I realised today that it is now three years since I started paying attention to poetry again. Until the summer of 2009 I had been ignoring poetry, and I mean completely, utterly ignoring poetry, for over a decade. All poetry. I had stopped writing poetry, buying poetry, taking any serious notice of it on the whole. I might occasionally have dipped into an old book, but that was it.
My own poetry writing trajectory had stalled during the 1998 World Cup, and I made no attempt to reboot until the summer of 2009. This was partly because I had concluded that the creative arc I had been on for 4-5 years had produced a body of work which was unpublishable. By this I do not mean bad. I mean very unlikely to be published (although subsequently some of it has) by any publisher I was aware of at the time. The work didn’t fit them and they did not fit the work (or so I assumed) so I didn’t bother them with it. I moved on. In the mean time I became a father, lead an MBO, disappeared into my business career for 10 years, blogged about that, wrote some flash fiction, started the novel that is still in progress, moved house. Did other stuff.
And then in 2009 I read this poem by Marcie Vargas and something clicked. I started writing and paying attention to poetry again and realised I had missed a load of good stuff. I started hunting down and soaking up the kind of poetry that lit my fuse and found that this was still pretty much scattered around the edges the ever homogenous centre just as it always had been, only now it was easy to find in volume thanks to the great revolution and democratisation that we call the internet. Yes the gatekeepers where there with their lists of rules, and do this, don’t do that, look at what is getting published and write just exactly like that blah blah blah but there was loads of other stuff easily locatable as well.
Outside the locked gates there were plenty of camps, and fires and parties, and riots and bare-knuckle fist fights going on. Cider was being drunk. Dogs were let off string leashes. There was laughter and jokes and smiling and <whisper it> fun.
Some enterprising folk has built their own poetry houses catering for different tastes. Some favoured print, some were audio only and some were (eek) digital-only.
But I found that some of the very best poetry that I encountered out in the fields was only performed out loud. I wanted to take some of this home and experience it again, you know, get to know it a little better, yet no one was publishing the particular poets whose work I wanted to take home. Yes there were scraps here and there on the web but I wanted more: I wanted books. Proper books, well designed and produced. Books that looked and felt like the books from the iconic poetry houses.
I realised that the only way to fix this was to do it myself, or at least join the party of people who were doing this 21st Century “indie” publishing thing themselves because they seemed to have the game nailed. There are a number of them that I should thank for the wisdom I filched from them, but I will do that separately in due course one by one.
Essentially that is where Burning Eye came from. A desire to capture the sound of something happening, put it down and hand it round. To say: look, this has merit and depth and subtlety beyond that single moment in which you heard it first. I simply do not subscribe to the notion that, just because a poet chooses performance as their primary dissemination method, they craft, polish and hone their work less than a poet who writes primarily for the page. I think that in time it will be recognisable that the books we publish bear this out.