"Our e-book list is on the runway and most of our new titles will appear simultaneously in paper and electronic form."
Failing to find their titles in the Amazon Kindle Store, or elsewhere, I emailed them about it, but received no response. (I know, I'm an awful geek). Anyway, the other day I searched for them again, because I felt an urgent need to read a Frank O'Hara anthology I already own in print, but couldn't wait to get home. It wasn't there, but this little selection was.
It looks as though they've opted to convert a few of their 'greatest hits', rather than making new releases available as ebooks, which is a little disappointing, but still a good reason to investigate the poets whose books have been converted. I started with 'The Sleepwalker at Sea' by Kelly Grovier, on the advice of the lovely Angel.
Sadly, I'm not sure it's a book I can unreservedly recommend. I'm still keen on the concept; poems that slip between the historical and the modern, the tangible and the fantastical. On a first reading, I passively enjoyed the gradual slippage of 'Face Blindness'; 'Morning sat with us/ all afternoon, then wandered off/ muttering to itself.', nature gently brushing against history in 'Butterfly in the British Museum', and decay bringing about unexpected images in 'Ruined Statue of a Saint'; 'the neck has ribbed itself a gill,/ the elbow's wrought a fin'.
It was only on a second, more aggressive reading, that I became resentful of certain aspects of Grovier's style. Upon unpicking 'Buried Candles', the image of the stolen candles wrapped, 'like fish in newsprint' carried exactly the right echoes of childhood and religion. But the highly abstract language that closed the poem; 'an anatomy of fire -/ brutal whisper with the invisible/ congregations of the soul', sounded weightier than it's flimsy meaning, and didn't belong to the young, impulsive protagonist. I also had an irrational fit of anger over Grovier's use of the made up word 'unbreathing' in 'Mississippi'. Of course poets are free to make up words, but shouldn't we be trying to find more accurate ways to describe life, rather than woolly euphemisms to gloss over it? It's a single word, I know. I also felt the tone was misjudged in the direction of childish whimsy in some poems.
I still admire Grovier's ability to reach beyond the tangible; these poems show a wonderful sense of imagination, and make a break from the mundane. If you'd like to gauge how much you're likely to enjoy this book, there are a few poems of his available on PN Review which are quite similar.
I've also added Watering Can by Caroline Bird to my wishlist. She's made five poems available on her website as a sampler, of which I most enjoyed Flat Mate. In this poem, she imagines her shadow peeling apart from her like an errant teen. The details are perfect, 'She ducked back through the cat-flap for dinner,/ chewing on black wine-gums and her meek leer.'
Carcanet have promised on their Twitter to release more ebooks soon. I really hope they continue down this path, as the measly poetry selection in the Kindle store would be vastly enhanced by their catalogue.