Writers have used many subtle schemes to get people to buy their wares. Variants on “Buy now or the kitten gets it” have proved widely popular amongst the more desperate of the fancy, but frankly I don’t think that they’re entirely successful.
Still the artist starving in the garret has to do something?
And then I realised, was I doing the starving in the garret bit properly? After all, was it enough to be a mere scribbler dabbling in Fantasy or Science Fiction? Perhaps I had to become a proper artist, perhaps even, (pause for brief drum roll) a poet.
Here I confess to being uniquely qualified in the role as starving poet. I have no poetical skills whatsoever and thus if any poet is going to starve, it would be me.
But I still had to produce some poetry. This is where fate stepped in. Enter, pursued by a bear, one Mike Rose-Steel. Not only is he my editor but he is an accredited poet, being just the man to shift a butt of canary or sack (should Her Majesty be reading this).
I’m working on some early stories of Benor in Port Naain as a young man, and his landlord and friend is the poet Tallis Steelyard. Of course I dropped a line of Tallis’s work into a story and this provoked an email from Mike.
Rather than a ‘cease and desist’ order; or even a firm note pointing out that there was such a thing as demarcation (he doesn’t do roof top chases so why was I dabbling in the finer arts) he asked if he could borrow Tallis.
Thus and so, ten poems latter the art of Tallis Steelyard is available for a world hungry for great poetry.
But we didn’t stop there, lest people feel unable to grasp the depth of the passion or the subtlety of the symbolism, the renowned Cartographer, Benor Dorfinngil, has commented on each poem to give it context, and literary criticism is also available from Lancet Foredeck.
And here it is the heart of the issue. As is traditional with modern poetry it is available as a hand stitched pamphlet with about 28 pages (obviously it depends upon how you count these things as any true poet would know.)
And the price? How much to charge? What is the value of art? We have ten unique poems, plus background, plus literary criticism, all of a calibre rarely offered to the public in this sad and declining era. What should I ask for it? Is forty pence too much for a poem? Are there skinflints out there who would haggle an artist down to a mere thirty-five? I think not. I have faith in the world, I believe in the basic decency of humanity. Let us look at forty pence a poem and throw in all the rest for free. Let us forget the bleeding fingers of the poet as he hand-stitches the pamphlets, let us draw a veil over the agonized soul searching of the literary critic, let us just call it a straight £4, cash.
And here is another matter. We live in an age of instant gratification. Press a button, swipe a card and it’s yours. Live in the right metropolitan conurbation and the mighty Amazon will deliver your goods a full hour before you felt the need to order them!
So I want you to see this rare pamphlet not merely as an object, a book of poems or whatever. I want you to think of it as a piece of performance art. Not only that but it is performance art that you, dear reader, may take part in. A role has been reserved for you.
The procedure is as follows. Having decided that you can no longer call yourself a person of fine literary taste if you do not possess a copy, you are all of a quiver to purchase a copy? What do you do, what steps must you take, how can you ensure that within minutes an electronic document lies quivering, trapped, enmeshed within the coils of your restricting technology?
The answer is simple. You cannot. Instead you must walk a different, more creative path.
Should you know me, you merely pick up the phone and call me, reserving a copy, which I will hand to you in person when we meet and you will hand to me the appropriate sum of hard currency.
If you know me and feel it is unlikely that we will meet, then you can send a message to my email (although I feel a letter in the post would be more in keeping with the nature of this performance, but still I will not penalise an email).
If you wonder whether you can trespass on a very limited acquaintanceship, I insist, feel free. There is an email address available, firstname.lastname@example.org which is checked not infrequently. Then using the miracles of modern technology we can discuss such matters as are of general interest as well as you discovering both the current level of availability of Lambent Dreams, as well as how much it will cost me to post said slim volume to whatever part of the world you are currently domiciled in.
Then, in keeping with the retrospective nature of this performance piece, you can post me a cheque in pounds, sterling, or even push grubby currency notes into an envelope. This is an experience I am sure that younger readers have never had and that older readers can revisit, the pleasure of briefly reliving the trials and tribulations of your younger days will surely add to the value to the experience.
Then when said cheque or bundle of grubby currency notes reaches me I shall place a copy of Lambent Dreams in an envelope, hasten to the post office and thrust it into the system which shall, in due course, deliver this delectable offering into your own fair hands. Think of the bliss, think of the pleasures of gratification denied, think of how you will clutch it to your bosom in glee. Finally and at last, it is yours.
Oh yeah, and I suppose at some point we’ll stick it up on kindle and people can do the whole click and download business but it isn’t what I’d call art.