Sales talk for poets

Dear me, where does the time go. Since my last entry I’ve attended two poetry readings, one of them my own, and had a restful time up-island. Here then a few notes in a quasi-chronological order.

At the Black Stilt last Friday we were treated to Yvonne Blomer reading from her first collection from EkstasisA broken mirror, fallen leaf – telling us she has another two manuscripts up her sleeve already. A nicely done reading of a new poem for two voices with her husband, and a small lesson in Japanese contained in the rest of her reading from the new collection. And swiftly followed by veteran fellow reader Barry Dempster who said something that triggered another thought about That Book I’ve Been Reading, 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell.

Dempster spun one of his many entertaining tales around a recent media interview, in which he was asked “that question all poets dread: what’s your book about?” And indeed we do dread it, and indeed we could stop fearing the question, or being irked by it, and turn it to our advantage, as he did, by having an answer ready to pull from our back pocket. Chris Hamilton-Emery terms this the one-sentence hard sell (as distinct from the longer 30 second sell), and it’s standard sales & marketing stuff.

If you have time to engage your prospective buyer, readings booker, interviewer, you can expand it to the Thirty-Second Sell, about 90 words that will convince others to buy your book, because “people have very low attention spans and, where consumption is concerned, great filters for working out what does gain their interest and, eventually, their money and time.” In other words, figure out what your USP is and come up with a short speech to explain it.

Meanwhile, back on Vancouver Island, on Wednesday we headed north and stopped in Lantzville to collect some books from Oolichan. Up the road and across the street we spotted a sign promising local food at the Black Dog Cafe and headed inside for some sustenance. There was a roasted garlic and tomato soup served with a dollop of pesto: sublime. And some potato and pesto quiche which was less sublime but did the trick. The lemon meringue pie we passed on our way out the door looked wonderful but we had to sprint on up the road to our destination at Fanny Bay. We dined out that night at a place we hadn’t tried before, the Monte Christo in Courtenay. The food was a bit on the unremarkable side – they seemed to specialise in a few too many cuisines to be master of any – but the setting was good and on a sunny day would have been gorgeous.

Day two we headed to the Kingfisher spa for necessary repairs to our nerves and everything else. I declined to buy the six or was it nine quality skincare products they specially selected just for my problem skin, and after a steam and a wallow we finished the job with an excellent lunch in the restaurant there. Peg had the foresight to order a bowl of the Indonesian vegetable soup for us to share – we waded into a fantastic lightly spiced pureed vegetable combination that would certainly have been too much for us single-handed with all that followed. My Ahi Tuna Salad was divine – nicely seared and seasoned and served on mushrooms and artichokes, prettily ornamented with fried lotus root rounds and cherry tomatoes. I was so enthused I ordered the chocolate mousse which was perked up with nuggets of chocolate. Wished I’d brought my camera when Judy’s tower of brulee arrived – a bit of a misnomer but impressive, a brulee-like substance larded with ginger and mango and then arranged in bricks with a crunchy mortise of what looked like brandy snaps.

Last night I read with a delightful Newfoundlander poet and film maker, Marian Frances White to a large and largely unknown (to me) crowd. With Mocambopo’s move to the Black Stilt has come a new, young and enthusiastic following, and you have to arrive very early for either a seat or a place at the open mic. As it should be. Wendy Morton officiated, and proclaimed the success of the latest round of Random Acts of Poetry.

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