Nonplaced by Amy Ekins

-Reviewed by Harry Giles


Amy Ekins’ debut pamphlet is unusual in that, rather than presenting a range of discrete works showcasing the poet feeling out their voice, it’s a lengthy and coherent project: 29 five-line poems, each titled after a domestic object, beginning with “You are not here”, and describing the object’s emotional resonances in the absence of a long-gone lover. The voice is direct, tragic and bitterly witty, and the effect is a gut-punch: the mourning for a lost relationship is so accurate and relatable as to be devastating. This is a pamphlet I would give to a friend going through a hard break-up, because self-recognition is so important to grief. Unlike a money-note power ballad, though, these poems refuse catharsis and are never self-aggrandising in their sadness: they resist a tragic mythological narrative in favour of the bald simplicity of loss.

Despite being sparse on visual detail, they also seem to be highly descriptive poems – I feel like I can picture the narrator’s flat with some accuracy, but in leafing through the pamphlet now I can’t work out how that happened. In imbuing a purse, a pillow or a washing-up bowl with rich emotional resonance, Ekins summons the objects into being. The result is a kind of domestic nature poetry, where the inventory of a lonely flat is treated as carefully as birdsong. Despite Ekins not assigning it a single adjective, I know this microwave:

You are not here.
This does not surprise me.
Microwave meals are the conserve
of the lonely, the partial,
whereas you are whole, a sphere of heat in and of yourself.

This fresh, clear language is used throughout the pamphlet. For me, Ekins’ writing is at its weakest when it collapses into poetic conceit (“Stubs of trips worn to slips”, “creased with kisses passed” from Purse) and at its strongest when it moves easily between quietly described moments. Ekins also uses contemporary language forms (“FYI”, “#location”, and so on) in a natural and entirely unshowy way; rather than demonstrating a grand poetic point by using them, she is simply showing us that they are an ordinary part of contemporary vernacular and thus a poetic resource. The effect of this voice is frequently tragically funny, when the flat tone reveals a deeper wound:

You are not here.
I lift the receiver, checking
you aren’t trying, failing
meeting with a dial tone

Though I loved the poetry, I found myself unsatisfied with the pamphlet form for its presentation. While the copious white space around each poem slows down the reader and gives each poem its necessary breath, for an expansive sequence the briefness of the format feels constraining. This isn’t helped by the cheap presentation – characterless paper stock, unconvincing typesetting and a slightly pixelated cover – which sells the poems short. A project of this ambition and scope deserves more innovative presentation – how else could a long sequence of very short poems be refreshingly presented? A box of notecards? A tiny pocketbook? A twitter stream? Something unthought of? I also felt that the content of the work hadn’t been fully exhausted by 29 poems – I felt like there was more of the flat to explore, more of the grief to inventory, more to hold and to mourn. Could the work have been extended further if it were given something other than a pamphlet to live in, and would it have found a different format if the pamphlet-prize-collection career arc weren’t so suffocatingly established?

Similarly, I was disappointed by the final poem, Fin. I didn’t want the pamphlet to end – not just in the usual way, when you want great poems to keep going and going, but also because I didn’t want the loss so carefully documented to be cut off with a neat “Fin”. Although the pamphlet ends with “here I was confused”, the final poem still aims at resolution, and I felt dissatisfied not just with the conclusion but with the idea itself of the poems concluding. I didn’t want to end on a note, even a hanging note – I wanted the obsessive inventorying to keep going and trying and failing to resolve into new life. On the other hand, the poet’s first duty is to themselves, and certainly not to me, so as much as I want an expansive compendium of break-up poems for mourners to share, perhaps, in the end, it was time for Ekins to move on.

66 thoughts on “Nonplaced by Amy Ekins

  • May 13, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Regarding the layout and presentation of the chap-book (it isn’t a ‘pamphlet’; that is a different form altogether): Mr Giles speaks of: ‘cheap presentation – characterless paper stock, unconvincing typesetting and a slightly pixellated cover’ (sic; I presume he means ‘pixelated’) Could Mr Giles tell me how ‘paper stock’ can be ‘characterless’? Is he referring to the paper itself? or the ‘paper stock’? what sort of a ‘character’ would he like it to have? arrogant? shy? maybe demure and fashionable??? …or maybe he can tell me what constitutes ‘unconvincing typesetting’ (maybe this means that the typesetting has little ability for persuasive conversation???)

    erbacce-press which publishes this unique chap-book from a unique poet is a cooperative, it is a totally egalitarian cooperative which pays 20% royalties to every poet published and all the funds stem from the poets themselves. Thus non-profit. Entirely. Mr Giles should try it some time and then he won’t whinge about the quality of the standard 80grm paper which is the same as used by Faber & Faber. Criticising a chap-book for being cheap is totally idiotic as the very name ‘chap-book’ derives from the root; ‘cheap-book’… clearly that is an error from Mr Giles which stems from the fact that he doesn’t know the difference between pamphlet and chap-book… however I will not labour his ignorance, merely highlight it.

    Is it a critics job to say that there is not enough poetry? I don’t think so. Writing reviews as I do for New Hope International, The Journal, Orbis, Neon Highway, Stride etc etc it seems to me that criticising a highly talented poet for not writing more poems is akin to criticising War and Peace for having a mere 687,000 words as opposed to 687,001; it’s idiotic and when you think of it, rather immature.

    I have never heard of Harry Giles. I fear I may never hear from him ever again if this is his idea of a critique… marks out of ten for his effort though… perhaps a generous two… maybe two and a half… after all he does manage to spell his name right…

    Alan Corkish: Editor of over 200 books for erbacce-press and other publishing houses)

    • May 14, 2014 at 10:04 am

      In among all your breathtaking array of wrong and badly argued points, Alan, I couldn’t help noticing this:

      “… it is a totally egalitarian cooperative which pays 20% royalties to every poet published and all the funds stem from the poets themselves.”

      Are you actually boasting about the fact that you make your poets *pay* to be published by you? Like a vanity press?

  • May 14, 2014 at 7:32 am

    No point in leaving comment; if they don’t like it they just delete it

  • May 14, 2014 at 10:23 am

    I do wonder if I’m reading the same review to which Mr. Corkish refers.

    I have to say I am not impressed by the ad hominem tones this comment takes in its closing paragraph, towards a very well-meaning reviewer. However, to draw the line between the pamphlet form and the chapbook strikes me as grasping-at-straws pettifoggery, but if Mr Corkish insists on drawing said line, he must also be aware that the ‘chapbook’ was traditionally the runt of the publishing litter and consequently subject to being treated with contempt (thus making early chapbooks so rare today – they were thrown away, used to sharpen razors etc) – see Samuel Pepys reference to chapbooks as ‘bum fodder’ – so by that token it seems to me that Harry Giles is treating this ‘chapbook’ with great respect.

    I have published Amy Ekins’ work via The Cadaverine and I know fine well of her talent, and Harry Giles does nothing here to diminish her achievements, this if anything is a very positive review.

    • May 18, 2014 at 12:32 pm

      Yet another Happenstance poet??? Is there a pattern emerging here chaps?

  • May 14, 2014 at 10:58 am

    I’ve never heard of Harry Giles, Alan Corkish or Niall O’Sullivan. I’d give myself two our of ten because I really don’t need the other eight. In an alternate universe, a paper manufacturer is getting angry about a critique of a poem.

    • May 14, 2014 at 3:12 pm

      Ha ha ha; an excellent response. Made me smile. Thank you Niall :-)

  • May 14, 2014 at 11:03 am

    “is it a critics [sic] job to say that there is not enough poetry?”

    Good grief, what a spectacular way to miss a compliment! If the reviewer says he wants more poetry by the poet, publish another pamphlet/chap book/whatever the hell you want to call it. If, after this outburst, the poet will let you…

  • May 14, 2014 at 11:11 am

    I’d also add that regardless of whether you disagree with a review, this is far from the hatchet job your remark seems to be addressing. HG is volunteering his time and insight as a reviewer to ensure your publications get some coverage, and has clearly put a great deal of thought into examining the whole package. As a buyer, the quality of materials and layout is incredibly important. I’ve put back excellent books because they look like they were POD.

  • May 14, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Thank you all for responding  In answer to Jon; sorry I was vague… what actually happens at erbacce-press is that we pay ALL poets 20% royalties… (Random House and Penguin pay just 12%) as we are a cooperative the poets sometimes (most times actually) are so pleased with erbacce that they pay some of their royalties back to us. This money goes to fund another poets publication. So the short answer is No Jon, we don’t make poets pay anything whatsoever, however most poets choose to participate in the cooperative nature of our venture. If you genuinely wish to see what poets think about erbacce-press go to and click on the ‘testimonials’ link; there you will see what highly talented poets think about us.

    As for Richie; you are totally correct regarding chap-books. However the point I was trying to make regarding the comments which related to the quality of the books was that the comment is unfair. To go back to the testimonials posted on our site; I select a few at random:

    ‘The book is marvellous, a testament to the professionalism of erbacce- press, and the patience of Alan in particular. Thank you, the cover is perfect…’

    ‘…the books are wonderful, the cover, layout and font are all great, thank you for being so committed’

    ‘Your edition of the chap is wonderful, in fact it may be my best presentation yet. I appreciate your hard work so very much… You are the very best in the business.’

    ‘beautifully constructed books; I thank you both for such a wonderful job, you have created something wonderful’

    ‘The chap is flawless, indeed, the final product well exceeded my hopes and expectations. All publishers would be wise to emulate erbacce-press’

    …and there are many many more of similar ilk. (go on; take a look, and contact the poets who wrote them if you need more information) We at erbacce are trying to break the mould. We are trying to ensure poets always get paid. We are fighting vanity publishers and the sites who charge poets a reading or entry fee to submit their work for competitions. It is annoying when an otherwise perceptive review unfairly attacks the quality of the chap-books… if something had gone wrong with this book (or any of our books) then we’d scrap them and print them again…. To date though; its happened only once in close to 200 books published by us (perfect bound and chaps and pamphlets) and on that occasion we simply re-printed them.

    But thank you all for contributing; debate is good for poets and for poetry; but with reviews I think one has to be honest and I honestly don’t see the point in criticising a chap-book because it isn’t a set of cards or something else…


    • May 14, 2014 at 1:09 pm

      Alan, a chapbook is a physical product. People who are considering parting with money for a physical product don’t *just* want the words inside it; they want something that they feel is a pleasing object.

      So it is fair, when you’re performing a service for readers (which is the point of any serious review) to remark on the production quality. And while you might disagree with Harry’s opinion on the quality, he’s entitled – indeed, duty-bound as a reviewer – to state his own opinion honestly. He should not have to have regard to other people’s testimonials when he’s reporting his own experience and judgment about what’s right in front of him – they are not an objective standard that everyone must bow before.

      I have to wonder: have you actually checked out your competition? Have you come across chapbooks by Flarestack, Nine Arches or Happenstance, for instance? This is the kind of standard your books are up against and are being compared to.

      Also, regarding his suggestions for innovative presentation formats – it’s perfectly fair to suggest that the format that has been chosen for the publication of a particular sequence of poems is misjudged. Poetry isn’t a medium that is or should be chained to the printed page.

  • May 14, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    Jon; I’ll be brief. Read what the people whom we actually PRODUCE books for and see what THEY say: and click on testimonials. The criticism of our production is unfair. Have YOU seen the quality of our books? Send me a snail-mail if you like and I’ll send you a free sample. I’m at [email protected]

    • May 14, 2014 at 4:48 pm

      Your testimonials page is full of quotes from your authors. It sounds like you’re saying you don’t produce books with *readers* in mind at all.

      Why is the criticism of the product unfair? Is criticism only ‘fair’ in your world if you agree with it?

      • May 14, 2014 at 5:05 pm

        It’s ‘unfair’ because it’s untrue… even the poet herself disagrees as you’ll see if you take the time to read her comments. This is not just a matter of ‘opinion’; a reviewer has a duty to be honest to the readers and not to criticise a book for not being something else. That is just plain old prejudice.

        • May 14, 2014 at 6:12 pm

          “It’s ‘unfair’ because it’s untrue … This is not just a matter of ‘opinion’”

          How is it ‘not just a matter of opinion’? Do you understand what an opinion is? Do you understand that you can think something is perfectly adequate and I can think it’s rubbish, and neither of us is being ‘dishonest’ because both of these opinions are sincerely held?

          • May 15, 2014 at 9:45 am

            Please don’t patronise me Jon. You have not seen our books so I can’t see how you can comment. Please don’t talk utter drivel :-)

          • May 16, 2014 at 2:23 pm

            Alan – it’s kind of hard not to patronise you when you’re too confused to understand the nature of opinion.

            If you want to send me a book, by all means, do – but don’t get angry if I tell you I agree with Harry.

  • May 14, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    Poor Amy Ekins. And I feel she hasn’t been well served by her editor, who failed to spot that ‘conserve’, in the context quoted in the review above, is incorrect. The correct word would have been ‘preserve’ – an easy mistake to make, as both of these words also mean a form of jam.

  • May 14, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Oh dear oh dear… did it ever occur to msbaroque that this was a tongue in cheek kind of joke? Anyway with poetry it is NOT an editor’s job to change ANYTHING… NOTHING is ‘incorrect’ in poetry… jeepers has she never heard of Bob Cobbing? or Cummings? or even the work of myself Alan Corkish? What would you ‘change’ in THEIR work? If any editor changed one single word in my autobiographical poem (at ) I’d be very annoyed. With poetry it’s an editor’s job to advise and to query; I’m pleased to say I have never changed ANYTHING a poet has written (prose is different) Look; I have been doing this for ten years with erbacce and with other publishing houses previously; can you credit me with some nouse please?

  • May 14, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    Final word from me; I have just realised that there is a comment from Amy herself posted on our ‘Testimonials’ page; it reads exactly as follows:

    Amy Ekins author of Nonplaced

    When not writing, I am a full time project manager for a publishing company. So, I know a thing or two about what it takes to put a book together. I was so impressed by Alan’s speed and skill for putting together the proofs of my chapbook, and his use of space on the page was exemplary. We managed to finalise the chapbook in a mere two weeks, and I am very happy with the end result…

    • May 14, 2014 at 2:46 pm

      You’ve missed the point, which is that you were beyond rude about the reviewer and somehow think it’s an acceptable way to roll in poetry 2014. It just isn’t.

      • May 14, 2014 at 3:01 pm

        This response isn’t even literate… but IF I read it right Clara is saying that I was being rude about the reviewer who was being rude about one of the books I edited??? So what? and what does ‘…an acceptable way to roll in poetry’ actually MEAN??? Good grief it sounds illegal ha ha ha

        What is REALLY griping all you guys??? It’s getting tedious; almost pathetic… I notice some of you have books published; I will guarantee that NONE of you get paid the royalties we at erbacce-press pay and I’ll guarantee that none of you have books as well produced as ours. That is partly why I’m so annoyed about the review. Now if the reviewer has a book published send it to us and we’ll send him one of ours; he can select any one from our website; ours will be just as good if not better. PUT UP or SHUT UP.

        BTW; when I click on Clara’s name I get no response? I thought everyone here had to leave an email address and a website? Anonymous ‘Clara’ could be absolutely anyone with an axe to grind.

        • May 14, 2014 at 3:07 pm

          If you read it, it says email addresses are kept anonymous. And if you’re prepared to be get personal with a reviewer then you’ll do the same to a reader, so this policy works well I think. Put bluntly, I think the way you’ve spoken to people on this thread is shocking.

  • May 14, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Put bluntly anonymous Clara you should grow up if fair comment and an enthusiastic response ‘shocks’ you. And I see nothing about ‘anonymous emails’; I get told to leave an email and a website so I do. Why IS it that you wish to remain anonymous? Everyone knows who I am; you should have the courage of your convictions or keep your anonymous remarks to yourself! Good grief you might even be my ex-wife!!! Ha ha ha

    • May 14, 2014 at 4:50 pm

      “… you should grow up if fair comment and an enthusiastic response ‘shocks’ you.”

      Maybe take your own advice here, Alan?

      • May 14, 2014 at 5:13 pm

        Jon; I responded to this with what I believed to be scorn; its not been allowed through so may I just say; ‘Thank you for such a witty, intellectual and mature response; truly you are a man of immense and breath-taking debating powers and a supreme grasp on the language of Shakespeare… I am humbled and will now retire to lick my wounds and to sadly regret I have not your rapier-like wit…’ ;-)

        • May 14, 2014 at 6:15 pm

          I haven’t wounded you – I’ve just pointed out that you’re the one here massively overreacting to fair comment! Harry Giles is not being remotely ‘dishonest’ or ‘unfair’ by stating in clear terms exactly what he thinks about your production quality.

          • May 15, 2014 at 9:44 am

            Yes he is. Because what he says is UNTRUE as you’d know if you seen one of our books (I offered to send you one but you’d rather sit here mouthing about something you patently can’t know anything about)

  • May 14, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    “If any editor changed one single word in my autobiographical poem…I’d be very annoyed. With poetry it’s an editor’s job to advise and to query; I’m pleased to say I have never changed ANYTHING a poet has written”

    I’m guessing you mean you’ve never changed anything without their consent? I think when people on here talk about changing things they’re referring to an agreed change, post-query. None of us, as editors, would jimmy around with someone’s poem without checking with the writer.

    If you genuinely mean you wouldn’t attempt to edit a poem purely because it was autobiographical, that just ain’t helpful to man nor beast.

  • May 14, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    As a sidenote, although the identity of your press is important, really, a publisher’s priority should be doing right by their writers, and actually, HG’s review was very positive about Amy’s work. Rather than acknowledging that and celebrating Amy’s feedback, you’ve leapt straight in with triple question marks and snotty remarks about his provenance as a reviewer, which has somewhat overshadowed the praise.

  • May 14, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    I am indebted to Kirsten for clarifying… if there is what I believe to be a glaring typo or error I would point it out to the poet. Can’t remember it ever happening though; most poets are superb at presenting their work ‘complete’; I guess it’s because they deal with the intense minutia of life as they see it.

    I can’t agree however that because overall the review was positive I have not the right to defend the way the chap-book is presented, edited and typeset, as that was also commented upon by Mr Giles… I also find such pompous and meaningless phrases as ‘characterless paper stock’ entirely meaningless… have you Kirsten any idea what it means? Frankly it’s pompous bull*** Similarly with ‘unconvincing typesetting’ ??? It is typeset in exactly the way the poet constructed it??? the word ‘unconvincing’ is bordering on moronic isn’t it??? It’s almost a parody of the language used by bone-heads who actually haven’t got a clue what they are on about but who like to hear the sound of their own voice echoing in the void and being willingly absorbed by hordes of equally idiotic reception vessels who haven’t got the brains to see that the Emperor has no clothes… sorry; so long as reviewers and critics present such nonsense I will respond pointing out how utterly pretentious and unconvincing they sound to this individual :-) BUT; in the end it’s all good fun; bye for now and thanks for all the fish ;-)

    • May 14, 2014 at 5:42 pm

      I appreciate you want to sign off on this, Alan, but I thought I’d answer your question. Yes, I do know what the reviewer means by “characterless paper stock”. Not having held the pamphlet, I don’t know for sure, but I suspect it was 80gsm pure white. I know that despite being on a tight budget, we vetoed about five printers because they didn’t do off-white in a weight that suited us (min 90gsm). The problem with 80gsm pure white (if indeed that is the stock you use) is that it reminds many readers of POD and kinda feels cheap. It’s a fine detail, but one that makes a huge difference. Not pompous bullshit, but an appreciation for the art of the physical object. After all, the only reason to produce physical books in a digital landscape is to make them beautiful and tactile with gorgeous (not necessarily ornate or extortionate – Happenstance do clean, simple and elegant pamphlets) production values.

  • May 14, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    Oh dear; and I had grown to like you Kirsten; now you join with the pomp-and-circumstance brigade. Do Happenstance pay poets 20% royalties? Do Happenstance organise road-shows and readings for them? Do Happenstance promote their books and give them dedicated sales-pages? You admit that you haven’t a clue what you are talking about because you have never held one of our books… I despair. Never mind; the pubs are open so I guess I’ll go talk to some intelligent species of human and leave you all to wallow in your ‘gorgeous production values’ :-) Oh BTW; CAN ‘production values’ be ‘gorgeous’? (Please don’t answer of I’ll shoot myself in the foot… ;-))

    • May 14, 2014 at 5:58 pm

      80gsm it is then. And personally, as a Happenstance poet, I preferred the quality of the book as an ambassador for my work to 20% royalties (on poetry? Really, how much does that even come to?). Nell did a hands-on, pummelling good editing job, consulted me on the cover art and end paper colours and gave me a hearty stack of copies free. At the end of it, I came away with an elegant-looking calling card for my work and that, for me, was more valuable in promoting my work than a royalty share. Ooh, and she also gave us a discount on future copies.

      And it’s ok. You don’t have to like me. But I am trying to tell you what influences me personally as a buyer, a poet and a reader, not just as a publisher.

      • May 15, 2014 at 9:42 am

        As you haven’t seen our books you are commenting upon something you know NOTHING about :-) Bad debating technique :-)

    • May 14, 2014 at 6:26 pm

      Yes, Happenstance do pay 20% royalties, I believe, Check your contract, K. It’s somewhere around that figure. And yes, they do organise readings, promote the books, sell them from the website etc. They also, until recently, ran a separate magazine, Sphinx, in which their own and other publishers’ pamphlets were reviewed by three independent critics.

      And they print on cream stock. Mmm.

      Here’s question for you, Alan: do your pamphlets have barcodes on them, and have you checked that they scan properly? Because if barcode scanners can’t read them because the DPI of the cover too low (ie. it’s pixellated), then bookshops are less likely to want to stock them. That’s one area where production quality makes a clear practical difference.

      • May 15, 2014 at 9:41 am

        Yes our printers install barcodes and yes they work fine. The cover is NOT pixellated (?) that was the rviewers opinion and it’s simply WRONG (should have gone to spec-savers) Have to sign off now; it’s all been good fun my children but work beckons (three books to edit; perfect bound ;-)) Thanks for the debate (and the fishes of course)

      • May 18, 2014 at 12:36 pm

        Email from Helena Nelson of Happenstance Press just received: QUOTE: ‘It is not true that I pay 20% royalties to poets. I don’t do royalties at all. The sales don’t support it.’

        Do you simply make it up as you go along Jon? Doesn’t do any service at all to the brilliant and progressive Happenstance Press…

  • May 16, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Alan; did you know that Jon and Kirsten are colleagues? Have they an agenda? They appear to be just neutral parties but in fact they conspire to gang up on you. Not sure why but it’s pretty pathetic that they never mentioned it. Really interesting debate though and ultimately it seems Alan is right in that these two individuals have never seen any erbacce books and yet they are happy to viciously and nastily attack the editor. I would call that pretty bad form really. I wonder why they do this? I wonder why when Alan offers them a free copy to take a look at they ignore his offer? All in all this is pretty nasty and I hope they feel ashamed of themselves for being so duplicitous. I must admit that I know Alan and I have seen his books. They are finely crafted and rather beautiful as indeed is testified to by both myself and others on the erbacce Testimonial pages.

  • May 16, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    Just been told by a friend that you lot are all mates??? What kind of chicken-shits are you guys to gang up like this? What’s your agenda? Kirsten and Jon are close mates; are they also mates with Mr Giles? Is that why your arguments are pathetic? Why you condemn by editing skills and the books layout WITHOUT EVER HAVING SEEN IT? Gutless… moronic… cowardly…

    • May 16, 2014 at 3:18 pm

      Hey Alan. Yeah, not sure why Jenny’s comment about us conspiring to gang up on you was deleted. I was about to reply. Jon and me do indeed run a small publisher together, Sidekick Books. Feel free to check it out at your leisure. I didn’t declare it because frankly I thought everybody knew already, poetry being such a small, incestuous beastie. It doesn’t change anything I’ve said. I’ve not exactly been craning round Jon’s shoulder shaking a fist and going “Yeah, what he said!” My opinions are my own, based on my own experience. Indeed, I headed to this thread based on Claire T posting a link on Facebook to find Stone had already got in on the comments. I felt I had something else to add, so I spoke up.

      Other Disclaimer: Indeed, Harry reviews for Sidekick Books’ Irregular Features, though that’s externally edited and I have no editorial contact with him, but read the resulting pieces as anyone else. I say this in the name of transparency (again, I thought this was well known – he also reviews for other places) and also to his experience and range as a reviewer. Think about it. He has no personal beef with erbacce (Christ, poetry is small enough – getting a review at all is a win for us), and unlike certain columnists he doesn’t get paid to say things for shock value, so why on Earth would he criticise the production without cause?

      By the by, I do take issue with Jenny suggesting we’re ganging up to bully you. What would we have to gain by that? Feel free to tell me which of my comments were bullying. You were the one who first made this personal, and continue to do so, calling us gutless, moronic and cowardly. I’ve tried to keep it about actions and measurables and have freely admitted where my knowledge ends (though I have seen your cover designs on the website, so that’s some experience of your work), but also asked about the paper etc., to which you didn’t reply one way or another. I’m not trying to pretend I’ve been dissecting your books in great detail. I’m simply asking what you use.

      • May 16, 2014 at 3:22 pm

        Hi K,
        I deleted ‘Jenny”s comment as it came from the same IP address as Alan, i.e it’s Alan, and I thought removing it might put an end to all of this, but shall restore it now that it’s been mentioned…

  • May 16, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    No it is NOT ‘Alan’ Claire??? It is a person who shares my PC sometimes when I’m at work? (real work) she then emailed me to say she had put a comment up but the editor had censored it… Jesus I give up entirely on all of you except to repeat that the whole shower of you are commenting on and criticising a book YOU HAVE NEVER EVEN SEEN. Doesn’t that say it all??? None of you surely deny it???

    • May 16, 2014 at 5:56 pm

      We’re not commenting ‘on a book we’ve never seen’. We’re commenting on a reviewer’s right to publish his honest and forthright opinion about a book he *has* seen and read without being accused of being a liar or being showered with petty pedantry. The issue here is: Harry Giles is *not* dishonest just because you disagree with his opinion on the production quality of a book. Your attempts to impugn him are spiteful and foolish. Even if the book was printed on satin using the most expensive inks in the world, your attitude would still be ridiculous and wrong. Pull your socks up and perform some serious self-reflection, Alan.

  • May 16, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Jon my comment was that the reviewer was mistaken or a liar or has faulty eye-sight if he thinks the cover is pixilated. I was also commenting on his pompous use of language which makes no sense at all and I am reasonably well educated having a double honours degree, a Master of Arts in Writing skills and a Master of Science with a distinction. I’ve also been editing and reviewing for over fifteen years and have edited and produced and typeset around 200 books many of them perfect bound so I resent some no-mark reviewer producing such crap… I am also able to recognize an idiot manipulating words to blind his foolish audience and I always respond to that twaddle… always will…

    MORE than that however I resent you and your infantile rodent-pack jumping in to criticize the book and myself personally:

    YOU can’t even read English; you stated: ‘Are you actually boasting about the fact that you make your poets *pay* to be published by you? Like a vanity press?’ which shows you can’t comprehend basic English as what I was saying was EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE OF THAT you dick-brain..

    YOU say: ‘Do you understand that you can think something is perfectly adequate and I can think it’s rubbish, and neither of us is being ‘dishonest’ because both of these opinions are sincerely held?’ which is a fair point and I don’t object to him having an opinion; I am pointing out that his opinion is WRONG FACTUALLY. YOU have no idea whether HE is right or I am right but you love the sound of your own voice so much you can’t resist mouthing ill-conceived comments without first putting your brain into gear.

    Then YOU state: ‘you’re too confused to understand the nature of opinion.’ ‘Confused’? What is confused about what I have to say? It is you and your fellow clowns who are confused if you don’t see that only the reviewer and I know what I’m talking about. YOU just like the sound of your own voice or you are desperate to impress the reviewer or Kerstyn. Highly immature but then you are a very young boy so perhaps it’s understandable. If you wish to insult me little boy; then pop round and see me, you know where erbacce-press is; the address is online. Don’t you EVER get snotty with me… not EVER…

    YOU say ‘Happenstance do pay 20% royalties’ Do they? I don’t believe you; I know (personally) people who have been published by Happenstance… AND they don’t mention royalties AT ALL on their website. But that’s OK; most small publishers don’t; it’s YOU who has to leap in with something distinctly dubious, yet again trying to impress. (You don’t)

    YOU say: ‘do your pamphlets have barcodes on them, and have you checked that they scan properly? Because if barcode scanners can’t read them because the DPI of the cover too low (ie. it’s pixellated), then bookshops are less likely to want to stock them. That’s one area where production quality makes a clear practical difference.’ I should have asked: ‘What the F*** has that to do with you you pompous wee prick!’ But I didn’t. Your whole statement is lecturing and pompous, bit like the reviewer… The truth is you are here trying to impress someone or with your own private agenda… and you STILL haven’t sent me an address for me to send you a book of ours; so you can eat your words… and APOLOGISE.

    I asked you before (not that it actually has anything whatsoever to do with YOU): PUT UP or SHUT UP as clearly you haven’t got the guts to apologise… and never never never get patronising with me you little runt I don’t have to take that from any pompous middle-class dick posing as a Socialist! Have you ANY idea who you are talking to? Check this perhaps; it might enlighten you.

    • May 16, 2014 at 7:01 pm

      Alan, if you resent being criticised personally, you should make an effort to be less of a charmless ball of spittle and rage. Do it for the sake of your poor writers, if nothing else, who surely deserve better than to have to have to see their publisher make such a spectacle of himself on a public site.

      “Don’t you EVER get snotty with me… not EVER…”

      I’ll do what I like, thanks.

      “… but then you are a very young boy …”

      Thanks, but at 31, it would be rather vain of me to believe this.

      “I am pointing out that his opinion is WRONG FACTUALLY.”

      The whole point of an opinion is that it’s a personal judgement. There is no ‘factually’. This is why I say you are confused – you don’t seem to be able to grasp the idea that people can have conflicting opinions, neither of which is any more grounded in fact than the other. Go back to school, Alan, and take a course on, I don’t know, tact? Tolerance? Productive debating? Anger management?

      “The truth is you are here trying to impress someone or with your own private agenda …”

      The truth is I’m procrastinating because I’m out in Hong Kong working at the moment and have nothing to do in the late evenings except write (which I’m meant to be doing) or muck about on the internet. And I’m kind of intrigued by how self-deluded you are and whether it’s a fitting test of my abilities to talk someone down from a state of megalomania. On that front at least, you’re winning. But I’m still kind of interesting in poking around to see if there’s a way you can be made to be at least semi-reasonable.

      “… PUT UP or SHUT UP …”

      I’ll take secret option 3: continuing to advise you of the error of your ways. You have misjudged Harry, you have misjudged other people here, and your arguments are foolish.

      “I am also able to recognize an idiot manipulating words to blind his foolish audience …”

      Evidently not, since you’re mistaken in this case.

      • May 17, 2014 at 7:32 am

        You’ll ‘do what you like’ eh? OK; fine… lets see if you do it to my face when you return to the UK.

        An ‘opinion’ can’t contradict facts. Well it can; but if it does then it is a tautology that such an opinion is flawed; which was what I was commenting upon when you stuck your nose in while trying to impress your audience.

        So now you’re in a Hong Kong Hotel ‘writing’, and ‘mucking about on the internet’. If you are really 31 (see comment below) then it’s about time you got a job instead of lazing your way through life. I guess I must have got it right when I labelled you as a ‘pompous middle-class dick posing as a Socialist!’… Get a job; get a life; get a reality check and steer far far away from me…

        • May 17, 2014 at 8:33 am

          I have a job, Alan. You’ll notice I said I was writing ‘in the late evening’. In the daytime, I’m working.

          There are no facts in existence that can contradict “characterless paper stock” and “unconvincing typesetting” – these are aesthetic judgments. The pixellisation might well be a matter of fact, but it’s extremely unlikely that Harry has just made it up or imagined it – much more likely, to my mind and the mind of anyone reading this exchange, that Harry has noticed something you haven’t. Or rather, that you’ve wilfully ignored.

          Also of note: you aren’t the first cowardly little shit I’ve encountered whose decided to break out the physical confrontation card when you’ve lost an argument to someone you reckon you could take in a fight. So don’t think you can intimidate me with thuggery.

    • May 16, 2014 at 7:08 pm

      Oh, by the way, you can post your book to the Island Pacific Hotel, Hong Kong. The address is online.

  • May 17, 2014 at 7:21 am

    You’re 31??? Sorry I formed the impression you were a boy when I read your comments and found photos of a skinny wee mummy’s-boy online who looked about 12. Had your name; must have been an imposter.

    Sorry; can’t afford to deliver it to Hong Kong; (I keep telling you; we are a cooperative and that would be poor use of the cooperative-funds now wouldn’t it?) but have no WORRIES at all Jon; when you return I’ll ensure I deliver a book to you personally.

    • May 17, 2014 at 8:23 am

      Ah, I see – so you don’t really want to send me your book at all then. You’re really just after my address so you can make threats of physical violence.

      You suggested I might be enlightened by the link you posted. Almost the first thing it mentions is how proud you are of how many enemies you’ve made – so it looks rather like you go into these discussions looking for a fight, doesn’t it? Any excuse to start attacking people, eh?

      Unfortunately, even that’s got the ring of a self-aggrandising fairy tale you tell yourself. I think the truth here is, from the various comments you’ve made about the ‘language’ people use, that you feel completely alienated and deeply threatened by anything or anyone you perceive to be cleverer, or better, or better-liked than you, and anything you find difficult to make sense of or follow. This is why you make the bizarre criticism that Harry’s review ‘makes no sense at all’ when it’s perfectly lucid, and then try to anticipate any retort of “Well, maybe your just thick” with a list of meaningless educational achievements.

      I can somewhat understand the root of your ill-feeling – alienation happens whenever a culture exists that you don’t feel quite part of, and poetry/literary culture can feel like that to someone encountering it afresh. And despite your history of producing poetry, it seems you’ve isolated yourself from the rest of the people doing it. Harry and I know each other, yes, but we live in opposite ends of the UK and have only met in person twice, very briefly. We know each other because we both make an effort – as do most people who decide to be involved in contemporary poetry – to get to know the work and the values of others involved in the same sphere. It doesn’t mean all of us agree with each other all the time (I frequently write oppositional or critical pieces about poetry culture and its many problems) but it does mean we start out on the footing of according each other some basic respect.

      You, on the other hand, storm into places like this, declaring that if you haven’t heard of somebody already they must be a nobody. You demonstrate a total lack of interest in other people and their own projects and creative histories, and would rather threaten and cuss at them than build bridges. Not very egalitarian, Alan. It seems you’re only in this game for yourself. Even your various boasts about what you do for your writers at erbacce are just a form of self-congratulation. I mean, the sheer arrogance of claiming you do better than other small presses you’ve never even heard of or bothered to investigate without even investigating the terms of their contract! Do you know how many books Harry has reviewed? Or I’ve reviewed? Or that either of us designed/published/had a hand in? Nope. And we don’t either, off-hand, because we don’t memorise the figures so we can brag about it.

      So this is the problem: you’re not angry because anyone has done you a disservice, and you’re not angry because of working class or political marginalisation. You’re angry because you’re a vain man with a fragile ego who can’t stomach any kind of criticism, even when it isn’t intended personally. That’s what’s really going on here, isn’t it?

      Oh, and yeah, I do look very young for my age – thanks for noticing. Those online photos are almost all from the last 2-3 years. Now, send your book to my hotel so I can take photos that demonstrate the degree of pixellisation, eh? I’m out here for some time yet.

      • May 17, 2014 at 9:16 am

        Uh, I got a ‘you’re’ wrong.

  • May 17, 2014 at 10:16 am

    Ha ha ha; isn’t it amazing what happens when a cage is rattled? So AT LAST you admit that you, the reviewer and all your mates here know each other? You say: ‘ Harry and I know each other’ and you’ve got loads of info about you and Kerstyn all over the web… You’re a ‘gang’? Ha ha ha Well what a surprise.

    There was also a post here from you which the editor has kindly deleted which said you agreed with the reviewer tat the cover was pixilated… you said you wanted to photograph it and post it online. But that was just another lie wasn’t it because YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN THE BOOK and the poet herself, whose comment IS posted above and IS available on our ‘Testimonials’ page refutes that??? So YOU are calling the poet a liar? or saying she isn’t as capable as you (I remind everyone; Jon has NEVER SEEN THE BOOK) of making a judgement? And that the reviewer can override her opinion? and mine? and the dozens of other poets who comment on the high quality of erbacce books? What I am saying is that his opinion is untrue and your support of his right to state lies is only understandable now that I know you are all mates together… Nice of the site editor to remove comments from you though Jon? How do you manage that then? Another mate? zzzzz

    You call me a little shit :-) Don’t EVER make the mistake of imagining I’m ‘little’. Not in any way… and I’m not threatening you in any way; I’m rattling your cage :-) poking you with a stick; that’s how I always communicate with rats…

    Nice of you to lecture me on ‘alienation’ ha ha ha; …doubt you understand what it means being a middle-class paper-tiger, I was ACTIVE in left wing politics and have lectured at the Communist University over the course of 35 years (longer than you have lived my child) …nice of you also to lecture me on my psychological state; hadn’t realised you were qualified in that area but if you are then welcome aboard; I work in the psychiatric department of the NHS and my MSc (a meaningless qualification ha ha ha) is in psychology…

    You make ENDLESS accusations which are simply untrue and if all your mates herein care to read through the thread they will see that is the case.

    Some advice baby-Jon; stop trying to impress the girls with your arguments; they are in general, infantile… and instead of sitting in your lonely hotel room go out and find a REAL woman (I don’t mean yer Mummy either)… get a life, live, get some experience. In my humble (etc) I don’t think you have much of a future as a writer and try as I might I can’t find any of the reviews you might have written anywhere… probably another figment of your imagination; BUT; keep trying… one day you will surely (maybe?) write grown-up stuff. I do hope so :-)

    See you when I see you :-)

    • May 17, 2014 at 1:00 pm

      For the benefit of anyone reading this, none of my comments have been removed. Alan seems to be making up tall tales now, as well as continuing his craven threats.

      When did I ever deny that I knew Harry? Kirsty explained to you way, way above what the affiliations are here.

      “So YOU are calling the poet a liar?”

      Nope. I don’t even know if the poet would necessarily disagree with Harry – there’s no particular conflict in their opinions. She’s happy with what she’s got, but she may, when asked, agree with his particular points about the production, in the spirit of nothing being perfect.

      More importantly, even if I did strongly disagree with the reviewer about the quality of a book I haven’t seen, it’s still a matter of opinion, not fact, so it wouldn’t make either of us liars.

      “I work in the psychiatric department of the NHS …”

      Do you also subject the poor patients to your irrational outbursts? I suppose that would get you fired, so you save it all up for home.

      “Don’t EVER make the mistake of imagining I’m ‘little’.”

      Small-minded then. Shrunken of heart, minor of intellect.

      You’re very eager that everyone know you’re an old man, but that just makes it especially sad that you’ve got to the age you have and learned nothing about anything. How does someone with a psychology degree understand so little about how to conduct productive exchanges? Did you buy the certificate online or something?

      Look, I’m sorry you feel so scared and so enfeebled, but the only advice I can give you is to try harder to behave like a decent human being. You might find you can draw strength and comfort from building friendships with people, instead of continuing to twist yourself into a ball of bitterness and venom by making enemies everywhere you go, misreading everything everyone says and exploding with rage at even the mildest criticism.

      Oh, and hey, since you’re so terrible at basic internet usage that you can’t find any of the reviews I’ve written, here are some links for you: (third one down)

      Finally a word of advice: if you’re really going to insist on an approach to debating with people where you try very hard to get under their skin, at least aim your arrows carefully. This haphazard shower of random insults and insinuations is less wounding than the last time I clipped my toenails.

      • May 17, 2014 at 4:29 pm

        Oh dear; sorry Jon but all the guys in the office here are rolling on the floor with laughter this end; they want me to thank you for a very entertaining show; so I will do: Well done little-Jon you are supplying endless laughter for all of us… Jenny even sends you a kiss :-)

        Only a small point but you say I’m: ‘Small-minded. Shrunken of heart, minor of intellect.’ Oh dear I can hardly type here; weeping with laughter: ‘Small minded’ no… exactly the opposite: I am a man who fights for the small people against the system; have done all my life, been to jail for it :-) ‘Shrunken of heart’? Not sure what that means; if it’s physical then I was a professional boxer; think that takes a bit of courage (just a bit ;-)) and I’ve beaten cancer quite recently which was a tough fight… if it’s moral courage I think I have that too; check this link to The Moral Maze, only one ever televised; I’m an ‘expert witness’ in it: I’ve appeared on Radio and television (and also in four House of Commons select-panels) over a hundred times campaigning for the rights of small people… ‘minor of intellect’ Well to be honest when I was your age, despite having been in MENSA since age 11, I was gaining my first ‘o’ levels… (my job up to then was as a manual worker) nowadays I have many more academic qualifications but you don’t recognise them sadly :-) But hey ho I’ll get over that. (Won’t impress you though eh Jon? ha ha ha ha ha ha ha)

        And one more point; we have no ‘patients’ in the psychiatry departments, we have ‘clients’, and as I run the team of 22 I’m hardly likely to be sacked; oh dear how little you know little boy :-)

        Enjoy your sad evening in your sad room in your sad hotel surfing the internet all alone (but don’t do it for too long; it will make you go blind) We’re all going to end by singing a Socialist Song for you, so here goes: can you hear us:

        O wad some Power the giftie gie us
        To see oursels as ithers see us!
        It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
        An’ foolish notion

        (It’s called To a Louse so highly appropriate :-))

        Bye bye Jon; don’t cry, the little boy did quite well really… maybe even impressed the girlies :-) …however I can’t waste any more time, I’ve wasted to much already, I should have remembered the wise words of my mother: ‘Never argue with fools because you can’t educate pork’ :-)

  • May 17, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    Ah yet another mate of baby-Jon chips in… Mr Coates… thinks I’m ‘weird’ :-) but then he also puts up a link to a feminist piece as though it’s something which is ‘bad publicity’… (doesn’t understand it poor thing) Come on Jon; get some more of your gang on here; simpletons united… the nursery is clearly full of them :-)

    • May 17, 2014 at 7:24 pm

      I’m not really interested in where this is going anymore. You’re clearly a seriously damaged individual and I’m kind of worried that you’re about to suffer a full scale mental breakdown.

  • May 18, 2014 at 8:21 am

    …there you go again Jon; voicing opinions about things which you are not qualified to talk about. I guess having a hobby like hearing the sound of your own voice must make the long lonely nights bearable eh?

    Tell you what; because I love you and your impeccable logic (see what I did there? by employing irony?), the next time you’re in Liverpool call in and see us, you’ll be made welcome, might learn a thing or two about what it takes to run an entirely new concept of a cooperative for poets world-wide. What it takes to devote years and years of time and energy in order to produce hundreds of quality books and a quality journal and for it all to be sponsored by poets themselves in an all-out UNITED war against vanity publishers and the equally obnoxious sites who charge poets ‘reading fees’ or ‘entry fees’ when they submit their work for competitions. If you see us, if you see how passionate we are, if you grasp what we are trying to do, if you see the amount of time and effort we here at erbacce give entirely for free, because we love poetry and poets, you might begin to understand why I react so much to a review which is in error… this is a sincere offer Jon; call in and see us. I promise you a cup of rubbish coffee (or if it’s later in the day a glass of slightly superior wine) and some optrex… ;-)

    Ttake care… don’t spend too much time surfing the web in the evening… evenings are for fun and relaxation… or they should be… mind you I personally find Hong Cong soul-destroying; the horrible orgiastic climax of Capitalism produced that waddling mass of concrete and soul-destroying struggle for superiority; I don’t envy you…

  • May 18, 2014 at 8:50 am

    I did enter a conciliatory reply to end this Jon, a genuine offer to visit us and to see what we are trying to do at erbacce… it was deleted so sorry, it appears that the ‘gang’ includes the site editor; very sad indeed… clearly the editor wants you to have the last word and doesn’t want this to end happily :-(

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