You’re at a reading, to support a friend. It is not going well. Not your friend, who is quietly stealing the show, but the others. Twenty-three people seem to be on the bill, only two of whom have read in public before.
The evening has been sponsored by Very Good Poems magazine (‘the best in British poetry since 1552’). You are there to support your friend, of course, but you also hope they will introduce you to the editor. Who, you realise, is nowhere to be seen.
The interval cannot arrive fast enough.
Minding your own business in the bathroom, there is a loud crashing noise in the cubicle next to you. A figure in a shiny blue suit has collapsed. For a second it appears to be trying to hump the toilet bowl. There are loud moaning noises.
You help the figure to its feet, realising as you ask if they are all right that it is the editor of Very Good Poems.
‘I’m afraid I can’t buy you a drink he says,’ patting his pockets, ‘but do please send me some poems.’
The next morning you send him some poems. By the book. Six of the best. Stamped addressed envelope. A discrete note with no mention of toilets.
A year goes by. You write to the editor again, enquiring if he has had time to read your poems. He writes back to say with regret he has lost your poems, but would be more than happy to see them again.
You send them again.
Six months go by. Still you hear nothing. The best poetry magazine since the birth of Sir Walter Raleigh appears not to want your poems. Your friend tells you to send them somewhere else: ‘Everybody else does.’
You send them to Broken Nibs (they have taken two of your poems before). Within a month they reply and accept another. The day after they write to you another letter arrives, from Very Good Poetry, accepting the very same poem. It is not in the envelope you sent to them; there is no sign of the other five poems. In the top right hand corner of the letter a smudged burgundy ‘o’ encircles your address.