A few years ago in the house in Bristol where we lived for nigh on ten years the roof leaked. It chose to leak above the box room that we used as study and library. More importantly it chose to leak directly over the book shelf that housed our poetry books. Luckily not too many were destroyed and most that were damaged dried out in a wrinkled but readable manner. The exception was a block of collections by Brian Patten including Little Johnny’s Confession, Notes To The Hurrying Man and Grave Gossip. These were fused together in an immovable block with Duo Duo’s Looking Out From Death between the second and third of Brian’s books mentioned above. They remain on our bookshelf to this day in this fused and unreadable state.

What irks us is that we cannot buy new copies of the lost books and read the poems as they were originally conceived and presented in the original collections. Yes we know we can scour Abebooks and buy second hand copies but we have bought numerous books this way over the years and some have arrived with so much scribbling on them from studious former owners than they are unreadable. No. We want new fresh crisp copies or we want digital copies. We want to read again the Little Johnny poems in the order they were first presented. We are picking on Little Johnnys’ Confession because it is a significant collection which echoes down the decades. No Little Johnny no Carol Ann Duffy one could argue for instance. We also think there is something to be gained from going back and getting to know a poet chronologically. Yes yes a greatest hits  is all very well but there is nothing quite like going back and mining the depths for rarely seen gems. Easy enough in the world of music. You can put your hands on some pretty terrible Wings albums in a few seconds so why in the era of inventory free print on demand and e-books can we not put our hands on a copy of Little Johnny’s confession? Has no one in the poetry publishing world read The Long Tail?

We will admit to being tempted by the first edition copy pictured above but…

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