I was delighted to be invited to take part in a panel discussion on poetry at The London Book Fair this week.
Our conversation was based on the theme of Present Poetry and explored the rise of poetry in the gift market. The event was one of a number of 'Poets' Corner' talks organised by National Poetry Day and The Poetry Book Society.
I took part alongside Jenny Swann founder of Candlestick Press and now owner of One Plum Poem who create beautifully illustrated cards featuring the work of established poets such as Stevie Smith.
The discussion was lively, passionate at times. We shared how we approached using poetry in the creation of gifts, who we sold to and how we approached marketing.
Jenny and I were in agreement that quality of material is key, and were surprised to discover we use paper from the same mill in the Lake District, one of the last working paper mills left in the UK. Practical considerations such as legibility of poems designed to sell online were also discussed.
Inevitably, we talked of what poetry meant to us and how we felt about the validity of 'instapoetry', spoken word poems and light verse as opposed to poetry considered by some to be of greater literary merit.
I was able to explain how through Bespoke Verse I reconcile the writing of commercial verse with my academic background by creating literay gifts like our classic poetry subscription. For me poetry is without borders. It is not elitist, and as Jenny suggested, it does not belong to anybody and should not adhere to any rules.
If a work is appreciated by the reader and recipient then I believe it has validity. The power of the reaction gives meaning to the text so that a poem written for a mother by a young child may become a treasured gift and is in it's own way transformational.
Poetry in all its forms has certainly transformed my life and given me comfort in difficult times. It was no surprise to hear from the team at National Poetry Day that over 2 million people in the UK write poetry. That's 3.8% of the population.
All in all, it was a fantastic afternoon taking shop. Poetry is on the rise, in all its forms.
And as for the wallpaper... it made my week (see above).