Carcanet’s Collection of Books for Edinburgh’s Radical Book Fair

Carcanet the Manchester-based poetry and literature publisher have used their Reading Rooms account at Exact Editions to set up a short term free virtual collection of nine books for Edinburgh’s Radical Book Fair. The books are still fully readable and browsable for a few more days from this link and I encourage you to take a look.

Carcanet’s books are always well designed and as you can see they have striking front covers (often very striking titles: I was immediately lured by Midnight in the Kant Hotel), so I enjoyed myself this weekend exploring and sampling these lovely books. Iain Bamforth’s Zest drops off the front two rows, so does not appear in the screenshot above, but is not to be missed. I particularly enjoyed Bamforth’s account of havesting olives and making olive oil at this time of year, as he has done in most Novembers, with his Italo-German family in Puglia. All the books in the front row delighted me on a still, misty November day in Emilia Romagna, where we are too high, and too far North, to have productive olive trees. Parwanna Fayyaz’s poems are extraordinary and not easy. Permeated with family love, disruption and sometimes family discomfort. Sample the difficult story she tells of a cousin who is problematic and yet to be respected in Queen of Sheba. 

Olive Senior’s substantial and brilliant Hurricane Watch: New and Collected Poems is not new to me. But there is so much to read and enjoy in this volume. She is a radical poet and a writer for our time whose love of nature and the complexity of the environment is grounded in close observation and intuition. She can see the world from a snail’s point of view and sense intention in our growing flowers and trees “the world is full of shoots bent on conquest”.

So much to sample that I only managed one more of these delightful books on my afternoon browse: The Lascaux Notebooks: Jean-Luc Champerret translated and edited by Philip Terry. This is a remarkable work, though there remains some doubt in my mind about the alleged Sausurrean insights of Jean-Luc Champerret. Carcanet have confidently categorised it as one of their Carcanet Classics. I recommend that the reader explores it directly. It may strike you as a tour de faux, whilst also being a tour de force. I was less perplexed, but more convinced of the book’s achievement, when I had tasted a published review and seen Carcanet’s YouTube for the book. It also convinced me that the painters of Lascaux must have had a command of language — at least as perceptive and representational as their pictures achieved. There surely must have been pleistocene poetry. Perhaps this was one part of Professor Terry’s aim?