. It was called 18. It had 18 poems in it.

Neat, huh?

It was part of a package of five chapbooks typed up, laid out, and stapled together by Philip Coleman, who ran the English literature Society in UCC at the time, 1993. We sold them in a packet of 5 for 10 pounds. One of the other chapbooks was by Philip. I don't remember anything about the other three chapbooks. That's one of the things I like about chapbooks. We don't have to be so precious about them as we might be about official publications. They are disposable, not meant to last, forgettable. We buy them with our loose change at the smallest tent in the Electric Picnic, read them with one eye open while looking for somehwere to go for a wee, then throw them away and later on they get trampled in the mud. Brilliant!

My audience at the time was a guy called Eugene from Nenagh in Co Tipperary.

He brought some of his friends to the reading that launched the five chapbooks. A few of them bought the chapbooks. A couple of weeks later I met one of them, a woman, also from Tipperary. She said she liked my poems. I liked hearing that.

Like loads of other poets I was writing and reading poems for years before I was offered an official publication. I don't know how many times somebody told me they liked a poem I had read, and did I have a book they could buy? If I had been on the ball I would have put out at chapbook or two every year.

But I wasn't on the ball. The next chapbook I put out was in 2002. It was called Clonakilty Red Pudding. It was mostly made up of limericks and rhyming satires, all very political. I put this chapbook together myself. It took me about a day to get the layout right on Microsoft Word. It took me about another day to print off 100 copies and staple them together. 12 a4 pages folded to make 24 pages of poetry.. I used coloured card paper for the cover. The point of this chapbook was to raise money to pay my fare and accommodation at the European social Forum in Florence in 2002, a gathering of tens of thousands of political activists from across Europe, which culminated in a 1 million strong march against the forthcoming war in Iraq. I sold out these pamphlets in a few days at political meetings in Dublin. I made 100 of these, at a cost of about a euro each, and sold them for a fiver.

After that I used to get asked to read a lot at demonstrations, political fundraisers and so on. Most people I knew got to know that I wrote.

The third Chapbook I put out was called Indiscipline. It was a joint chapbook with the Galway poet Elaine Feeney, published under the imprint of Maverick Press, run by Stephen Murray and Neil McCarthy down in Galway. Those two have put out some excellent and very well-thumbed chapbooks themselves.

Indiscipline was done professionally at a printers and it is still in print. You can get it in Noble and Beggarman books on South William Street in Dublin. Charlie Byrnes in Galway might have a few as well. You can get your chapbook into a few of the independent bookshops easily enough by just calling around and asking for the manager.

Indiscipline came out around the same time that Salmon were publishing my first collection The Boy in the Ring. I asked Jessie Lendennie, the boss at Salmon, what did she think about it and she was happy enough. We both agreed it would give some extra publicity to my work, and it did.

Really, the only reason I haven't put out more chapbooks is laziness. I can't see any reason why anyone with a few poems, and who feels the impatience to be heard which is natural and necessary to the poet, shouldn't put out their own.

These days there are more and more writers, more and more poems, in Ireland at least. I am delighted about that. It means there is more freedom, more educated people, more voices, more inspiration, more vision. But there are probably going to be less official poetry books published in the next decade than in the last. That's because the money that used to go into the arts, as well as all other social or progressive programs, is going to be used to prop up our failed banks. So, more than likely, if you want a little book, you're going to have to do it yourself.

Dave Lordan can be contacted at dlordan AT hotmail DOT com. His second collection Invitation to a Sacrifice is out this summer with Salmon Poetry. He will be undertaking a national reading tour along with Elaine Feeney in July and August.


Peter Goulding said...

Thoroughly enjoyed that post from David. I think chapbooks definitely are the way to go but I think you also need to know your way around a computer to do it yourself.
But as you say, laziness is the biggest drawback.

Pietro said...

ah, the hungry years. nice one Dave, more voices and more stories are certainly needed.

Niamh B said...

Interesting post. I like the idea of 18 poems at the age of 18, nice.

Domestic Oub said...

I felt quite excited by the possibilites after reading this post Kate/David. A bit of work to put one together, but sounds like it could be well worth the effort.

BarbaraS said...

It just shows you if you plug away at things, you will get there in the end - heartening for the rest of us.

Emerging Writer said...

I think a poetry pamphlet or chapbook is a great idea and I haven't got any money...