Page last updated at 08:38 GMT, Saturday, 15 November 2008

Poet 'stirred up' storm over book

Patrick Jones
I sent a few poems to many different organisations on 2 November and I said 'Please find a few poems. I would appreciate your feedback'
Patrick Jones, poet

A bookstore chain has accused a poet of deliberately provoking a "furore" about his latest collection, forcing the company to cancel its official launch.

Waterstone's in Cardiff called off Patrick Jones's book signing after a campaign by a Christian organisation.

He has confirmed that he e-mailed his poems to Christian and Muslim groups and to the far-right organisation Combat 18 beforehand.

The poet, from Blackwood in Caerphilly county, said he wanted to spark debate.

The launch of Darkness is Where the Stars Are - a collection of 30 to 40 poems from the Welsh publishers Cinnamon Press - was due to take place at the chain's Cardiff city centre branch in The Hayes on Wednesday evening.

But it was cancelled by Waterstone's after a campaign by activists Christian Voice, who called the book "obscene and blasphemous".

It called on the chain to remove copies from stores, which Waterstone's refused to do. But it said it cancelled the book launch and signing to be "prudent" and because of its duty to customers.

The book has since gone on to be a "strong seller locally", said Waterstone's, although it did not have exact sales figures.

Notice in shop window
It would appear that shortly before the event took place, the author deliberately took provocative action to create a furore around the publication of his book
Waterstone's

The bookstore has now released a further statement defending the cancellation, saying: "The poetry reading was organised and planned in good faith between our store and the publisher.

"However, it would appear that shortly before the event took place, the author deliberately took provocative action to create a furore around the publication of his book.

"These actions were taken without prior discussion with the store or their consent and altered the nature of the pre-agreed event.

"For this reason and because of the risk of disruption to the store, our staff and customers we felt it appropriate to cancel the event."

'Freedom of expression'

Mr Jones, the brother of rock star Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers, had initially denied sending e-mails of his work to Christian Voice when he appeared on BBC Radio Wales on Wednesday, following news of the event's cancellation.

But he later said he had sent e-mails containing some of his poems to Christian, Muslim and far-right groups, including Combat 18, which takes its name from the position in the alphabet of Adolf Hitler's initials.

He insisted he did not want to create any protests, but rather to spark a debate about the issues in his poems, which include religion and domestic violence against men.

"I sent a few poems to many different organisations on 2 November and I said 'Please find a few poems. I would appreciate your feedback'," he said.

"I was hoping that maybe they would come out and have a debate. That's within my rights to do that.

"Even if they had come out to protest, that doesn't mean Waterstone's should give up [on the launch]. That's freedom of expression.

"My book didn't set out to be provocative at all. I had support from people when I went to a book reading in Cwmaman last night. I'm really proud of my book."

But Stephen Green, of Christian Voice, said he believed Mr Jones had deliberately "whipped up" feelings about the book.

"We got this stuff on e-mail from Patrick Jones and another e-mail from someone else telling us about his book signing," he said.

"His e-mails contained some of his prose and there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that he wanted to cause a frenzy."

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