Independent Booksellers’ Week and A Pop-Up Shop Party

Posted on July 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

The 1st-7th July was Independent Booksellers’ Week and all over the country authors, publishers and booksellers came together to organise events and celebrations of our favourite Indies.  Small poetry press Eyewear Publishing decided to take things one step further and open up their very own pop up shop on Portobello Road where you could buy their beautiful editions of poetry plus books from other small presses including CB editions, Arc, Five Leaves and Flipped Eye. Pop up shops have traditionally flourished in the gaps left by mainstream culture and are by their nature transitory, alternative and ephemeral; qualities which fit Eyewear’s output perfectly. This informal week long retail outlet also doubled as a drop-in poetry workshop, meeting place and performance space reflecting the vitality of the neighbourhood. As a series of factors from the economy to internet bookselling make life difficult for independent presses and booksellers it is particularly inspiring to see them come together to cater for and cultivate this small but passionate market.

SYP members try to catch as many interesting bookish events as they can, and I was pleased to be able attend the IBW launch party on the shop’s first night. There I met some of the key figures in modern British poetry publishing as well as hearing readings from two brilliant poets: Keith Jarrett and Mark Ford. Publisher Todd Swift introduced Keith as a UK poetry slam champion, world slam semi-finalist and now shortlisted candidate for the Melita Hume poetry prize. He proceeded to wow us with a brilliant spoken word recital of one of his poems exploring issues around race, language and sexuality. His command of the beat and his skill in manipulating the twisting phrases and cadences of his poem held the room silent. The verbal energy contained in his poem and the way he engaged with his audience’s expectations – at each step meeting and defying them left us all smiling.

 

Keith Jarrett

Keith Jarrett in full flow…

 

Next up was UCL professor Mark Ford whose latest volume Six Children is published by Faber and Faber in 2011. He read to us a selection of poems from this work and particularly about London which underlined the close geographical connection an independent publisher or bookseller is often able to establish with an author. Two poems stood out for me from his performance however and I think summed up what his reading was about. The first was entitled After Africa and used the pantoum technique to suggest the suburban ordinariness of Surbiton after an early life spent in Kenya. The second was in the form of a prose letter which displayed some of the unexpected possibilities of the form and was a whimsical speculation on the legacy of fellow poet Hart Crane. Mark’s poems were accomplished, moving and beautifully read.

Todd explained that the purpose of the shop was to provide a platform for poets and the local community to engage with one another. The personal and one off nature of this project emphasises the power of a human connection in creating art, especially when readers and authors have a chance to meet and enjoy each other’s company. In the spirit of the pop up Eyewear and its partner presses created a space where poetry as an art form can exist both in its published form but also as a living force that brings people together. Many publishers are looking for ways to open up their talent pipeline whilst at the same time supporting high street booksellers. This could be a model that could bring these two objectives together, and by allowing the public to engage with the process of bookmaking, ensure a vibrant future for niche publishing and bookselling.

The Portobello Road shop front complete with Cocoa the gorilla.

The Portobello Road shop front complete with Cocoa the gorilla.

 

The Melita Hume prize shortlist is available now at http://www.eyewearpublishing.com/the-melita-hume-prize/2013-shortlist

 

 

Anna Cunnane