On Saturday 12 November, The Contemporary Small Press will be at Manchester Central Library for our next Reading & Being Read event. James Davies, editor of If P Then Q poetry press will be joining us to discuss the book as an object and the creative possibilities that exist for small presses. Here’s a little insight into James’s work as a publisher.
CSP: The title of your press, If P Then Q, is both a mathematical and a grammatical proposition. What does it mean to you in terms of the poetry that you publish?
JD: Around the time I started the press, and also around the time when my own writing became interesting and solid, I was reading Wittgenstein’s Tractatus and Philosophical Investigations which immediately became important to me. Although I sort of understand the truth tables in his Tractatus I don’t really – that’s where all the propositions come in, such as if p then q.
The truth tables look beautiful, especially when matched against the slightness of the lines in the other parts of the book. Although the proposition, if p then q, means if this then that, what this ‘this’ is and what that ‘that’ is can be any number of things, including the nonsensical. Wittgenstein’s work opens up thinking and requires readers to be active. It blows your mind just like the poets I’ve published. That was part of my thinking in naming the press.
What are the advantages of being a small press that specialises in publishing poetry?
I have complete control as sole editor and do not have to think about finances.
What’s your opinion on the current British poetry scene, both in terms of publishing and performance?
I don’t see the whole of poetry as one big scene. A huge problem for poetry as an art form is that it all gets lumped together. It is such a marginalised thing that for most people it’s thought of as having a homogeneous style or agenda, as if in music Drake or S-Club 7 were representative of all music. The type of poetry I like, and that I believe to be relevant to our age, is thriving. There are too many good poets to name; they’re spilling out the side of the bag. However, also the most interesting poetry being written today is not read as much as it should be. Sadly, the world is not designed for people to be interested in interesting poetry at the moment.
But for those prepared to dig a little they will find that there are many excellent British publishers, most of whom have a clear ethos which means that you can rely on their latest publication as another one to read. Nowadays print-on-demand services, website book previews and internet distribution mean it’s easy to buy and sample books. Admittedly you need a place to start if you’re not familiar. Web pages such as Lollipop are an excellent starting point for cutting-edge poetry publishers.
How does your location in Manchester shape the work you do at If P Then Q
I love Manchester – it comes massively recommended. I have good ties with poets and publishers in the city, as well as the surrounding environment. But I don’t think of the press as being defined by Manchester in any particular way. The poetry I publish is informed by British poets but is just as informed by poets from North America too.
When was the last time you had to mind your ps and qs?
I try not to if possible.
James Davies from If P Then Q will be speaking at Reading & Being Read, Manchester Central Library on Saturday 12 November, 11am-4pm. Tickets are £3 before 1 November and £5 after. Click here for more details.