Sphinx 12 is at the printer's. Lots of conversation about the cover which is meant to have yellow print on a black background. Black, obviously, because it's the last Sphinx ever.
I've never done this reverse printing thing before. What they do is print on yellow board, so actually the whole cover is printed black and the un-inked bits come out yellow, which means it's yellow on the inside. Hope it comes out looking good. Must use an awful lot of black toner. This is also the Chicken edition (among other things). There's an interview with Doug Savage in cartoons, as well as more chickens than usual.
It's the longest Sphinx ever. I was trying to rein it back to 56 pages but in the end it crept to 60 and so I'm hoping my hefty backdated tax rebate will come through in time to pay for it.
I was reviewing Dannie Abse's remarkable little book Two For Joy, which took me back to his remarkable 'Epithalamium' (how could I have forgotten this wonderful poem?) and from there to the National Poetry Archive to listen to Abse himself reading, because I've never met him or heard him live. He has a most beautiful voice, both in life and on the page.
And somehow Abse's Epithalamium led me to Charles Causley, also in the Archive. But I've been hankering after more Causley for ages, so I ordered his Collected Poems, which I had meant to do some years ago, and then his Collected Poems for Children too. I did meet Charles Causley once, a very long time ago, when I was not much more than a kid myself. I liked him then and I liked him now. It is a funny thing how you can be not all that familiar with the work of a poet and yet their rhythms and their quality of voice stays with you. Causley has always stayed with me. I love ballads. I love that tradition, and he is squarely in it.
On Friday, I should have gone to the launch of David Troupes' first collection Parsimony, in Edinburgh. I didn't make it, though I wish I had. I should finish work in college by mid-afternoon Friday but I never manage it and instead I am always one of the very last to leave the building. It is a weakness in me that I leave late and take more work home with me, but I'm too old to change. So I didn't get to the launch, but I do recommend this poet, and his book. He is one of the poets who didn't appear on my list because he was offered a full collection before I had offered to do a pamphlet, and so I have a personal interest in how he does . . . .
David is a Two Ravens poet, and I recommend Sharon's rant (posted on her Two Ravens blog) this morning about reviewing in national newspapers, none of which I shall be reading this morning. Back to looking at pages of new pamphlets and accomplishing at least one more review.
But I'm ending with Causley as the last word on the Sphinx. This is from his children's collection:
Out in the Desert
Out in the desert lies the sphinx
It never eats and it never drinx
Its body quite solid without any chinx
And when the sky’s all purples and pinx
(As if it was painted with coloured inx)
And the sun it ever so swiftly sinx
Behind the hills in a couple of twinx
You may hear (if you’re lucky) a bell that clinx
And also tolls and also tinx
And they say at the very same sound the sphinx
It sometimes smiles and it sometimes winx:
But nobody knows just what it thinx.
Three cheers for Charles Combustible Causley
Of whose poems each one of us ought to read moresley.
Meanwhile, I'm delighted to report that Thomas McKean's Conversation With Ruth Pitter has attracted far more orders than I had expected at this stage. Reading The Rialto yesterday, I noticed Dean Parkin mentioning Queen's Gold Medal For Poetry winners: Don Paterson was the most recent of course, but Dean did a swift gallop through previous winners. Stevie Smith was among their number. But Ruth Pitter was the first woman to win this award ever. Remember Ruth Pitter. I love Stevie Smith but I love Pitter more. A pamphlet Selected, which will include a couple of previously unpublished poems, is in hand. Watch this space.