Monday, 16 September 2013

Poetry Book Fair Report (Emma edition)

I've been running the Emma Press for nearly a year now, and I still take a great deal of pleasure in counting up my firsts. First book, tick. First printed press coverage, tick. First anthology, (nearly) tick. Last Saturday I had my first book fair, which felt significant in a way my first craft fair hadn't. My biggest fear before Aunt Elsie's Spring Fling back in May was that I'd be unable to arrange my stall properly, but the scenario overall had been experimental and therefore pressure-free. The Poetry Book Fair, on the other hand, felt like my formal introduction to the poetry world, and I was anxious that I should come across well, as a capable and approachable publisher instead of a people-repeller with a suspicious circle of tranquility around my table throughout the day.

As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about, at least as far as circles of tranquility are concerned. The PBF was rammed, a brilliant showcase for the vibrancy of the poetry scene. The main hall in Conway Hall was packed with a huge variety of different poetry publishers, and after midday there was a steady stream of people shuffling around the room, poring over hand-bound, saddle-stitched, letterpressed, limited-edition publications, and coming in and out of the readings room.

I was sharing a table with the cutting-edge Egg Box Publishing, which meant I had the pleasure of chatting to publisher Nathan Hamilton during the quieter moments of the day. These were few and far between, however, due to the afore-mentioned ramming, and I spent most of the time chatting to visitors at my stall and putting faces to names, including Chrissy Williams, one of the organisers of the fair and an excellent poet, and Lorraine Mariner, who I knew worked at the Poetry Library but I hadn't realised was a poet, published by Picador. I also met Jamie for the first time since our engagement (moment preserved for posterity, right), and proudly attended a reading by two Valley Press poets, Jo Brandon and Matthew Hedley Stoppard.

After the fair had closed, the readings from different presses continued in a pub across the road, as did the introductions and poetry publishing gossip. I left buzzing and wishing that something like the PBF occurred more frequently, to get the gorgeous publications out into people's hands and to share the infectious atmosphere of industry and creativity which makes the poetry scene so exciting.

Coming soon: a Poetry Book Fair report from a veteran and, from me, another first: the EP's first wedding fair, next Sunday!

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