To Royal Holloway University of London yesterday to talk to third year creative writing students about small press publishing. Feared I would dry up with nothing more to say and long minutes to go. But in fact, an hour was not enough time to pack in everything, and I had to skip bits. 

It's hard to remember that I have been a writer and publisher for over 30 years now (and Reality Street, in particular, is now in its 20th year). A shock to remember too that the students would never have seen a duplicator (mimeograph machine) and it would have been news to them that you had to type every word of what you wished to print on a special stencil (no copying and pasting then), wrap the typed stencil around the drum of the machine, having 
filled the drum with ink, and crank out each A4 copy by hand, then carefully peel the used stencil off the drum and hang it up to dry (with luck, it might be reusable), and repeat the process for page 2 of your document. And so on.

It was truly a material world then. Not virtual. Ink on your fingers. The smell of nail varnish, as Robert Hampson reminded me, no, not for that but to correct mistakes on the typed stencils (no backspace-delete) in an often vain attempt to avoid having to trash the whole thing and start again.

I also tried to convince the students that in many respects they have it easier now if they want to disseminate their writing. It's a big loss that you can no longer (in the UK) go into a bookshop and expect it to stock your wares. But print-on-demand, photocopying, CD and DVD duplication, the internet (email, search engines, blogs, Facebook, Youtube and all the rest) ... this would have been science fiction back in the day. The opportunities for creating communities of readers and writers outside of mass culture - which was my main message - are amazing.

Talking to them afterwards, however, I got the strong impression they valued face-to-face interaction, and real, material books rather than e-books. That's good.

Some time, I need to get back to exploring here what the poetry of those days meant to me. When I have more time.