This month I was delighted to be asked to submit some of my poems for inclusion in Teesta Rangeet, the new poetry journal based in Sikkim, a small, north-east Indian state located in the Himalayan mountains. You can find them here in issue 4. I was also pleased to find my work referenced in that issue's excellent editorial. My poems have only rarely appeared in poetry magazines before as I can never be bothered to send them. Also I think I would get dispirited if I received a run of rejections.
As many of you know, I've been writing poetry on and off since I was young, and I thought it would be fun and a good learning experience to design and publish a book of my poems. This I did recently using Amazon's CreateSpace software. The collection, Raining Quinces, was the result. I was reasonably happy with the finished product, considering it was a first attempt, though the odd typo did slip through.
All of which brings me to thoughts about marketing and self-promotion. And I must admit I find it easier to promote the work of others rather than my own. When I launched my own online poetry magazine, The Passionate Transitory, in August 2012, I found it quite natural to solicit contributions, to approach existing writers, to enthuse about their poems, to promote their work through two Facebook pages, my blog, The Solitary Walker, and other media. (A professional background in publishing sales probably helped in this.)
However, now I have my own book to promote, I'm finding it a much more difficult task. I'm doing it, but I have to force myself. You need to have a lot of self-belief and a thick skin, for, of course, not everyone will be as positive about your book as you and your friends are. And most people are going to be plain indifferent, as we all are to the vast majority of books which are published. There are just so many, and the number increases year on year. And poetry books, well, who reads them anyway? Poetry has always been a minority interest, and always will be.
Nevertheless, I've forced myself, and I've now got a feature coming up in the local village magazine, and my book's on sale at the local post office. The local library is promoting it, and has asked me if I'd be willing to do a reading (oh my God, I've never done anything like that before!) I now need to approach the town newspaper. I've designed a poster and worded a press release. Poetry Cornwall has promised a review.
But I don't find it easy to promote myself like this, and I secretly hope this promotion of my book, this self-promotion, will come across in a gentle and modest rather than an egotistical and self-congratulatory way. It's the way I am (though I do realise there's sometimes a thin dividing line between modesty and false modesty).
It's the same when I regard the work of others. I'm always drawn to the less obvious, more retiring flowers rather than the gaudy and brash self-advertisers. It's the same too with blogs: the blogs I read and enjoy, the blogs on my sidebar, are blogs which, yes, of course, incorporate the personality, often the strong personality, of their creators, but are essentially about other things — the self is there as part and parcel of the whole world, not as a preening, solipsistic ego.
Similarly, I've always felt uncomfortable in interviews, though you'd probably never guess it from the outside. It's all that praising yourself and your achievements, all that bigging yourself up that I don't like. I mean, godammit, can't everyone see I'm a nice, useful, desirable employee/person/human being without my having to pretend I am? :-)