this will go out today to the two or three waterstone's branches in my area
Dear Sir/ Madam,
I am writing to you in the interests of friendship and brotherhood--we all play our part in the literary and intellectual life of the country in different ways--to let you know about some writers and poets whose works you should be stocking in your bookshop.
There is a remarkable, dynamic global poetry scene today, which the authors I want to bring to your attention are a vital part of, and along with major publishing houses and mainstream media, the bookshops (by no means only Waterstone's), are ignoring it completely. Can this be right?
Yes, a few large publishers have a regular output of new poets, and to your credit, you do stock some of them from time to time. But they do not represent any of the contemporary schools, or bring anything to the table that hasn't been there since the first books of Ted Hughes; they are seen, perhaps a little unfairly, but they are seen nevertheless, as men and women who have come up through the mainstream, with their publishing contracts being more of a reward for knowing and serving the interests and the egos of the "right" people rather than for their poetry talents.
I appreciate that a bookshop is a business, and that if you don't make a profit you won't be able to pay your staff or keep the shop open; and a High Street needs at least one bookshop, even if it is understocked. And though I don't know how it all works, I would imagine that doing business with the major publishers is good business. I am not suggesting that you cut your ties with them. Nor am I suggesting that you stop selling all these new waves and new generations of polite and well-fed men and women referred to in the paragraph above. They have to make a living also--though I might (rather cheaply) suggest that reviewing their friends' works forever in the Observer or on Radio Four ought to be enough to put food on the table.
But don't you, if only in the interest of not misrepresenting yourselves, but also as one of the last bastions of intelligent life on the High Street, have some degree of responsibility for selling works that accurately reflect what's happening in the literary world now? Can it be right that none of the best living poets are currently available for purchase in your shops?
You mustn't sell your customers short. Author recognition may be a key factor in prompting somebody to buy a book, but could it be possible that curiosity might inspire a purchase also? Could it be possible, also, that your customers might already know some of the authors I am going to list for you below, and are waiting with credit card poised for a bookshop to have the courage to stock them? I know I'd pay good money for them, and I am an occasional Waterstone's customer (though I come into the shop less and less because I can't find what I'm looking for in there.)
And so to the list. Twenty living writers and poets whose works I haven't seen in any Waterstone's branch anywhere in the country, but whom, I would politely suggest, you should be stocking as important young/ old heroes and innovators of the contemporary literary scene. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but it will serve as an aperitif for the amazing feast that waits for anybody with the courage and the imagination to investigate it.
I can put you in touch with most of these authors if you wish to contact them.
TWENTY IMPORTANT CONTEMPORARY POETS AND WRITERS FOR THE BOOKSHOPS OF THE WORLD
in no specific order of talent
Wild Bill Blackolive
Warren Dean Fulton
I hope you will give some consideration to the points I've made and consider, either individually or as a company, investigating some of the authors listed. They have contributed to a general renaissance in world literature such as we haven't seen in at least five decades, and it is a crime their works aren't available for the reading public to enjoy.
Yours in hope of more enlightened times ahead,
Poet, Critic, Founder Blue Fred Press.