Adrian Manning has had a bigger impact on my life than he probably realises.I first read one of his poems as a result of the Guerilla Poetics Project. Like a coward, I ordered a couple of sets of broadsides, placed a few in my local bookshop, then decided I liked the rest so much I was going to keep them myself. I chose my favourites and put them all up in a giant frame above my writing desk.There was a particular Adrian Manning poem that my eyes were drawn to every time I sat down there. In fact, two houses later, it’s still next to me as I write this. Eventually I did some googling and found out a bit more about Adrian Manning - and purchased one of his chapbooks (probably through either Bottle of Smoke Press or his own Concrete Meat Press). I soon tracked down everything he’d put out. At one point I sent him an email letting him know how much I enjoyed his work, and mentioned that I had one of his poems above the desk where I wrote. He graciously asked if I had anything I’d written wanted to send over to be included in the latest Concrete Meat Sheet. As a result, Adrian Manning was perhaps one of the first people I’d never met to read one of my poems, and certainly the first editor to ever accept one. That was probably the one glimmer of support that helped keep me going through the ridiculous write/submit/rejection cycle that gets so many poets down.To this day, I still pre-order anything that comes out with the name Adrian Manning on.
When did you first decide, instead of just writing poetry, to put it out with Concrete Meat Press?
My first chapbook, "Wretched Songs For Out Of Tune Musicians" was published by the incredible Bottle of Smoke Press in the USA whilst I was living in Spain in 2003 and Henry Denander provided a beautiful watercolour for the cover. Upon my return to England, this inspired me to put out a small collection of poems that I had written called "Down At The Laundromat". I decided to put it out myself and it was only published in an edition of 10 copies with each having an original watercolour of a washing machine on the front painted by myself. I gave these away at the time. This was the first Concrete Meat Press publication. Originally I thought I would only publish my own work when I wanted to but the prospect of publishing other fantastic poets and their work became too appealing so I published chapbooks and broadsides by other poets as well as the Concrete Meat Sheet which was a single A4 double sided sheet with a small number of different poets in each issue. I have published a couple of chapbooks of my own work since.You seem to be a fairly prolific writer. When do you decide that a collection of poems is complete?
Good question - in the case of a chapbook of collected poems, I guess its just when I feel I have enough poems that I would like to see published together and I feel that they fit together well. Then I submit it and hope! I have worked on some themed collections - "Down At The Laundromat" was about famous figures coming into the laundrette! I've also published "These Hands of Mine" and "Wide Asleep, Fast Awake" which were short themed suites. Then I judge when I feel its complete or if a publisher works within a certain publication size that can guide me. I am really liking these at the moment - I like the focus and the brevity. I have submitted a new collection this year to a publisher I really admire and I'm hoping it may be accepted!
How did you first come across Ronald Baatz? And how did that end up with you putting out some of his work?
I read Ronald in small magazines and was blown away by his poems. Often very short but absolutely beautiful and the imagery he created amazed me. He's a writer I just feel very happy and comforted to read. I made contact with him and one way or another, I got hold of his manuscript for "On The Back Porch" which I loved so it was an easy decision to work with him. I love that collection and that's what its about for me - I have to love the words. I rate Ronald as one of the best poets around and he is also a very modest and generous man!
You recently had Wide Asleep/Fast Awake put out by Bottle of Smoke Press. I think the most accurate description for it I’ve seen is a graphic poem. How did that idea originally come about? Did you adjust your contributions at all as you saw the artwork develop?
Yes, that has just come out. I did have this collection published previously in a limited run by Kendra Steiner Editions, another incredible press, and the poem is split into sections marked by clock times. Janne Karlsson, a fantastic artist from Sweden, got hold of a copy and very kindly illustrated it in his own brilliant, surreal style. He shared it with me and we agreed that we should try to get it published. I have not made any changes to the text - to begin with I saw one or two panels, but then Janne got onto a roll and sent the complete graphic. I thought it was brilliant! Luckily for us, Bill Roberts at BoSP showed the faith again and he has produced a beautiful book. An exciting aspect for me is that in the deluxe edition there is a handwritten poem of mine included in each of the 13 copies. I wrote 13 new poems for this. Once the book has been published for a while, I'd like to think these could be published together as they will have only been seen as a collection by 3 people! They are quite surreal to fit in with the book, but I think they make a great little collection.
Finally, what was the last thing, book, song, artist, place etc that you totally fell in love with?
It's fairly safe to say I am constantly falling in love with things! I could probably list a number of things. The last song I fell in love with, literally in these last two weeks since its release, is "Blackstar" by David Bowie who I have loved for so long and I'm devastated by his passing. The last book would be a book of poetry - anything I've read recently by Kent Taylor or D.R. Wagner (Cleveland, Ohio legends) spring to mind. Local bands I've fallen in love with recently include Echolocation, Ash Mammal, Swamp Delta, Her Name Is Calla and the wonderful Mountaintop Junkshop (who I am collaborating with on their next EP, providing a recording of my poem "Bring Me" to one of their tracks!) There's so much to love!
More Adrian Manning