This month I’d like to tell you about an unusual poetry project that would never have taken shape before the internet. There are several reasons for that.
Do you know the poetry of Carol Rumens? She is a celebrated British poet with several collections published as well as short stories and a novel. She has won prizes, she teaches creative writing at Bangor University, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and contributes a weekly poetry column to the Guardian newspaper. Recently she has contributed two poems to a new anthology. More important than that: she wrote the foreword, endorsing and promoting this remarkable book.
As Carol Rumens explains, about forty poets from many different countries around the world have donated poems to this anthology. The work of those poets came together through the internet. The book is on sale around the world through the online giant, Amazon. And all profits go to an international charity, The Book Bus. (http://www.thebookbus.org/)
The anthology was the inspiration of Deborah Bennison, a British writer who set up an independent publishing firm a few years ago called Bennison Books. She has already published several writers, covering poetry, short stories, a novel, and non-fiction. Her small company is itself a testament to our internet age. Bennison Books promotes its publications worldwide through all the now-customary ‘social media platforms’, including Facebook, Twitter, a Wordpress blog and an email newsletter. Her publishing venture is based on the new principle of print on demand. There is no print runs, no warehouses or shops holding stock, no remainders or unsold copies pulped. Having formatted her books through an Amazon subsidiary, she sells to the customer anywhere in the world through Amazon and the customer’s copy is printed to order and despatched within hours from the nearest regional centre. The process is efficient and it keeps costs down – although we have to regret that traditional bookshops lose out.
Deborah Bennison’s bright idea was to invite poets writing in English, anywhere, to submit poems for a new anthology. In essence, this would gather poetry through the internet, many of the poems having been published already online. Others would have been unpublished or published in books and journals.
And the response was thrilling. Contributions came in from a dozen or more countries: from Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Australasia. Some were from writers whose first language was not English. The final volume contains the work of over forty writers and I think I’ve counted eight prize-winners among them including Carol Rumens.
You might be interested to learn that a few of the writers have been published in The Wagon Magazine: Karin Anderson and Bart Wolffe for example, and also me.
Mentioning Bart Wolffe reminds me of the sad death of two of the contributors during the months of production. One was Bart himself, living in Britain, out of Africa. There are three very pleasing poems from Bart of which one, called Eclipse, begins:
Soundless and without warning the sky
Sucked in its breath. A shadowed hand
Of the demon darkened the light, swollen
As if announcing war over the nature of things.
It is natural to wonder whether the writer had intimations of his forthcoming death while composing those lines. We know that he was ill for some time.
The other sad death was of Cynthia Jobin, a New England writer who was largely unpublished but immensely popular and is now much-missed online (here we see the internet again). Her poems in this anthology include The Sun Also Sets which contains these lines:
I do not want to go, or let you go.
I want to dare this ending, call its bluff,
delay our parting with a sudden overflow
of words – too many and yet not enough –
while you, my dearest one, would choose
blunt disappearance, the mute way
to stanch an agony – those deeper blues
along the skyline fire – as if to say
the sun rises, the sun also sets.
So let it set. Let us let it. Let’s.
What I love about this anthology is that it’s full of unpretentious, intelligent and moving poems. It should appeal to readers who like poetry from time to time but don’t buy a great deal – maybe it would make good presents, or be a good idea on someone’s wish list? It’s also bang-up-to-date with poetry from North America, the British Isles, and many other countries so it gives a good sense of what mainstream poetry can do right now – and that is valuable for regular buyers of poetry.
As Carol Rumens explains in her foreword, readers will have the added satisfaction of knowing that their purchase is helping to hand on the pleasure and power of language. All profits go to The Book Bus, according to whom one in six adults around the world have come through childhood unable to read and write – due mainly to a lack of books and the opportunity to read. In Deborah Bennison’s words: “This amazing charity aims to improve child literacy rates in Africa, Asia, and South America by providing children with books and the inspiration to read them.”
I have written this entire letter without giving you the name of the anthology, although you might have guessed from my title that it is Indra’s Net. That was the suggestion of Cynthia Jobin. Most readers of The Wagon will know that Indra is a Vedic god above whose mountain-palace hangs a marvellous net with jewels sparkling at every intersection, each reflecting the others.
Cynthia saw that Indra’s net could be a metaphor for universal inter-connectedness – she had in mind specifically the internet today and this anthology of poems from all over the world.
If you are interested, you can look up the anthology (and read the first few poems) at http://amzn.to/2tPnDzQ
And Bennison Books can be found at http://bennisonbooks.co
Cynthia Jobin was raised in the foothills of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, attended a variety of New England schools and colleges (Master’s in art education, Ph.D. in metaphysics), teacher of various subjects: French, English, Calligraphy, Aesthetics, History, Research Methods.
Cynthia Jobin’s Works:
The Elegant Useless
Le Petit Hibou Au Coeur
Class Poets of Emmanuel College
Bart Wolffe, after a long career in media, television, radio, film and the stage, left Zimbabwe in 2003 to live in exile in the United Kingdom. He was an essayist, poet, playwright, short story writer. Most of his plays had been published in ‘Africa Dream Theatre’, consisting of 13 plays, 10 of which are one-person plays while the other three are two-handers. Bart Wolffe was arguably the leading one-person show specialist