A rare publisher in a poem

by Kelvin Smith

There are not many publishers in poetry, but in Annals, one of the poems in Christopher Reid’s collection Katerina Brac, we read the following.

Every day, history takes place,
even when nothing happens.
I believe these things should be written down
and published in the metropolis
as a matter of national pride.
An eminent scholar must be assigned the task:
not someone who scribbles little poems,
but a lucid stylist,
a practitioner of unambiguous prose.

The poems in Katerina Brac appear to be translations of works by a typical poet – an “artist under pressure” as the Faber cover tells the reader – being discovered towards the end of the cold war period. Then, as is often the case when societies are changing rapidly, the idea arose that publishing might have a duty to spread unofficial knowledge, the stories of common people, “the annals of the villages” rather than the “conferences, statutes/ and the economic forecasts/ printed in the newspaper”. There are many things that are obvious to most ordinary people that are not taken into account by those in power. Such things, now as much as in any other time and place, need to be “published in the metropolis”, prepared by “a practitioner of unambiguous prose”.

Christopher Reid, Katerina Brac, 1985