There’s a great deal to be said for not writing a book. Go into any high-street bookshop, and you’ll soon find yourself agreeing: there are just too many of them already. They’re proliferating like rabbits. Big round tables – surely intended for blameless lives in provincial tea shops, nicely laid with cake forks and dishes of clotted cream and red jam – are everywhere warping under the weight of great piles of the best translations, best classics, best light fiction, best humour. If these shops are to be believed, hundreds of worthwhile titles appear every few months. Miles of shelves are devoted to television tie-ins, cookery books, thrillers, and the dread ‘mind, body and spirit’ section, the literary equivalent of scented candles, and quite as sickly.
The only category of book there is never enough of is good, contemporary poetry. I remember, years ago, asking the late, great editor of this magazine – a man not known for his love of modern poetry – if I could write a piece about some of the younger poets