A book is launched. With warmth and cake, in a sunny hall echoing with chat, it is sent on its way. It's taken me, the author, three years and two trips to the Arctic, to get to this point. Now the book, Firebridge to Skyshore has its own journey to make.
Already it is en route to Bolton and Nottingham and Scunthorpe and Surrey. I was amazed and touched that family and friends came so far yesterday for the launch. We had a lovely gathering of 30 well-wishers – many of them fellow writers and poets – and when everybody was sweetened with Gloria's special Lincolnshire Plum Bread, I loosed some poems into the vaulted arch of the Friends' Meeting House hall. If I forgot my lines, readers jumped in as prompts. 'Eight,' said Audrey and I was away: 'Eight-nine hundred miles a second, a maelstrom of solar winds …'
I've also discovered a book launch, like a wedding or anniversary, is a good occasion for bringing family together. I was joined by by my brother Pat and my sister Dolores Logan with her partner, David. When the idea of the book was still an inkling, I had thought of getting Dolores to illustrate it. Because she is a talented artist specialising in print landscapes. I'm delighted she accepted the challenge of rendering the transparent beauty of the aurora into woodcuts. I've described these exquisite miniature blocks as 'Little ArcticWindows' that open onto the extraordinary world the book evokes.
Davina Prince and I were comparing notes about the process of manufacturing this object of paper and cardboard, the debates over ink colours, the tricky on-line proofreading. And in my litany of thank yous, I was singing the praises of small print presses like Original Plus Press, the first chance for most poets. Sam Smith, my editor, is running a cottage industry in his room at home, printing copies himself and sending them on to be bound. It is a labour of love. And if we find an extra blank page has crept in or the wrong ISBN appeared on the back, it only highlights how 'man-made' and satisfyingly concrete a book is.
My friend Rod Duncan was chatting about whether new breakthroughs in publishing – the digital download, print on demand, electronic 'books' – could mean more and more books appear in electronic form in the future. And would actual paper books, lovingly crafted as Sam's books are, become a niche market for those that can't resist the tangible object? When my own arrived, I sniffed it, listened to it, weighed it in my hand. And the pleasure of seeing the books yesterday fanned out on the table is beyond description. As good as Gloria's plum bread.
And that's one reason why, whatever the future holds, our book launches can never be virtual.
Writing is a journey, both imaginary and physical. My first book took me to the Arctic to 'catch the colours' of the Northern Lights. Then I hunkered down to catch the wind-blown voices of polar explorers on Shackleton's 1914-17 Endurance expedition. More recently I'm obsessed by space: the race, the rockets, the final frontier.
Hear a BBC Radio Leicester interview about my space poetry at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03wfpyp
Explore my digital narrrative PHILAE'S BOOK OF HOURS, published by the European Space Agency, at:
My prose-poetry collections FIREBRIDGE TO SKYSHORE
and MAD, HOPELESS & POSSIBLE are both published by Original Plus Press at:
Contact me for signed copies or bookings at:
- Leicester, East Midlands
- As a storyteller, my work crosses boundaries of myth, science, history and spoken word. It has been presented in the British Science Museum, Ledbury Poetry Festival, National Space Centre and the European Space Agency website. In 2014 I ran a digital residency on WW1 for 14-18NOW and Writing East Midlands. I teach Creative Writing at De Montfort University and have experience of leading school events, workshop tuition and mentoring.