This time last week, Valley Press had three new books still forthcoming in 2016 – Guests of Time, another poetry collection I've just finished editing, and a book I've previously described as 'the most complicated book I've ever tried to put together'. Now, I only have those first two, as – after much soul-searching – myself and the author have agreed to put release of the 'complicated book' back until mid-February. With one proviso: that I tell you about it today, and kick-off pre-orders!
The book in question has taken no less than forty-seven years to write, with the first poems in it dating from 1969, and the last ones from 2016. If this sounds familiar, it's probably because the thought process was a lot like the one that originated Paul Sutherland's New and Selected – we could have brought out another slim volume by Paul, but what about the forty years of work not currently available? So it was that we came to be publishing Today the Birds Will Sing, the collected poems of veteran Valley Press poet Helen Burke.
My blurb for the book says Helen's poems have appeared 'in pamphlets, on greetings cards, on pieces of origami, on radio, on tape, on CD, on the side of stray dogs and in a million other places' – this is only a very slight exaggeration. Since she first put pen to paper, Helen's poems have escaped into the world by any means they could; the 'origami' publishing happened repeatedly, thanks to Jan Keough's wonderful operation, and when I first met Helen in 2011 there were enough pamphlets in existence to sink a small dinghy.
That's what made it so complex: picture me on my living-room floor, surrounded by all these publications (and pieces of paper), trying to figure out if I've seen a particular poem somewhere else – and what was different about it then! – then passing them to the long-suffering Mrs McGarry to be typed up. But the truth is, I've enjoyed every second of my 'marination' in the world of Burke; there's no bigger fan of her poems (sometimes zany, sometimes poignant, usually both) than me, and I think the day I hold a finished copy of this book will be one of the proudest of my whole career.
I'll share a few poems with you in the new year; for now, I'll just say that the book is beginning its life as a hardback, priced at £30. As ever, we're not money-grabbing monsters, so you can have £6 off if you pre-order with the voucher code BIRDIES, and we are planning a paperback edition to follow later in 2017. (Still no Antony hardbacks by the way, if you're following that saga – but I have now seen one, so the end may be in sight).
* * * * *Two more things to say today: first, the last subs forms for our 2017 call have now been posted – so the only way you can reliably get them, and get your work into us for the November 30th deadline, is to actually go into VPHQ and collect/fill in/drop off. But don't panic if this is the first you've heard of it – submissions will be open again in February, after I've worked through the current pile and decided the 2017 books.
So now the subs forms are done with, what will you get (besides the book!) if you buy something from us in December? I've got something special in mind, of course – watch this space – but part of it will be a voucher for money off books in January (always a criminally quiet month for booksellers).
Finally, congratulations are due to Richard Askew, the lead designer of our website, who this week was named Scarborough's 'Young Entrepreneur of the Year'. This is a seriously smart and dedicated dude; I've seen him run into the office at 10pm on a Sunday when there was a small glitch with our shopping basket – so very well deserved.
Next week's newsletter will be all about that other remaining book (it's another cracker, and fairly seasonal); after that, we're on the home straight, headed for the holidays!
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher