On Saboteurs, innovation and publishing

Later this month it will be four years since Burning Eye Books published its first title, Slinky Espadrilles by Ash Dickinson. Earlier this month it was announced that Burning Eye had been nominated by enough people to make the shortlist for Most Innovative Publisher in Sabotage Review’s Saboteur Awards. This was the fourth time Burning Eye has been shortlisted for this award. We didn’t win in 2013, 14 or 15. I don’t think we will win this time either. That’s cool we are kinda small and kinda fringe. As I am fond of saying, just getting nominated is not bad going for a press run part-time from a spare bedroom near Bristol. But as usual it has made me ponder the innovation question. What exactly is it that we  do that makes people think us worth nominating? On the face of it,  you see, we all (the shortlisted publishers) publish physical books. Either fairly standard trade paperback format or fairly ordinary (in terms of the physical specification of manufacture) hardbacks. Some aspects of  how we try to work in a collaborative manner with our writers might from some quarters be seen as innovative, but we are not alone in this and unless you have worked with us as a writer you would not necessarily know the specifics of that, so the number of potential nominators would be pretty small. There are some under the hood kinks in the Burning Eye business model that might arguably be considered innovative from some angles, but these are known only to a handful of people. So what is it?

My perception is that Burning Eye gets nominated for publishing what we might call standupslamperformancespokenword poetry. In which case the nomination is perhaps best understood as a vote of appreciation for the curation of the catalogue of writers. But is it innovative? Maybe I am wrestling with that I-word too much. Looking for atom splitting invention when innovation in the 21st Century is more about small incremental change rather than revolution. Maybe it is my outsider/imposter syndrome kicking in. What Burning Eye? Really? Innovative? Are you sure? We just publish poetry we like and work with people we like working with, is that innovative? Maybe I just need to shut up and do some work. After all it is the 11th of May as I write and we have only put 10 books out so far this year (combined Burning Eye and BX3)  and we are not even half way yet!



Download HashtagPoetry# – the @StAnzaPoetry Edition (Free)

Download your FREE ebook or PDF: HashtagPoetry# – the StAnza Edition.

At the beginning of March 2016 I had the honour of being the Hashtag Poet in residence at the StAnza International Poetry Festival in St Andrews (Scotland).  The residency had three elements:

1. An installation / projection of a selection of the work I had produced over the previous year as I had developed my HashtagPoetry# project on Instagram and Twitter.

2.A DIY open workshop at the Byre Theatre in St Andrews encouraging festival attendees to make blackout / hashtag poems (see some of the results at the end of this post**).

3. Creating and posting (mostly) new work in response to the festival and its themes.

For the final element I lined up a series of pieces ready to post during my stay in Scotland and then added new work created over my three days at the festival. I will admit I did re-post a couple of older pieces just because circumstances reflected the content and they worked within the specific context of those moments but the majority of the work was created specifically for StAnza.

I have collected these 28 pieces in a FREE ebook & PDF, HashtagPoetry# – the StAnza Edition. You can sign up to download it here.

I continue to post new work as part of this ongoing project on Instagram and Twitter and am currently creating a new piece each day throughout April as part of NaPoWriMo.


** Here are a selection of blackout / Hashtag poems made by StAnza Festival attendees:



I call this Impossible-Polaroird-Wall-Poem#3 made with words collected at StAnza. Thanks to all present at the festival for a total mind feast and in particular to the following for their companionship, support, camaraderie, conversation and inspiration: Harry Man, Jo Bell, Tania Hershman, Kevin Reid, Justin Stephenson, Scott Tyrrell, Ryan Van Winkle, Nora Gomringer, Daniela Seel, Sophie Gainsley, Lyndsey FineranBen Gwalchmai, Jim Carruth, Brian Johnstone, Elizabeth Hare, Kirsten Luckins, Dave Coates, Jemima Foxtrot, Malika Booker, Katie Ailes, Kevin Mclean, Joey ConnollyBas Kwakman, and of course of course of course Annie and Eleanor for inviting me to StAnza. It was an honour.