A while ago now I read a poetry booklet called Know Yr Stuff by Calum Rodger and once I had satisfied my stalker's urge to know about the poet by finding him on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, I began to look at the publisher Tapsalteerie.
The book was handsome after all, well put together, and dare I say it a good deal firmer in the hand than the last few poetry pamphlets I'd read. It's a sad fact but some of these small publishers can't even wield a long arm stapler without fucking up.
This all led me to the website of Tapsalteerie, on which I discovered a wealth of excitement, including poems by Tom McGrath and a Doric poet Bill Thom.
Tapsalteerie are based in Bognamoon, which despite what you think is a real place, inhabited by real people, some of whom have a fine sense for the printed word.
It's actually near the Scottish Sculpture Workshop, which is in Rhynie, and which in itself is an important cultural locus.
Still not satisfied I contact Duncan Lockerbie of Tapsalteerie and asked him a few questions about publishing, poetry and life in the North East of Scotland.
WHAT WAS THE IMPETUS FOR STARTING TAPSALTEERIE?
I suppose there were really two reasons for starting Tapsalteerie. Firstly there was the personal aspect of simply wanting to do something that I loved (and, despite all the difficulties, I do actually love publishing).
Secondly was the more high-minded aspect, where I hoped that I might be able to make a difference to the cultural life of Scotland by publishing things that others wouldn't.
In particular I'm interested in helping to promote and sustain the Scots language, which sadly still needs all the help it can get. If Scots is to survive it needs a healthy Scots language publishing industry behind it; hopefully I'm making small steps towards being part of that.
Tapsalteerie HQ: The publishing station ready for action. Complete with all the essentials required for any start-up publisher, including record player, mug of tea, and scary PC wallpaper.
IS THERE A HEALTHY PUBLISHING SCENE IN ABERDEENSHIRE?
For some reason Aberdeen City and Shire isn't currently home to a bigger independent publisher like Sandstone or Two Ravens, and as such we don't produce many high profile publications, though there is a lot going on under the radar. There's a lot of self-published titles coming out, often in Doric, as well as publishing by writing groups and other collectives. It's a grassroots publishing scene, full of passionate people working hard to get their own and other people's work out. Not many of these publications will ever trouble the Booker shortlist, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing...
Book-making Table: Where the books get made - note the first prototype of "Glasgow Flourishes". This table has everything needed to hand-bind a single-section pamphlet, including the obligatory Kazakhstani camel (a traditional feature of all Aberdeenshire publishing offices).
WHAT ARE YOUR OWN PERSONAL TASTES IN POETRY?
What a difficult question to answer! In general I'd say that I prefer poetry driven by big ideas, which is probably why I'm drawn to poets like Kenneth White or Fernando Pessoa. I do like poetry to leave me pondering philosophical questions once I've read it.
I also have a tendency towards liking poetry that tries something new and different, particularly in terms of form or in the way that it's created. I've been slowly getting into some digital poetry and now find things like @rom_text on Twitter ("Searching video game ROMs, looking for words and sometimes finding them.") strangely pleasing.
Saying that though, I'm pretty eclectic in my tastes and love things as various as Ivor Cutler, Douglas Dunn, and Pablo Neruda, so this is a really hard question to pin down.
Tapsalteerie Whiteboard: All publishers need a whiteboard so they can keep on top of their busy publishing schedule. The Tapsalteerie whiteboard is mainly used for motivational items, in this case Calvin & Hobbes and an Ian Hamilton Finlay postcard.
CAN YOU REVEAL ANY FORTHCOMING PROJECTS TO US THAT WE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT?
There's two upcoming publications that I'm particularly excited about. The first is a very limited edition of sixty numbered copies, out on 26th October. It's Tapsalteerie's first hand-bound publication; I currently have a massive stack of printed sheets sitting on my book-binding table waiting to be cut, folded and sewn together. The text itself consists of a poem called "Glasgow Flourishes" by Calum Rodger, first performed at the recent TedX Glasgow.
You can see the video here. It's a really electrifying performance, with a quite unusually high number of views for a poetry reading!
The other project is somewhat vaguer at the moment as we're just in the process of confirming the final details, but I know that it'll definitely be out at the start of next year. It is also definitely a pamphlet length compilation of Baudelaire's prose poems in Scots, which to my knowledge hasn't been done before.
There's a variety of kenspeckled Scots writers involved, including James Robertson & Tom Hubbard, and it's co-edited by Stewart Sanderson, so it really is something that I'm massively excited about being involved with.