What Not to Write on the Back Jacket of Your Debut Collection

What Not to Write on the Back Jacket of Your Debut Collection
This book is not bad.
A number of these poems feature the poet’s dog: George.
The author’s mother recommends this book.
Boris Johnson recommends this book.
Most of the poems are quite short.
Poetry is not for everybody.
These poems are accessible if reasonable adjustments are made.
Many of these poems were written while dusting.
The poet applied three times for funding to assist in the completion
of this book.
Please buy this book.
The poems in this book have universal resonance some of the time.
Includes five villanelles and three sestinas.
There is a glossary of difficult words for readers new to poetry.
The poet skilfully employs seven types of metonymy.
The main theme is death.
Helena Nelson

From Down With Poetry! (Glenrothes: Happenstance, 2016). Reproduced by permission of the author.

Helena Nelson

Helena Nelson was born in Cheshire, and now lives in Fife. She is a poet and publisher, the founder editor of HappenStance Press. 

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About What Not to Write on the Back Jacket of Your Debut Collection

This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2016. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2016 was Catherine Lockerbie.

Editor's comment:

Helena Nelson is publisher as well as poet, producer of very fine pamphlets and very fine poems.  This collection, Down With Poetry!, is defiant, funny and bubble-bursting from the title onwards. This particular wry and droll list of desperate pleas (“Please buy this book") to the potential reader is perfect. It is one of a number of poems knowingly mocking the whole hard business of actually selling poetry, Helena Nelson having written the damn stuff, and the best.  I for one would actually buy a book with any of the pretension-pricking lines here on the jacket (the actual blurbs for poetry books too often tend towards the excruciating) – let’s start a trend here.

Author's note:

In Issue 25 of The Dark Horse (2011), there was an article called ‘The Blurbonic Plague’ by the late, lamented Dennis O’Driscoll. It was about the awfulness of much of the text on back jackets of new poetry books. This struck a chord close to my heart, and also gave me the courage to form a deliberate policy for HappenStance Press, which ever since has been officially ‘anti-blurb’. When I issue books and pamphlets, the text on the back cover never includes words like ‘new and exciting’, and I don’t commission blurbs or, worse still, get poets to write their own. But then what do you write? The truth? Frequently that won’t do either. It’s easier to say what not to write, and have some fun with that. So I made a list, some of which turned into this poem.

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