Jewelled Tree revisited

Back in December 2000 my poetry book was published. But this was only part of the story – I’ve said a bit about it in an earlier post but now the publishing house and company, The Word Hoard, has been dissolved, I wanted to tell the whole tale and in due course I will share the entire book as originally developed.

I was accepted on to a writing scheme called The Opening Line in 1997. This took the form of a number of workshops in which our mentor, poet Ian Duhig, helped us shape our ideas and developed a piece of work which would ultimately be published.

Mine was a full-length poetry collection, with linked poems telling a story as a whole. Reading it back now, the two full years spent getting it just right were well-spent. It stands up well.  There were 61 poems in all, and a dedication to the school friend I had always promised I’d write a book for. This was it.

I was delighted to hear that The Word Hoard’s imprint, Spout, were going to publish my book. I’d lived with it a long time, and was very proud of it. But editor Keith Jafrate appeared disinterested in the work. He certainly didn’t understand it, and I received a letter saying only 27 poems would be published and ‘all would need editing.

The editing, such as it was, was poor. I had to fight to save some key lines and some titles as they were in the original Ms. Far from a collaborative process, the book was mutilated to the point that I didn’t revisit the original version for seventeen years.

I found the original Jewelled Tree this week. It’s an excellent piece of work, and hangs together in a way that makes sense. No thanks to the Word Hoard who couldn’t be bothered supporting my project, or to my mentor who went incommunicado presumably when the project stopped paying him.

I rarely write poems now. But I have the book to look back on, and I can now share on my own terms.  Watch this space.