Richard Meier reflects on the publication of his first poetry collection.
This afternoon I received the 20 copies of Misadventure that my Picador contract promised.
They stand in a small squat tower (it's a slim volume) on our kitchen table among a number of other things: some muslins, a baby's woolly hat, a box of tissues and an AA road map.
At last then, this book has become a real object. Did I ever doubt it would? You bet. And yet I carried on writing, however fitfully, over the years. There is a line of thought that as long as the writer is happy with what they write then nothing else really matters. I doubt there are many people who can really pull that trick off, and I'm certainly not one of them.
It matters to me now, as it has mattered to me down the years, whether or not my poems will be read and, if so, liked, by anyone other than the three or four people with whom I have intermittently shared them.
Having mused on the poetry process for some time – time I could have perhaps better spent actually writing, or doing my day job, or just the washing up – I reckon that, although one writes and sends out poems in an ostensibly 'active' way, the state of an unknown writer is essentially one of supreme passivity.
You wait for something to come along, for something good to come back, and you can do almost nothing to affect the process. It helps though when someone else seems to believe in your writing – and I have been extraordinarily fortunate to be taken under the wing of Kate Clanchy (mentor is an overused and abused word these days, but she has been the most marvellous one – a constant source of candour, patience and wisdom). And it helps too when one wins a prize – especially when the prize is having your book produced by a big publishing house. I say 'it helps' because although I must have had some inner belief that my poems would be published eventually (after all, I didn't stop writing), one of the predominant feelings one ends up wrestling with over the years is whether one is simply a bit cracked. And that's a feeling that is difficult to dislodge.
But as I sit staring at the kitchen table, taking in the weirdness of how this has all come together, I feel ever so slightly bolstered by that belief in my writing which others have shown in me.