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This poem is taken from PN Review 56, Volume 13 Number 6, July - August 1987.

Password
First I would like to dispel the myth that PASSWORD is a distributor and/or a literary agent. Our function is neither to distribute books, nor to find hopeful poets a publisher; it is rather to provide a representation service for the small and specialist publisher of literature.

Password was set up with the help of Arts Council funding in April 1985, the intention being to break the poverty trap whereby small publishers use all their resources in the production of much interesting writing, but then are unable to afford either the money or the time necessary to promote it. A small press often has the luck to publish a first collection by a Ted Hughes or a Seamus Heaney. The poet then deservedly goes on to be picked up by a mainstream publisher, leaving the small press to give future Great Poets a leg up for little or no financial return. Some might say that this is their choice, but the fact still remains that the small press or magazine represents a vital first step for the 'new' poet, and many of them are engaged in a perpetual struggle for their own survival.

Currently, Password is able to offer these presses the service of two full-time sales representatives and an annual joint catalogue. Through personal visits to bookshops and literature festivals and a comprehensive mailing system, we can work to realize the potential for both the presses and their lists to be recognized by a wide variety of outlets in the UK. Yet I am very aware that it is not enough to sell books into bookshops. To help get the books into the hands of the readers requires the consistent back-up of advertising and other forms of promotion. Our main channels at the moment are the bookshop and the festival, but even a well stocked poetry section will not induce many people to spend their money on a poet they have never heard of. The poet may be excellent, but nobody but the poet, the publisher and the avid reader of reviews will know it. It is true that every now and then a poet published by a specialist publisher 'takes off' - Irina Ratushinskaya, whose work in translation was published by Bloodaxe Books last year, is a case in point - but I wonder how that book would have fared if it had not coincided with an extremely effective publicity campaign on her behalf. Increased publicity then, and ultimately facilities for a centralized distribution of literary presses, are the goals for the future, but for both or either of these goals to be realized, Password too is very much dependent on outside funding.

Poetry is necessarily the main focus of Password's work because as an art it is much harder to 'sell' to the public than most forms of literature, and therefore more in need of a specialist service. In common with many of the publishers with whom we work, our intention is to assist in making poetry less of a minority interest, by making it available to a greater number of people.
SARAH PEEL

The publishers who make up PASSWORD:

Angel Books publishes new translations of classic foreign fiction and poetry which are literary performances in their own right, recreating something of the freshness, originality and excitement of the originals. Angel's long-term aim is to push back the frontiers of 'world literature' in English. The focus is on works hitherto unavailable or scarcely accessible in English, or available only in inadequate or dated versions. Concentration so far has been on Russian and German literature, but works from other languages are already on the list, and further diversification is planned. Among authors published by Angel are Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, Bunin, Leskov, Goethe, Kleist, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Heine, Döblin and Pessoa; among translators, the poets Alan Brownjohn and James Greene, and the literary scholars Ronald Taylor, David Richards and T. J. Reed. Angel also publishes living writers who have achieved classic status.

Anvil Press started up in 1968. Since then it has grown from small press (part-time, amateurish) to specialist publisher (two people, full-time, professionalish). We publish roughly a dozen books a year, with an emphasis on European poets in translation, and the journal Poetry World which succeeds Daniel Weissbort's Modern Poetry in Translation. This is about what two people can manage and finances permit, although we are constantly overcommitted, and I reckon that a very decent new poetry list could be started with half a dozen poets whom we have been unable to take on over the last year.

'Poetry is news that stays news'. We try to avoid the ephemeral, the flashy, the typical or plausible, of which there's a plethora - as perhaps in any age. Time and memory are slow sometimes to hint at what will last. For the moment, we concentrate on what seems good and new, and as resistant as possible to the fashion-shows of the poetry market.

Bloodaxe Books is an independent literary publishing house based in Newcastle upon Tyne. Founded in 1978, it has grown from a small press into one of Britain's leading poetry publishers. Bloodaxe now publishes more new poetry books than any other publisher in the country. Last year's new titles included sixteen poetry books, four poetry pamphlets, two novels, a book of essays and a book of photographs.

Bloodaxe publishes a wide range of poetry by many different writers, from major American poets like Hart Crane and Denise Levertov to leading figures in European poetry (Miroslav Holub, Marin Sorescu, Tomas Tranströmer). Its British and Irish authors include established poets like Tony Harrison, R.S. Thomas, Ken Smith and James Simmons, as well as some of the most exciting new poets now writing in Britain (e.g. Sean O'Brien, David Constantine and Kathleen Jamie). Bloodaxe has also published some definitive anthologies, like Jeni Couzyn's Contemporary Women Poets. Half the authors published by Bloodaxe are women.

Last year Bloodaxe published No, I'm Not Afraid, a book of poems by the Russian poet Irina Ratushinskaya which also included documentary material about her life and her imprisonment in a Soviet hard labour camp. The book was used by everyone campaigning for her release. David Owen gave a copy to Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher both had copies.

Interviewed on BBC's Kaleidoscope programme, Bloodaxe editor Neil Astley said: 'Good poetry always gives something to the reader. As Keats said, it should "strike the reader as the wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance".' Bloodaxe publishes poetry which readers find moving, relevant or important to them.

Canongate published their first poetry book ten years ago, and today we consider ourselves fortunate to include on our list many of the cream of contemporary Scottish poets. Our poets have received much critical acclaim and, among them, many literary awards.

But for all that we are not predominantly poetry publishers, and we do not allow ourselves to be tempted to publish the work of a poet unless he or she has already established a critical following.

The sad truth is that (for us, at any rate) poetry does not pay, as our large backlist stock of poetry titles testifies. It is rare that a poetry book goes out of print, although we have recently reprinted two Gaelic collections: Sorley Maclean's Spring Tide and Neap Tide, and an anthology of Modern Scottish Gaelic Poems. We have never remaindered a poetry book.
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