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Poet's Perspective

Book publishing is alive and kicking and clearly book buying is, at worst, still breathing. You only need to enter any bookstore to verify those facts. There are thousands out there waiting for you to buy them.

To become a published writer, so the perception goes, is akin to crawling across a desert on your hands and knees for years without food, water, and hope that the acceptance letter nailed to a tree in an oasis isn’t a mirage.

Yet when you look at the vast range of books demanding your attention you can be forgiven for wondering how anyone fails to get published. Throw in all those B and C list paperback novels that didn’t even make it to a bookshop and reside on the shelves of pound stores, and the question becomes even more pertinent.

I’m not talking about ‘successful’ writers. Just anyone who has converted some vague idea for a book to paper and banged it off to an agent.

The range of choice is staggering and yet there are many that leave you wondering who on earth the target audience is. Especially in the non-fiction arena. I know books are subjective, but seriously, there are a lot of very strange, weirdly themed and pointless books out there. Oh, you want an example. Well, here is one.

An email landed on my virtual desk recently proclaiming a ‘nonfiction book of the month.’ It was ‘What Writers Read: 35 writers on their favourite book’. At first, I thought this was a joke, but I regret to say it is serious.

There will be unpublished writers out there burning their manuscripts because if something like that has made its way through the desert and there’s hasn’t all, hope will be lost. I cannot even begin fathom who thought that this was a good idea to produce, who thought it was worth publishing, who thought it was worth being pumped up as nonfiction book of the month.

It’s almost insulting to the carefully crafted and fascinating nonfiction books currently out there. This book is really the stuff for filling up the weekend newspapers. Vaguely interesting for a few minutes but certainly not worth wasting good reading time over. And it is not alone. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

You don’t have to search long through the shelves to find other candidates leaving you scratching your head as to why they were published in the first place

Actually, now I come to think of it there’s an idea for a book …….


In a recent blog I mentioned about failing to finish books and one author I’ve always wanted to read, but failed to get to grips with is Franz Kafka! There was a favourite café of mine in Prague named after him so I was disappointed to find it had closed down. It prompted this poem which appeared in my last collection Wind Voices. I shall keep on knocking on Kafka’s door, of course, and may eventually breakthrough!

Not getting to grips with Kafka

Morning and rain hammers its rhythm on Old Town Square, tram bell chings echo in city canyons, and off Platnerska the Franz Kafka café is abandoned.

Its windows dust-smoked, tables empty, chairs an untidy gaggle,

cake counter bare. It’s as though the past has finally left the scene.

And what now of Kafka? Well his head is at a loss. Spinning, breaking up, reforming. All that kinetic energy outside Prague City Hall.

It’s what happens when I try to read

Metamorphosis. And so I search the Jewish Quarter for another coffee shop I thought was there.

But that too is elusive.

Born in North Wales, poet & writer Paul Mortimer has lived in Tiverton for 13 years. His first poetry collection, Fault Line, was published by Lapwing in 2015, followed by Wind Voices from the same publishing house in 2019. He has appeared at several literary festivals and headlined at a number of poetry events in recent years.

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