All the 'spare' time in the last ten days has been spent looking for used cars with Gillian (artist daughter). She passed her test (first time, unlike her mother) about two weeks ago and needs to have a vehicle to drive. 'Bean cans on wheels' my mechanic partner calls them. He hates cars . . . However, we finally found one yesterday: a pale blue Getz. Let's getz a Getz. Here it is, or similar.
It reminded me of the first car I and my then husband bought together, which was a little red Fiat (we didn't know about Fiats then) with a sunshine roof. The salesman had huge ears which practically flapped while he was talking.
We took the car out to the Derbyshire hills the first weekend after the purchase, excited to get away on our own for a country walk. The brakes failed on the top of a hill. Completely. We got home on handbrake and gears -- jist and nae mair, as they say in Scotland. I remember confronting the flapping-eared salesman in a state of fury, shouting We could have been killed! In which case the world would have been saved from this blog entry. But we weren't, and I hope Gillian and Jamie won't be either, even though I've lain awake all week visualising them in endless car crashes.
So the poetry, to stay in metaphor, has taken a bit of a back seat, though a lot of things are about to happen. The Ruth Pitter Selected has been to Mark Pitter, Ruth's nephew and copyright holder, for approval and he likes what I've done -- so that's a relief. I need to send a copy with the cover to (artist and poet) Alan Dixon, who has done the woodcut on the cover for his approval now (see image on left).
Alan did Persephone in Hades as well. I love his woodcuts. In fact, I have many more of them which don't fit onto pamphlet covers but which strike me as gorgeous. We used one on the Conversation with Ruth Pitter as well -- not the one originally intended but a splendid cat walking along a wall. Alan loves cats.
I should be talking to David Ford later this morning and hopefully finalising most of the details of his pamphlet, Punch. Jeremy Page's In and Out of the Dark Wood may be back from the printer by the end of this week. We'll see.
The Po-Rating Standardisation Exercise is nearly complete. I sent the same pamphlet to 34 reviewers to rate, using the four criteria we've had in place since the tripartite review system went online. The results are very interesting. It doesn't surprise me that the judgement on the poetry varies dramatically (a 4 being the lowest and a 10 the highest). However, it does surprise me that the variation on production quality is almost as wide (lowest 5, highest 10). I'm still thinking about how to put the feedback on this together.
Meanwhile, the latest issue of The Bow-Wow Shop is out. I particularly liked the bit on How Editors Choose. The return from Peter and Ann Sansom is cheering. The lack of return from some editors provokes many an evil chuckle. The B-W Shop has a great logo. I find the fully-justified white on black text extremely hard going though (I cut and paste into Word, change the justification and THEN read it) but at least the web makes that possible. (And the reviews are a long, long column, entailing endless scrolling and encouraging the supposition that nobody reads reviews anyway). And the left-hand toolbar lists the contents of issue 5 immediately on top of issue 4, which is confusing at best. Ezines are still thinking about themselves. Ease of reading on screen is paramount and rarely achieved. So much easier to work out how to accomplish this on paper, because of the centuries of forerunners.
Allegedly, an affiliation has been agreed between B-W Shop and P N Review, two very different publications but with some of the same writers. I think of P N Review, which I have had cause to admire in many ways over the years (not least for surviving and retaining its own character), as a solidly male magazine. Lots of lengthy male reflections in a solidly male prose style. Thankfully, there are bits in this Bow-Wow by interesting women like Nancy Campbell, reporting on her experience as writer in residence in Upernavik Museum, Greenland. I don't mean to go ON about the male/female balance. It's just a reminder that there are some women writing excellent prose. Haul more of them in!
Peter Daniels in the Bow-Wow also reviews some HappenStance publications appreciatively, which is nice and the appreciation is appreciated. He says HappenStance has style and a sense of purpose. Health warning: you have to scroll a long way down a fully-justified reviews column to find his comments on Paula Jennings (Out of the Body of the Green Girl), Clare Best (Treasure Ground) and Jon Stone (Scarecrows): look for the bit titled The Pamphleteers March On. And yes, there does seem to be a lot of fuss about pamphlets lately. It is still hard to sell 150 copies of anything -- believe me.
Now, I must go make another pamphlet. And maybe some breakfast with purpose and style.