This evening I attended the Words 2008 panel discussion. It was chaired by a bloke from The Herald and had on its panel: author and poet Tom Leonard, poets Alan Riach and Kei Miller, poet and editor Michael Schmidt and a couple of authors I hadn't heard of.
When I stepped out of the elevator onto the fifth floor of the Mitchell Library I walked into the overpowering stench of Isle of Jura whisky. There had been a whisky tasting session scheduled just before the panel discussion; possibly not a good idea and may have been responsible for the irate member of the audience who became overly vocal during the discussion and had to be chucked out!
Tom Leonard was a scream. He blethered away just as if he was standing at the end of a bar talking over a pint. Alan Riach was also delightfully down to earth. The discussion was on the craft of writing but I managed to get in a question on what the panel thought were the pros and cons of chapbook publishing. Riach and Leonard were enthusiastically in support of chapbook publishing but I was surprised by Michael Schmidt's rather negative response. He said that chapbooks are not widely reviewed and have quite a limited market.
I love chapbooks, they're great value for money. I'm hoping to collect some more magazine publications and then submit a bunch of poems to a chapbook publisher. Talking to other poets there seems to be a lot of pros with publishing a chapbook - it builds experience, confidence and hopefully an audience before tackling a first full-length collection.
There was also an interesting discussion on the homogenisation of poetry being produced by the many creative writing courses available at universities these days. I imagine that's a difficult one to get round though it's a problem experienced by online workshops also.