It has been pointed out to me that poets can be supercilious, even disdainful and patronising with regard to other artists. Some have gone so far as to suggest we sneer at those lesser breeds without the law.
Here I must strongly protest my innocence of these charges. Yes, other poets may bolster their flagging self-esteem by deriding others, but that is not something that I, Tallis Steelyard, the finest poet of my generation, feel the need to do.
Obviously I make the occasional exception, mainly for those young men who sing nauseating and syrupy ballads. Indeed I am willing to extend the exception to those ink-spattered scribblers who produce the lyrics for them to sing. But by and large I respect my fellow professionals.
Now it so happened that I was recently thrown into the company of a number of ladies, many of them writers of varying sorts of romance. The circumstances need not really concern us; I merely note that we all have books to sell.
I was left admiring their professionalism. They arrived and set their stalls out with polished ease. I drifted round admiring their presentation and making mental notes as to how I could do things better.
But with the Lady Romantic writer, presentation does not end with the stall. Obviously any lady will take care of her appearance, but these ladies went further than that. They took the cliché that is the Lady writer and toyed with it admirably as only the competent professional can.
But whilst the person who arrives to purchase one of their books gets a glimpse of the dream as the vendor passes the elegantly signed volume to them, the important thing is the writing. As a poet I can vary my delivery, change my pace for the patron, extemporise and in particularly difficult cases blag my way out of difficulties. But for these ladies, only the quality of the writing will fetch the reader back to purchase the next book. Mix with these ladies and you mix with entirely competent writers whether you read their genre or not.
But more importantly, never underestimate them. I am reminded of a time in Port Naain where Ulcan Snittle proposed that the Council of Sinecurists hold a vote on whether or not to drive out of the city all those writers whose work undermined the morals of the domestic staff.
He ran a fiery campaign demanding we return to the high standards of our Grandfathers’ day. Given that his grandfather was known on occasion to ride through the streets on a chariot drawn by a score of naked maidens, his demand might be thought by some to send out a mixed message.
Realising this he focused his attack on a number of lady writers whose work might indeed be said to focus on the less platonic aspects of romance. It has to be admitted that his speeches, given on various public platforms, were towering demonstrations of passionate oratory. Indeed he drew large crowds. His habit of quoting the most salacious passages in prurient detail encouraged the attendance of a considerable number of illiterate people who were otherwise denied access to the genre.
Yet as his campaign continued, it was remarked that he was looking somewhat less dapper than he usually did. Indeed after a while I noted that his collars looked distinctly grubby and his clothes were being worn for somewhat longer than one might think sensible.
Finally his campaign faded out, the vote was never put and the situation continued as before, save that one or two people, spotting the gap in the market, took to giving public readings of these works.
As for Ulcan Snittle, he apparently had to leave the city for a while, allegedly on business. Personally I would merely comment that he might have been wise inquire as to what his wife and daughters were reading before starting his ill-judged campaign.
as an aside, a collection of my anecdotes has been made available