Burning Eye Books is the fabulous brainchild of Clive Birnie, an imprint to bring the world the best performance poetry on the page. Kicking things off is Ash Dickinson’s Slinky Espadrilles.
If you’re in Nottingham on Friday, head to Fellows, Morton & Clayton, for a fabulous gig to launch the book kick off at 8pm. http://www.fellowsmortonandclayton.co.uk/ Free entry.
So, over to Clive to explain a little about this super and not a little ambitious project.
The idea to start Burning Eye smouldered slowly last year. I had been following various lines of discussions about indie authors and reading many how to go about publishing yourself in the wild west era of the Kindle etc. articles and blogs, not with an eye on publishing my own work but with half an idea that maybe I wanted to dip my toes in the publishing pond, and wondered what I could learn from the indie author crowd. I was already a subscriber to The Delinquent and knew they printed using Lulu. So I checked that out. Then I bought Penny Goring’s Zoom Zoom from you and Andrew Drennan’s Cancer Party from Cargo and thought maybe this was the model. You were both publishing niche works that mainstream cos would not look at in a hundred years. Yes the authors could have just published it themselves but I thought that there was merit in the concept of a hybrid publisher. A micro publisher with many of the hallmarks of the model proposed by the champions of indie authorship but providing the writers with the editing, design, formatting, typesetting, PR, sales management etc in the conventional sense. I checked out the POD model. Looked at who Salt, Seren, Bloodaxe, Carcenet, Shearsmen used to print. Found it was a small world with only a handful of POD and digital printers serving the market. I looked at the costs. Scratched my head. This could work I told myself.
That took care of the how. Now for the what. Two things got me fixed on Performance Poetry. The first was meeting Ash Dickinson at a charity event last summer. Why can’t I buy a book of your work I asked. He admitted that he knew he could sell them himself at gigs but never really got around to it and none of the mainstream poetry publishers had come calling. After a bit of discussion he said that he had got as far as pulling a rough MSS together but that was it. A couple of months later I was at a small performance open mic in Bristol during the autumn 2011 poetry festival and started to think about the high quality of the work being regularly performed by poets around Bristol and beyond and realised they had not a chance in hell of being published by the poetry mainstream. I called Ash and said I had a concept for an indie publishing co. We met and I pitched him. He agreed to come on board. I did the same with a target list of about 10 poets some of whom said yes. Some said maybe. Some gave me the long silent no.
The first books will start rolling this Summer. A pamphlet from Sally Jenkinson, a half prose/half poetry collection from Jonny Fluffy Punk, an anthology tentatively titled Rhyming Thunder – The Alternative Book Of Young British Poets which will show case 20 of the brightest up and coming performance poets – edited by two young poets James Bunting and Jack Dean. First up though is Ash Dickinson’s collection Slinky Espadrilles:
Featuring poems about the fear of poetry, the state of premiership football, an embalmed wife/coffee table hybrid, pollution of the oceans, a love-sick fridge and knitwear for Gibbons, it is a collection polished in the harsh spotlight of a thousand performances. It is said that performance poetry does not transfer to the page. If that was ever true then this collection puts that point of view on the spike for good. Time after time Ash makes us look at our world through his surreal and kooky lens, puts an arm round our shoulders and reassures us that it is OK for poetry to be funny. It is OK for poetry to entertain. The poetry police have enough on their hands mediating other disputes. No one is looking. Go on, enjoy yourselves!
When I first read the MSS it reminded me of first reading The Mersey Sound. Accessible, easy to get, easy to enjoy but with depth and consistent in its quality. This was the type of poetry that got me interested in poetry in the first place and whilst Roger McGough is held up as a poetry icon, if he was starting out today writing as he does, not one of the mainstream mags or presses would touch him. The real heirs of poets like Roger, Brian Patten, Adrian Mitchell are the performance poets. Write Out Loud report that the number of gigs listed on their calendar in the last 12 months has increased by 12% to 5600 or so. That says to me that this Performance Poetry stuff is growing in popularity! Also I think so many barriers and rules are put up in front of young poets who are just starting out that they turn their backs on the mainstream and head out armed with a microphone in search of an audience. I guess there is part of me that wants to catalogue this happening and that is why I am including a pamphlet format in the mix that is accessible to unpublished performance poets. I don’t care whether you have been published by Poetry London and PN Review or not. If the work is good and you are a hard working regularly gigging poet then I will look at it.
You can find Burning Eye books at: