Monday, 22 October 2012


I readily plead guilty if ever accused of judging a (literal) book by its cover, reckoning that if publishers have gone to all the palaver of commissioning a design and engaging someone with a least a decent G.C.S.E in Creativity to fulfil their needs, they will also have taken some pains to ensure that - as far as is possible given the interplay of relevant subjective cultural and aesthetic factors - the style, content and general ambiance of the finished product will correspond in some way to those of the contents.  I'm sorry - I've been using  a sentence-stretcher and haven't fully grasped the settings. There are, within my canon of favoured book-factories, certain publishers whose covers I will not in any way apply as an index to what lies within, usually because they have proven repeatedly that there's an inverse correlation between the quality of their jackets and that of their innards.

Another exception concerns my unabashed fetish for publications with covers that have a plainness that is austere but strangely elegant.  This applies especially to poetry pamphlets, one of which I acquired at the recent al fresco poetry event held by Inpress, an umbrella sales and marketing organisation which represents many fine independent publishers, some of which are so small that they operate at the quantum level.  This event, staged outside Foyle's at The South Bank, included excellent readings by poets from various publishers, including Kim Moore, whose 'If we could Speak Like Wolves' is pictured here. This Smith/Doorstop publication typifies the appeal of the poetry pamphlet, with its enticingly minimalist cover, (the title picked out in a bold shade of red to contrast with the ethereal pearl grey background), suggesting, paradoxically, an interior richness and magic, and its finger-pleasing pages sandwiched neatly between cover flaps.  The whole package unleashes my bibliographical lust (never far from the surface) in full flood, at first sight.

Furthermore I think (as, more persuasively, does Carol Ann Duffy) that the poems are very fine, too; especially the titular piece, which Ms Moore declaimed to great effect a few weekends ago:

If I could wait for the slightest change
in you, then each day hurt you in a dozen
different ways, bite heart-shaped chunks
of flesh from your thighs to test if you flinch
or if you could be trusted to endure,

if I could rub my scent along your shins to make
you mine, if a mistake could be followed
by instant retribution and end with you
rolling over to expose the stubble and grace
of your throat, if it could be forgotten

the moment the wind changed, if my eyes
could sharpen to yellow, if we journeyed
each night for miles, taking it in turns
to lead, if we could know by smell
what we are born to, if before we met

we sent our lonely howls across the estuary
where in the fading light wader birds stiffen
and take to the air, then we could agree
a role for each of us, more complicated
than alpha, more simple than marriage.

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