I wonder if you'd help me conduct a poetry experiment.
Today, October 23rd, is a special day for me. It was the day in 1977 (yup, I was 3 :~£) when I decided to make a serious commitment to poetry by writing at least one poem every day. I kept it up for 5 years, wrote thousands of poems (sometimes a dozen in a 24-hour period), most of them terrible of course, but eventually if you practice anything enough you can become competent. So I always celebrate October 23rd in some way, as the foundation of my writing life, and today I want to involve you. What I'm asking you to do is very simple. Please read on, I promise it'll be (relatively) swift and painless.
Last year I celebrated October 23rd by launching Material in Brighton. It was a wonderful night. But although Material is an even better book than How Things Are On Thursday(which was pretty darned good, according to some people), and even though it received a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, and even though the title poem was highly commended in the Forward Prizes and has just been published in the Forward Book of Poetry 2010, which claims to contain the best poems of the year, this second Anvil book hasn't made any shortlists and has received not one single review in the poetry journals. Not a peep. And you know, we poets, we start to feel dejected, unloved, like nothing we do matters, you know how it is I expect. Who cares about poetry? It makes it all the harder to keep pressing on with writing the *third* book when the second appears to have sunk without a trace.
And yet this is what people have said about Material:
"I really enjoyed reading this book of poetry by Ros Barber. They are very warm and honest poems.By chance I left the collection lying around my flat when my parents came to visit. First my Dad picked it up and sat reading it for ages, then my Mum did too, which surprised me as she doesn't usually read poetry. Mum liked the `hanky' poem so much she copied it out by hand in very neat handwriting and posted it to her sister in Spain. I think this says a lot about Ros's ability to communicate to lots of different people through her poems."
"What I love about Ros's poetry is that it is so lyrical and accessible as well as bearing many re-readings. She writes with her heart and that comes across so well. Ros should be on every 'A' level reading list."
"I have to say that my favourite poets are those whose work is easily accessible, easily understood if you like, but whose work has depths of meaning. Think of Roger McGough or Billy Collins. Or Carol Anne Duffy. Poems you can read over and over again to find new things to enjoy. Ros Barber is just such a poet. I'm really enjoying her latest book, Material, full of interesting and thoughtful poems, mainly autobiographical, some dealing with difficult subjects such as death and loss. I also love her use of language (a snog of boyfriends, ample bosoms and porridge cardigans) and her sure and unobtrusive use of metre and rhyme."
"I sat on my sofa one afternoon and devoured this collection. It soars with emotion. Delightful visions of family members and moments in time that resonate with the past and the present. These poems don't shy away from the difficulties of family life either - the complexities of adult and child relationships, moments of hurt and loss, the power of healing. I laughed and I choked back tears. These poems recognise something in us as fragile human beings. They place us in what we are born into and live with: families. I loved it."
So let me explain the poetry experiment, and how you can participate. I want you to click on the Amazon link below, today, right now even, and buy just one copy of the book! Even if you've already bought it - buy one to give to someone you love. Really, these books make great Christmas presents: when you've finished reading it, or even when you're only a little way through, it doubles up as a drinks coaster. Plus just the act of giving it to someone shows you to be a cultured and thoughtful human being. And if you haven't bought one, you've been meaning to, just haven't got round to it, no more excuses. Click the link below and get one right away, for less than the price of a ticket to see "UP" in 3D (which was great, by the way, go and see that too...)
Material by Ros Barber on Amazon.co.uk
So what, you might ask (quite reasonably), is experimental about me buying one of your books? Here's the lowdown. Just for fun, and because it's October 23rd, I want to see if the collected efforts of people being kind to me can bump Material, even if ever so briefly, into the Amazon top 100 poetry books. The book's ranking as I'm typing this is 412,653 (and falling). That's in books overall, including the sorts of books that actually sell. To get into the top 100 poetry books it would have to (at least temporarily) reach a ranking higher than 10,078 (Spike Milligan's Puckoon). Is it possible? I don't know. But I thought, with your collective help, it might be fun to find out. If it gets nowhere near, that's fine too - even the smallest of blips in sales will encourage me that I really am doing the right thing in writing poetry and prevent me from presenting myself at the nearest Job Centre Plus (only to discover I am unemployable).
In case you missed it, here it is again - the short link that will take you directly to the product page for Material on Amazon.co.uk:
Material by Ros Barber on Amazon.co.uk
Click it now. You won't regret it. It's only a few quid after all - yet it contains acres of pleasure (for yourself, or a friend). And if the ranking is above 412,653 when you buy, let me know where it is. Interactivity, you see. That's what the internet is all about.
This benefits you too, since clicking the link and buying the book constitutes your daily one small act of kindness. Not only will you have my gratitude but good karma will return to you a thousandfold.
When you've read it, if you feel moved to do so, please add a small review to the Amazon site. If you own a copy and you don't have any friends to buy one for (really? do you write poetry too?), click on the link anyway and leave a small review to let the world (and more importantly, me) know what you thought of it. These things mean more than you can imagine.
P.S. If it's already past October 23rd, don't worry! You can still take part in the experiment. Who knows what heights of best-selling poetry excellency we might achieve together. And Christmas is even closer when you're reading this than when I sent it. And you still have friends and family members that would enjoy a book of moving, accesible poetry, right?