Radical publisher Verso Books celebrates its fifty-year anniversary this year, and it could scarcely be more timely.
April is National Poetry Month, and it fell this year on a historic moment both for having time to read and a need for the consolation and guidance of politically engaged verse. We live in interesting times: with a pandemic threatening and taking the lives of people all across the world, when our leaders and institutions have never seemed less adequate or less legitimate, the future of society itself seems to be in doubt. Now is not the time for light, or gentle, or confessional poetry of individual feelings, but for witnesses to history.
I have an awkward confession to make. As a bookseller, it's generally expected that I'll be on top of the new releases—that I'll know all about the new campus novel and the new World War II novel, and the new nonfiction release about how Donald Trump is either the worst president ever or the best president ever.
But new books just don't really do it for me anymore. Instead, I've been working my way through a series of out-of-print public-domain ebooks of the kind that you'd be lucky to find used. I don't know what initially drew me to this. Maybe it's my natural contrarian streak, maybe it's the thrill of making rare discoveries (a thrill that's almost entirely imaginary at this point, when almost anything can be found and acquired for free online without getting out of bed). Probably it's because I like to get stuff for free.