When I’m in a bookshop trawling through the poetry section trying to decide what to buy and I don’t know the poet’s name there are a number of factors which will persuade me to purchase this book rather than that one.
Partly it’s the front cover, partly it’s the size – will it fit into my pocket, partly it’s the title and mostly it’s the bit on the back.
The bit that supposed to attract me. Which is why I can’t understand why so many of these back covers are so poor. I’m not interested in endorsements from well known poets – they could be their best mates for all I know, a picture of the poet is irrelevant and the descriptions of the type of poetry inside usually make my eyes glaze over within the first sentence.
How many ‘he sees things as they should be seen’, ‘an appreciation of the physical world’, ‘unusual personal shadows’. ‘new spaces through language’ need to be written. They are interchangeable.
And worst of all are the ones that make me actually put the book back on the shelf without further thought as in ‘This book is groundbreaking’. As if.
Ironically the type of publisher that makes me open a book in the bookshop ( which is surely the point ) is Faber and Faber who put nothing on the back and only the author’s name and the title on the front.