“A poet of fantastic inversions.” Poetry London

“Multifaceted, mega-fabricated, louche architecture.” Magma

“Voraciously experimental, precociously accomplished.” Poetry International

The Birdbook series, and Sidekick Books in general

‘Nightjar’, which won last year’s Poetry London competition (see this post) is included in the new Sidekick Books anthology Birdbook: Farmland, Heathland, Mountain, Moorland.

Also included is an accompanying illustration of a nightjar, the style of which is based on World War 2 dazzle ship camouflage.

My thanks to the editors of the book, Kirsten Irving and … me! Yes, I have for some years been committing the dubious act of placing my own poems in anthologies I have edited. This is because Sidekick’s anthologies are not really anthologies in the traditional sense – that is, compilations of existing works or excerpts – but collaborative texts where we invite a whole load of other artists to join us at the party. ‘Nightjar’ was written for this book and this book alone, although as I’ve said, the delay in production meant there was time to also enter it into the aforementioned competition.

I feel like I have to stress that because there’s a general view of anthology-type books as primers or showcases that are intended to either provide an overview of a particular area of concern, or else lead the reader on to the more serious works that inform them. That’s to say, their composition is rarely analysed in the way a full single-author collection is analysed – for thematic threads, or accumulations of sound and imagery. Such threads or accumulations, if they are noticed, are often proposed as defects in some sort of project of ultimate variety, a black mark against the pluralist intentions of the editors.

The assumption, then, is that the natural context for any poem included in an anthology is the single-author collection it will subsequently appear in, or has already appeared in. In the anthology, it’s an ambassador or hotel guest. This is because mainstream poetry criticism, I think, tends to fetishise the poet over the poetry – it’s the same tendency that results in a particular kind of esteemed poet spending their career essentially writing just one book, ‘The Collected Poems of …’ but dividing it into slim chapters dispensed every few years.

I guess what I’m trying to identify here is one of the ways I feel Kirsty and I are trying to work against the grain in a way that I hope, with a bit of luck and a lot more work, will help to reshape deeply embedded popular perceptions of what poetry can do, and what it’s for.

On a different note altogether, Birdbook: FHMM is the last Sidekick book to be released in 2015, which has been our busiest year yet. That does not mean I get a break. Just in terms of Sidekick alone, what this means is that the year to date has been devoted largely to editing, design, production and shouting, “LOOK OUT HERE IT COMES!” It’d be sublime if this were all small press publishing were about, but it ain’t. Now the focus has to be pushing these books out into the world and into people’s hands in a manner that is not rude, blundering or financially ruinous.

This is something I find incredibly difficult. But here goes.

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