Tag Archives: Book Reviews

Resources to Help Sell Your Poetry Book

You might be saying to yourself, “I’m not a PR professional. Isn’t my publisher supposed to do this?” – Jeannine Hall Gailey, author of PR for Poets: A Guidebook to Publicity and Marketing*

Relying on a publisher to promote a book isn’t enough!

Several years ago, when I signed my contract for my first trade book Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press 2014), I knew marketing a poetry book would be a challenge. I was a PR professional, college-trained (back in the days when there were no public relations courses taught at the university level in Canada). I had mastered the basics and honed more advanced skills while handling marketing and communication assignments in the visual arts and university/college sectors. I worked with the media and knew how to pitch a news story, plan an advertising campaign, and prepare a marketing strategy.

What resources will you use - OkunHill

The ABC’s of promoting a poetry book isn’t always black and white! Photo by OkunHill

I also knew that wasn’t enough. I needed more research, more inside information about the book industry especially how to attract a poetry-loving-buying audience. I had heard enough stories to know that small press publishers relied on their writers, especially first time authors to help promote their work. The truth was that most publishers wanted their authors to succeed but the reality was that publishers had limited staff and financial resources to help everyone.

As one experienced writer once warned me, “if you think it’s challenging to find a publisher for your first book, think about how difficult it would be to get another publisher when your first book flops.

Yikes! That would scare any new writer into action.

But where does a poet look for help?

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Cleverly-woven –Kelly Shepherd’s Insomnia Bird – Edmonton Poems

“Magpie: twilight bird–…//nest builder and robber of nests –//you hop and clatter on the road like hail.” – Kelly Shepherd*

Kelly Shepherd’s Insomnia Bird: Edmonton Poems (Thistledown Press, 2018)** is not a clichéd-flighty-fly-by-night book about the black-billed magpies set against a northern Albertan cityscape. It’s mind-warping, playful, and clever: an a(musing)-gathering-of-facts-and-twigs-and-words, (by a trickster bird) architecturally structured and constructed and carefully woven into a literary nest inspired by Edmonton’s urban growth.

Insomnia Bird cover

Insomnia Bird: Edmonton Poems (Thistledown Press, 2018) by Kelly Shepherd ISBN 978-1-77187-169-3 (softcover)

CAUTION: Do not attempt to read this well-researched book in one sitting (especially at night). Each poem deserves a slow and careful read to fully appreciate the complexity and depth of the work. Reading the book several times is advised.

Layered with wit and dust and city noise, a cacophony of provocative sounds and images, some illuminated like LED billboards, some more subdued like sandblasted cement, this collection of 53 found and lyrical poems kept this country night owl awake: thinking and staring outside an imaginary bus window and into the hum of the glaring street lights.

Expect some travelling on highways littered with snake-skinned truck tires, and congested roads along homeless shelters, construction zones, city buildings, and trees that breathe with plastic bag lungs (p.97). I especially marveled at how the poems with couplets and tercets rhythmically reminded me of riding an early morning bus (or train), half-asleep like a zombie, void of emotion despite reading the daily paper and ripping out tidbits of information for future consumption.

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A Canadian Poet Profile: Keith Inman and The War Poems


and we fell

to the creeks
and blowing grass
of hillsides riddled red
with flowers
blooming from the bones
we planted
-Keith Inman*
Today is Remembrance Day! Red poppies! Red poppies everywhere!

Someone somewhere will recite John McRae’s “In Flanders Field”. Perhaps, a grade school child (with a blonde lock of hair over her eyes and a shoelace untied) will rustle a paper sheet before uttering the poem’s title. Her classmates may sit-wiggle-squirm cross-legged on a gymnasium floor. Outdoors, across town in the cold damp November air, a uniformed solider may place a wreath at a cenotaph. Silence observed. We try to remember.

PHOTO CUTLINE: The War Poems: Screaming at Heaven (Black Moss Press, 2014) features 67 poems by Canadian award-winning poet Keith Inman. It is Book #11 in the First Line Poetry Series which focuses on writers who are publishing their first book of poetry.

PHOTO CUTLINE: The War Poems: Screaming at Heaven (Black Moss Press, 2014) features 67 poems by Canadian award-winning poet Keith Inman. It is Book #11 in the First Line Poetry Series which focuses on writers who are publishing their first book of poetry.

Thanks to poets and storytellers, the scars of war remain etched on our minds. However, John McRae isn’t the only Canadian poet to write about the atrocities of conflict. This fall, contemporary poet Keith Inman added a fresh viewpoint of history with his first trade book The War Poems: Screaming at Heaven. Published by Black Moss Press, this 104-page collection includes 67 poems categorized into three sections: Wars of Dependence: 1812 to 1887, A Republic Monarchy: 1889 to 1953, and Armed Peace: 1954 to Present.

If it sounds dry, it isn’t. Inman’s work is enriched by strong characters and setting. He often includes dialogue and draws unusual but memorial stories from ordinary men and women living and working in what appears to be ordinary situations.

It’s a winning combination. Several of his poems included in this collection have been previously published in literary journals such as Descant or CV2. Others have placed in contests.

According to his book bio: he has published two chapbooks: Tactile Hunters (Cubicle Press, 2005) and A Stone with Sails, part of Sigil Press’s trilogy of Niagara Poets: Hanging on a Nail (2009).

Last week, I asked Inman to share his thoughts on his writing process. Below are his responses:      

Describe your book. Why did you write it?

War Poems represents the years Canada was at war. However, instead of a traditional war front, I wanted to look at what was going on in the lives of the people who were, basically, funding the war through family and taxes. I also believe that people, generally, rely on reason to form and inform their lives. I also like to delve into what happens when time and circumstance get in their way?

What are you working on?

World peace.

Canadian Poet Keith Inman

Canadian Poet Keith Inman

How does your work differ from others?

I started out as a short story writer, loved developing characters, rather than the internal ‘I’, or, testimonial point of view which is standard fare for poetry. I find it more rewarding creating from, let’s say, ‘what happened on the way to the forum’: a drunk crosses the road. His name is Fred. A war vet. Air force. Trainer, maybe.

Posted east, to train land- loving colonials how to fly above their gods. A separation of religions. Mutilation begets mutilation. Bodies of whole families in the ditch. Their sandals stolen. A drunk crosses the street.

Why do you write the way you do? How does your writing process work?

There comes a point when all the learning and lessons that you’ve absorbed over years becomes automatic – something triggers a thought, you sit down, and write. Editing comes later, although I find much of the process now happens as I am writing. Not sure that’s good or bad, it just is. Also, against most recommendations, I do not write every day. That is not my personality. That does not work for me. I don’t force it.

I remember reading about Nikola Tesla building a machine in his head, ‘then let it run for a few months.’ Later, he’d think about where the bearings showed signs of wear. What wasn’t working, etc… I think of it as periphery intelligence, or periphery sequencing. For me, I allow ideas to work in my brain for a period, see what imagery attaches to the machinery of it, let the gears mesh for a while, let the pressure build in the pipes, then write. It usually works.

Thanks Keith for the interview.

Watch this blog for additional Canadian Poet Profiles.

*from the poem “The Flute and the Rifle” The War Poems: Screaming from Heaven (Black Moss Press, 2014) Reprinted with permission from the author. Copyright ©2014 Keith Inman