Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Valley Press Newsletter - December 2014

Note: to keep my half of this blog alive, I've decided to post my occasional Valley Press email newsletters on here too. Enjoy!  - J.M.

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Dear readers,

As another year of flat-out publishing comes to a close, I look back on 2014 with a modest amount of pride, and a lot of hope for the future - 2015 is going to be huge. But we're not there yet. I've managed to publish two more 2014 books since the November newsletter, and I feel strangely compelled to tell you about them...

A Pocketful of Windows is an anthology of powerful, original and accessible poetry from writers in North and East Yorkshire; selected, edited and arranged by VP author Felix Hodcroft. The RRP is just £3.99, for which you get 66 poems by 36 poets; aged between 16 and 92, including familiar names and first-timers.

Though formal reviews have yet to arrive, we've had some incredibly positive reactions at the various launch events for Pocketful; and more than 300 copies have been sold so far. You'll be hearing a lot more about this book in future I'm sure - but until then, you can read a sample and more information here

Also out this month: a new title from our Ink Lines imprint, selected and edited by the team at Dead Ink books (particularly, on this occasion, David Tait) and brought into the physical world by Valley Press. It's a marvellous pamphlet of poems by Richard O'Brien entitled A Bloody Mess; newsletter readers can see an exclusive sample here.

If you're not a regular visitor to our esteemed homepage, you may not know that there is a special offer on the go: any two books for £12, with free postage. This won't be around for long, so head over there and make the most of it. (Top tip: when ordering, look out for a prompt that says 'Click 'add' and name your two books now' - that's the important bit.) This is the first ever 'multibuy' offer on the VP site: if it's successful there may be more in future, so there's an incentive if you needed one!

In previous years I have kept my head down and worked through the festive season - pausing only for a sip of champagne on New Year's Eve - but this year I am attempting to genuinely take some time off. This is not simply so I can put my feet up and forget about dispersing quality literature for a while; I am getting married on the 22nd December, and it will be nice to actually see the new Mrs McGarry face-to-face, rather than from behind a big pile of book proofs (which is the usual scenario).

Valley Press will close down at 5pm on Wednesday 17th December, and re-open on Tuesday 6th January; but do feel free to email and order books during that time, I'll catch up when I get back. As for everyone who is waiting eagerly for news and developments on future projects ... just hang in there folks.

All the best,
Jamie McGarry
(Valley Press Editor)

Monday, 8 December 2014

Female Friendship is a Very Complex Thing

I told a slightly silly but true story at the launch of Best Friends Forever last week, about how I first heard of the book's editor, Amy Key. It was back in 2013, when I was trying to learn more about modern poets, and my new boyfriend suggested that I might like Amy Key's work and that he could see us being friends. I replied, 'Thank you for this helpful tip and for taking an interest in my work.' Psych! No I didn't say that, I actually said 'You can't possibly assume that I would be friends with someone, because female friendship is a VERY COMPLEX THING. I can't even begin to explain it to you.' Because I am a delight to date.

Best Friends Forever
Of course, I did look up Amy Key's work and I found that I loved it, and I do understand why someone might think we could be friends (Are we now? Maybe?! Give it time! Female friendship is a very complex thing! Jesus!). But I also stand by my original sentiment, and by my general exasperation about how female friendships are often misunderstood or just not considered important enough to try and understand in the first place.

My whole life has been defined by female friendships. I met my first best friend at nursery and I used to cry from missing her if her mum picked her up before mine at the end of the day. In year 5 our teachers put us in different classes so we could learn to be apart, and she discovered football and left me behind. Secondary school, a hothousing all-girls grammar, was fervid with changing allegiances as girls grew out of some friendships and into others, while negotiating exams, our bodies, and sex. The novelties of university put my old friendships on the backburner in the first year, but I eventually came back to them and learned to value them immensely alongside my new ones. My friendships at Orion made my very boring job bearable, and the existence of the Emma Press is a direct result of my old school friendship with Rachel Piercey plus the catastrophic end of my university friendship with my two housemates (which meant I moved home and could save up money) plus the indirect result of the support of my other best friends.

One of my illustrations from the book
And yes, there were dramas with boys, but honestly they were nothing compared to all this. Contrary to what popular rom-coms from the 80s and 90s suggest, best female friendships aren't a sideshow, tacked on to fill in the bits between meeting the love interest – they're the main event. Is Mean Girls about Cady Heron and Regina George fighting over Aaron Samuels? Of course it's not! Because Tina Fey gets it, and knows that the meaty stuff is Cady's friendship with Janis Ian (and Damian) and then the Plastics, and, less in the foreground, the ruins of the friendship of Janis and Regina George.

Infinitely more interesting and frequently more lasting, female friendships strike me as much more worthy of attention than most tedious A+B=Kissing romances, which is why I was so delighted when my possible friend Amy Key emailed me last year with a proposal for an anthology of poems about female friendship. Most definitely yes! All Emma Press anthologies tackle subjects close to the hearts of Rachel and myself, so I'm pleased that our first guest-edited anthology takes a look at one of the foundations of the Emma Press. Amy has collected a truly fantastic collection of poems which celebrate the life-enhancing power of female friendships while not shying away from the darker aspects of such intensity. Her introduction is soul-baring and moving, and I suspect that soon many more women will be asking themselves if Amy Key could be their friend.

* * *
Amy Key has written about her experience of editing the book over on her blog. You can read more about Best Friends Forever on our website and buy the paperback (£10) directly from us as well as in any bookshop (you can order it in if they don't stock it). The ebook (£5.50) is available exclusively on our website.
 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

What we're looking for in the prose pamphlet submissions

We launched a call for prose pamphlet submissions last month, which felt like a significant step for the Emma Press. Up until now we’ve only published poetry, because our first publication was a poetry pamphlet and it felt sensible to build on what we had learned from publishing it. Then, a few months ago, it occurred to me that we could publish prose pamphlets which would join our existing series of full-length poetry pamphlets. They would be as short as the poetry pamphlets and therefore less daunting to edit. I suddenly felt ready to open up our list and I’ve been excited about it ever since.

The Emma Press Pamphlets

I’ve had quite a few queries from people about our submissions guidelines and what we’re actually looking for, so I thought it would be helpful to lay out my vision of these pamphlets and give you a sense of what I hope to find for our new prose list. If you have any questions/suggestions about other suitable formats, feel free to ask me in the comments section.

THE BOTTOM LINE: £6.50


The core idea of our pamphlets is accessibility, to writers as well as readers. From a writer’s perspective, this is an opportunity to showcase your writing and ideas, at a time when you might not be ready for a full-length book. From a reader’s perspective, this is a low-pressure, low-cost purchase, insofar as a pamphlet only costs £6.50 and is about 36 pages long. It's likely you'll be able to read the whole thing, maybe several times, so you'll probably get your money’s worth.

So, my advice to writers is this: please think about the reader and how your pamphlet proposal will seem to an optimistic, philanthropic bookshop browser with £6.50 burning a hole in their pocket. Your idea must feel like it's worth at least £6.50 and, ideally, by the time the reader finishes the book and is considering buying more Emma Press pamphlets, your book has got to feel like it was a bargain at £6.50.

I know this might seem excessively worldly to demand of a writer, but it’s probably the most useful thing I have to tell you. When I’m reading your proposals and deciding which ones to pursue, I’ll be asking myself: would I, an individual with little money and still less time to spend reading for fun, fork out £6.50 for this?

THE WRITING: Be clear


For me, the accessibility of the pamphlets for the readers extends beyond the price and the length, and into the writing itself. I’m a huge stickler for lucidity in literature and I have little patience for deliberately vague and opaque writing. I’m not against experimentation, but at the same time I value the sense of an unspoken contract between the writer and the reader; the communicator and the recipient. If you don’t make the effort to convey your ideas to the reader, why should the reader bother trying to understand you? If you don’t want people to understand you, why not just keep a diary and keep it to yourself? I fully believe it’s possible to write cleverly and innovatively whilst still being clear.

I think style is a big part of readability, so I’ll also be looking for writers whose style I enjoy. I like writing which has an awareness of rhythm – just because it isn’t poetry doesn’t mean it can’t scan. If you use long sentences, make sure they’re structured well and used sparingly. I'd recommend reading your writing aloud, to see if it rolls off your tongue. If you find yourself tripping over parts of what you've written, or getting mixed up over which clauses to stress in order to make sentences make sense, you might need to take another look at your style.

I particularly admire the authors Douglas Adams and Hilary Mckay for their style. 

THE FORMATS: A whole range


Short stories. I think a single short story, or maybe two short stories, would work really well as a pamphlet. After reading my favourite short stories, I always feel like I’ve been clubbed over the head and have to sit quietly for a little while, to process what has happened. You can do a lot with a short story, and I’m hoping we find some writers at the starts of their careers, pre- bestselling novel, as well as more established writers who fancy mixing things up a bit. I love children’s and YA literature, so writing in those genres is very welcome. I’ve had a few queries about flash fiction, and to be honest I’d be concerned that a collection of 30-odd pieces of flash fiction might not feel like any more than the sum of its parts, unless perhaps there was a unifiying narrative. If you think your proposal will negate my concerns, then by all means send something in.

Short plays. I really like Tom Stoppard’s one-act radio plays, like Artist Descending a Staircase, so I can imagine publishing some tightly-written mini-dramas or comedies. I think we could have some fun with the launch events!

Comics. Emma Press books already contain illustrations, so I’m very interested in exploring fully-illustrated, graphic novel-style pamphlets, for both fiction and non-fiction. If you are a graphic novelist and have an idea which might suit a short black-and-white pamphlet (or even a colour one, possibly), we’d be very happy to hear from you.

Essays. Some writing is just too good to leave on a blog, magazine or newspaper website, so we'd love to build up a list of non-fiction pamphlets. We're interested in all kinds of well-written essays which make sense as a pamphlet, including essays on politics, humorous subjects, travel, memoirs, and any other specialist areas. I know this is vague, but if you're a really good writer and can write something interesting and engaging then we may be interested in you.

Recipes. I love reading cookbooks, even though I rarely have any intention of using the recipes. I like good food writing (hello Nigella) and I'd like to publish pamphlets of maybe 10 recipes, each accompanied by my illustrations and with quite chunky introductions to each recipe. General food writing is welcome too.

Guides. The pamphlet lends itself very well to manuals and guides, so if you have some wisdom or facts to impart on the world, step this way! Do consider which subjects might appeal to us, as we won't be able to publish something that we don't understand at all and have no interest in.

Speeches. A bit of a wildcard, but why not? Any modern-day Ciceros and Plinys will certainly get a look-in, as we have a soft spot for orators and rhetoricians. You could even send us a dialogue, like the ancient philosophers!

* * *

The call for prose pamphlet submissions is open until 25th January 2015. In order to submit, you need to be a member of the Emma Press Club (you join by buying a book/ebook/set of postcards from our website) and pay a £5 pamphlet submission fee per proposal. Read all the details here.

Monday, 22 September 2014

What We Do When We Process Submissions

A few weeks ago at the Poetry Book Fair, I was on a panel discussion called 'What Do Poetry Pamphlet Editors Look For?', chaired by Joey Connolly. It was a short session, so we only had time to give the briefest of outlines of our submissions policies, but one theory which was floated was that it was impossible to say what editors looked for, because they are always looking for something new and also will just go with their gut anyway. I agree with this to some extent, but I'm not sure if it's the most helpful way of looking at it.

For starters, you probably can get a decent idea of what a single editor is interested in by examining their history of commissioned works. This might not work for a team of editors, but most small presses operate on teams of one anyway. You'll be able to glean clues about the styles they like as well as their main concerns, so you can use empathy and imagination to consider whether yours would fit with this or perhaps provide a refreshing change. Either is good!

My inbox
The Emma Press runs regular calls for submissions, with the proviso that people submitting must join the Emma Press Club, so it's especially important for me that the submissions process is as transparent as possible. Part of the thinking behind the Emma Press Club (where people must buy one book/ebook/set of poem postcards from our website in order to submit for that calendar year) was to ensure that everyone submitting would have to engage with our website and buy something we had created, and in doing so get a better idea about what we like. On our flyers, we describe ourselves as specialising in 'books which are sweet, funny and easy on the eye', which is fairly accurate although it doesn't take into account the darker direction in which some of our books have wandered. I hope that people find this helpful when deciding whether – and what – to submit.

It occurred to me that something else which might help potential submitters was an account of what we do after the submissions deadline. It might be useful for you to imagine what your poems will have to face after you've pressed 'send', and you might also find it reassuring that your poems are in hopeful, encouraging hands. We want to choose your poems, and we open every email hoping that this will be a 'MAYBE YES'. This might also explain why we're sometimes late in responding to submissions...

What We Do When We Process Anthology Submissions (from my point of view)


  1. I read all of the poems within a submission twice, and then label it 'NO' or 'MAYBE YES', which feels as alarmingly harsh to do as it sounds. But! At least the labels aren't 'AWFUL' and 'OBJECTIVELY GREAT' – all we're doing at this stage is deciding which of the poems might be the kind of thing we like and which might be suitable for the brief, and which are not so much the kind of thing we like or not really suitable for the brief. This is not a statement about quality, and I know that we have turned down lots of great poems just because they didn't quite fit our vision for the anthology or because they just didn't click with us. About a third to a half of the overall submissions usually end up on this longlist.
  2. I read all the poems on the 'MAYBE YES' longlist again and create a shortlist, this time noting down my thoughts on the poems. By this point, I'll have a better idea of what the book is going to look like, so it's slightly easier to decide if a poem will be right for it. I start reading the submissions with a very open mind, but by the shortlisting stage I'll have formed some ideas about what areas the book will focus on and the general feel of the book. I'll also be thinking hard about whether this poem grabs me and has stayed with me since I last read it. My shortlist usually contains 60-70 poets.
  3. I meet up with Rachel Piercey, my brilliant co-editor, and we compare our shortlists. We'll discuss each of the poems and how we feel they could work in the book. Like Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry deciding whether to expel Kate or Richard on The Great British Bake-Off, our discussion can become heated. I like to keep our anthologies fairly slim, so we aim to select around 30 poets for each book.

I hope this is helpful! Our calls for poems about 1) UK politics and 2) voting are ending on Sunday, so do check our our guidelines on our Submissions page. We're also currently looking for poems about 'Slow Things', and we'll be announcing still more calls for submissions over the next few months. Sign up to our newsletter so you don't miss out.

* If you want to hear me talk more about poetry pamphlets and see some of our pamphlet poets in action, book a free ticket for our Special Edition event at the Poetry Library now: http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/the-emma-press-pamphlet-poets-86755

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Exclusive extract from the introduction to 'Homesickness and Exile'

Homesickness and Exile
This week we're tremendously excited to be launching our new anthology, Homesickness and ExileThe book is the second in our 'Emma Press Ovid' series, which began with A Poetic Primer for Love and Seduction, and it's a fantastic collection of poems about home and belonging with contributions from poets from across the world. There are poems about leaving home and missing it, returning home and feeling like a stranger, and about not knowing where 'home' should really be.

When Rachel (Piercey, my co-editor) and I began planning Homesickness and Exile, we hoped it would be the kind of book people would give to imminent travellers, to keep them company on the road. I think we've achieved that, and I couldn't be happier with the sensitive and varied ways in which all the poets approach the subject. It's a thoughtful, moving set of poems and I hope that it will strike a chord with everyone who reads it, whether they're at home or abroad. To give you a sense of the book, I've posted an extract from my introduction below. Enjoy!

* * *

Inside the book
When the Roman poet Ovid was ejected from Rome by the emperor Augustus and sent to Tomis, a remote town on the Black Sea, he wrote five books of poetry in an attempt to bring about his pardon. These books, the Tristia, describe his last night in Rome, his terrifying journey across stormy seas, his misery in Tomis, his abandoned wife and friends, his early life and poetic works, and – above all – his hope that Augustus will relent and let him come back to Rome.

Ovid’s heartbroken descriptions of his wife and friends will resonate with anyone who has ever had to leave behind a loved one, but for me the fascination lies in Ovid’s unwavering belief in where his home is. He’s been banished from it by Augustus and he’ll live the rest of his days in Tomis, but his home will always be in Rome – not where he was born, but where he chose to live, surrounded by his wife, friends, library, reputation and personal history. In a very callous way, I feel envious of Ovid in his absolute conviction in where he calls home, because it strikes me as quite rare and wonderful to be able to identify somewhere as your home with full satisfaction and accuracy. Ovid may have lost it, but he had it to begin with: somewhere he was happy to belong.

When we launched the call for poems for this book, I wondered what we would learn about modern attitudes to home and whether Ovid’s feeling of bereavement would be echoed in any of the poems. In the privileged world of cheap flights and Skype, people can, in theory, go wherever they like, come back and visit often, and stay in touch via the Internet. Do people even feel homesick like Ovid anymore?

* * *


Four poets from the anthology, Holly Hopkins, Anja Konig, Selina Nwulu and Stephen Sexton, will be reading at the Story Museum in Oxford on 2nd October. This special event will be part of the National Poetry Day celebrations, and the poets will be reading from the anthology as well as other poems on the theme of 'remembering'. You can book tickets here.

You can read more about the book and the poets involved over on our website and buy the printed book and ebook over on our website.



Sunday, 7 September 2014

Valley Press Friday Digest, #19 (Final, Sunday edition)

Readers, the day you've all been dreading is finally here - it's time to retire the 'Friday Digest' format. I've really enjoyed writing these posts over the last four months, and I'm sure it's been good discipline. Sometimes I had the time and inclination to write a lengthy, stirring essay, sometimes I just rushed off links to things I'd seen on Twitter, and sometimes I quite literally phoned it in - but I always got it done. Eventually. But not any more.

I believe some sort of regular communication with the public is essential for a publisher, but I'm not quite achieving that with this current format. I haven't been able to reconcile writing these posts with sending out a newsletter; this seems to make the newsletter irrelevant, and yet I know the newsletter is more important than the blog - or do I? The point is, I need to go away and rethink my basic 'news dispersal' plan, and more importantly how to start building a genuine digital community around VP and EP. Answers and suggestions are always welcome.

Before I call it a day though, what have I got to report from this week? Well, me and Emma had a wonderful time at the Free Verse Poetry Book Fair on Friday - lots of sales and good discussions at what they are calling the 'Poetry Christmas'. Here's a representative photo:


Also, it would appear Love and Eskimo Snow has been nominated for the People's Book Prize, which (as you can guess) is a book prize voted for by the people. I really dislike 'marshalling the troops' to go and vote for stuff - but we won't get into the muddled psychology behind that just now. There's been a bit too much of that on these Digests as it is! The important part: if you would like to support this excellent VP novel, you can do so here.

That's all for the time being - I'll see you on the new newsletter/blog/whatever when I figure it out. If there's anyone out there who's read all nineteen of these posts, top to bottom, my sincere thanks to you - and of course, there's still time to catch up if you'd like...

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Valley Press Friday Digest, #18 (Sunday edition)

Despite appearances, this blog is not just here as a source of one-way Valley Press propaganda - I do occasionally drop in some hints of the larger struggle, and of course you can tell how things are really going by reading between the lines. If the post appears on Friday (as billed), full of good news, that's because I've had a good and relatively easy week; if it appears on Saturday, with very little substance to it, it's been an overly busy and boring week. This post is going up on Sunday afternoon, and was, at one point, full of hand-wringing and woe-is-me rhetoric. It has been a difficult week.

That being said, there have been a couple of bits of good news - one I've agreed not to tell you about, and the other you have probably already heard: the arrival of the new Dead Snail Diaries from The Emma Press. She's done a spectacular job, as hoped; the physical object is a beautiful and intriguing bit of work, and definitely worth £8.50 of your money. Huge thanks are due to Emma and Rachel for their top-notch efforts on both art and text.

I took a few minutes on Friday, when the books arrived, to think how I had suddenly attained the status of 'legitimately published author' - to consider what a strange road it has been from writing the snail poems in 2009 to their appearance in this new volume, and try to imagine how pleased 2009-era Jamie would have been to see it.

I've not perhaps been able to appreciate it as much as I should, as the rest of the week has been such a horror - blighted with all sorts, including illness and a lack of phone signal/internet connection. This whole month has been one I'd like to erase from history, or perhaps go back to the 1st August and have another go at; I have, quite simply, achieved nothing. But it is unquestionably over now; tomorrow is September, and we've got the Poetry Book Fair to look forward to on the 6th. Onwards and upwards!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Poets on their Pamphlets: Ikhda Ayuning Maharsi on her process, inspiration and poems

There's just a few days to go in our open call for poetry pamphlet submissions (deadline: 31st August – this Sunday!), so I've asked some of our existing pamphlet poets to share their pamphlet-related experiences on this blog. We've already posted an interview with Australian poet Kristen Roberts, where she talks about assembling her pamphlet submission to the Picks this time last year, and now we're going to hear about the beginnings of one of our first full-length pamphlets.

Ikhda Ayuning Maharsi
Ikhda, by Ikhda is the debut pamphlet of Ikhda Ayuning Maharsi, a very new Indonesian poet whose writing first came onto our radar when she submitted some poems to our Anthology of Mildly Erotic Verse. Her pamphlet is utterly charming, and we're delighted that it's had such great reviews. Sabotage Reviews observed 'Ikhda herself has conjured a fantastic tree of poetry, branching out and blooming on the strength of her conviction as a writer of innovation and sentiment', while the Cadaverine described it as 'a navigation of birth, love, sex and motherhood, and the ways that these cycles entwine and shape our relationships.' And now, here is Ikhda in her own words:
* * *

My background


I was born in Surabaya, Indonesia. I lived in Paris for two years and now I'm living in Naples until September, before moving to Nantes. It was my father, a dancer, who first told me that I had a poetic voice to share with other people. It all started when he found out that I kept skipping my dance classes to run to the bookstore and read anything there.

He wrote a short-childish poem for me to read at the bachelor party of my big sister (also a dancer) when I was five years old. I still remember the poem:

Thank God, I am not a duck, by my father 
Thank God
You have created me as a human
Not a duck
That goes anywhere by its kwak kwak kwak
Thank God
You have created me as a human
Who is able to talk, walk and laugh
I am not a duck
Who goes anywhere by its kwak kwak kwak
Following other ducks and kwak kwak kwak
Thank God I am not like a duck
Kwak Kwak Kwak and Kwak
I don't know what was on his mind, but it sounds like an encouragement for me? From that moment on I began to fall in love with poetry and now I always write what I want. I take examples of multiculturalism, wrap them in narrative poems, and share them with readers.

The poems

Ikhda, by Ikhda

My inspiration for writing comes from people on the streets, my son, good essays about society and culture, and whatever I feel and see.

For a long long time I kept my poems in my closet. I was afraid of judgement, misunderstanding, and what I could contribute to the world of poetry. It wasn't a problem of confidence, but more the question of essences – how to capture my world of perceptions, ideas, feelings. The world that I love.

It took six to eight months for me to write my full-length pamphlet, and alongside it came music, baby diapers, wine, seas and conversations. If someday you find my pamphlet and read my poems, whether you adore or dislike them I hope you liberate yourself from the conclusion. Poetry is a process, and the ideas in a poem can be destroyed by the reader's state of mind, set before they read. If you free yourself from that, the poems will free you more. Welcome to the world of poetry, the world that I love, the world that energizes me.

The title


Emma and I talked a lot about the title of my pamphlet, which Emma suggested. 'Ikhda, by Ikhdawas not the title that I proposed in my original submission, and I thought it might be too much. I mean, who the heck is Ikhda? I didn't feel ready to put my name in the title of my book, for readers in Great Britain and around the world. It was so controversial and funny. But finally I accepted the title because I thought, this is my book and we live in an era where voices are more important than speakers, so why not?

* * *

You can read more about Ikhda, by Ikhda and buy it for £6.50 (paperback) or £4.25 (ebook) on the Emma Press website. You can find Ikhda on Twitter @ikhdadegoul and contact her on ikhdaayu [at] gmail [dot] com - she would love to hear from readers, poets and critics!

We recently looked at 'Lys', a poem from Ikhda, by Ikhda, in Poem Club – read more here.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

POEM CLUB #10: 'A Love Poem: From Snail to Slug' by Jamie McGarry

Jamie McGarry
Things are getting busier and busier at the Emma Press as we gear up for the next few months of releases and events, so I think this will be the last of the (mostly) weekly Poem Clubs. I'd like to write some more pieces about the inner workings of the Emma Press and I don't want to crowd this blog, so Poem Club will become more of a semi-regular feature, brought out when you least expect it!

What could be more fitting for the last in this series of Poem Club than a poem by my fellow twenty-something self-employed publisher, Jamie McGarry? I acquired his book of snail poems, The Dead Snail Diaries, for the Emma Press quite soon after meeting Jamie last summer, so it's very exciting that it's finally out. As with previous editions of Poem Club, I'll post the poem below along with some of my own thoughts to start things off.


* * *


A Love Poem: From Snail to Slug


God made us brown so we’d be hard
to spot upon his fertile soil;
to hide from the birds (which he made as well),
to cower, dodge, to postpone hell.

But slug does not hide, or flinch back.
His coat? Uncompromising BLACK.
He turns defence into attack.
Oh slug – oh glorious slug.

God gave us shells to weigh us down.
Without them, we would HURTLE round,
so common sense suggests. Who’d beat us,
across a distance of ten metres?

But slug, dear slug, you have the grace
to not rub freedom in our face;
you slow your stride to match our pace.
Oh slug – oh glorious slug.

God made us quiet, thoughtful, wait.
He taught us manners, and restraint.
He taught us not to stay out late,
we’re model garden citizens.

But slug, he DEAFENS when he speaks!
He goes out seven nights a week!
Beer-swilling, hard-living, party beast.
Oh slug – oh glorious slug.

I’d sell my soul to be like him.
Vacate my shell, and dye my skin.
I’d go twice weekly to the gym,
if doing so would let me in

to doors in town that say ‘slugs only’.
But slug accepts no fake, no phony.
I’ll love, but I will never be
a slug – oh glorious slug.


— by Jamie McGarry, from The Dead Snail Diaries

* * *

Emma's thoughts. This is adorable, right? I think this is an incredibly charming poem, and I especially love all the rhymes. The rhyme scheme is irregular but relentless, with rhymes firing off all over the shop in an irresistibly fun way. My personal favourites are the virtuoso 'Who'd beat us/ten metres' in the third stanza and the climactic barrage of solid monosyllabic rhymes in the penultimate stanza – 'him/skin/gym/in'. The rhymes and rhythms don't feel forced, and just beg to be read aloud (you can hear Jamie reading it here). I think this is the kind of poem that could convince someone that poetry is for them, and is worth investigating further.

Your thoughts. We had a lovely long comment from Sarah Parkinson, which I'll quote in full: 'We have a children's book at home which is about the different animals God has made, and which contains very similar meter and rhyme to this poem. 'God made the busy working ants...' etc. This poem for me evokes some of that childlike perspective on the world around us, exploring something that is innate and yet that we sadly so often lose in adulthood. The snail's longing to be something other than itself is given a plaintive cast elicited by the almost sing-song readability of the poetry. I find the pathos in it - that the snail is not content with its own identity - is also highlighted by the structure, and emphasised effectively by the occasional half-rhyme and loss of rhythm. A very touching and thought-provoking poem.'

* * *

The Dead Snail Diaries

What do you think of 'A Love Poem: From Snail to Slug'? Do you find it romantic? What's your favourite bit? Do you like the rhymes? Let me know in the comments section below. Don't be afraid of sounding stupid! Just let me know what you like about the poem or what it makes you feel. All comments will be held for moderation, so don't worry if it doesn't appear immediately after you send it.

<-- POEM CLUB #9: 'Bonfire' by Rachel Piercey

Friday, 22 August 2014

Valley Press Friday Digest, #17

I shall keep things short and to-the-point in this week's digest. The big news is of a new signing: in January 2015 Valley Press will publish All, the second collection of poetry by Canadian-born, Yorkshire-based poet Robert Powell. We've done some great work on both text and cover so far, and are approaching a final manuscript - the poems are phenomenal, of course, and you won't have to take my word for it as I will be sharing some of them on the blog in the coming months. You can see to your right how the cover currently looks - that's a cup full of sunflower seeds. I'm thinking of putting a picture of some fully-grown sunflowers on the back ... or is that too obvious?

Robert (pictured below) will be familiar to some of you as the director of Beam, the arts, architecture and education charity that run the Wakefield Literature Festival - surely one of the best festivals of its kind. They have recently announced their programme for this year and it is phenomenal, check that out (as a priority) here.

Talking of priorities: after months of clinging onto the cliff-edge of my inbox, I've finally let go - there are dozens of unread emails and letters, more arriving all the time, and I can't seem to fully catch up. Unless I'm also going mad, the oldest unreplied-to email (dated 1st August) is from the Lithuanian embassy, wanting to work with Valley Press - so if you too are waiting for a response, at least you're in good company.

In an effort to curb the flow, I spent a couple of hours this week starting an expanded Frequently Asked Questions page, which will hopefully grow over time and result in noticeably less email traffic. Quick-minded readers may comment: 'but if you'd spent those two hours actually replying to emails, the problem would have been solved!' - sure, temporarily, but what about the next time this happens? Plus, I was really in the mood to write some FAQ answers; I'm sure you know what that's like. See you next week.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Valley Press Friday Digest, #16 (Saturday edition)

Slightly delayed digest this week - I forget exactly why, so please insert your own excuse into the following gap: ___________________

Done? Thank you. I hope it was a good one, I know you're not easily convinced.

The big news this week was the arrival of Helen Burke's new book, which I've been going on about for ages, most notably in this post. It's not strictly out until October, but I'm printing early this time, both for promotional purposes and because Helen has a big reading tonight at Keats House, so it seemed silly not to get some copies printed. You can now pre-order the book (and read a generously-sized preview) on its homepage; I've decided to send out pre-orders in September, so you won't have too long to wait, should you wish to order through VP.  (Hint: you should.)

Here's the obligatory photo of the book as an object:


I spent much of this week looking for a Woman - the magazine, that is, though I did have some fun going into shops saying: 'Excuse me, do you have a woman?' 'Could you point me in the direction of a woman?' 'I need a woman', etc etc.  This was not just for humorous purposes (though that is always a worthy outcome); Sarah Holt was in the latest issue discussing her search for a publisher, an article which I found quite touching. I forget sometimes how difficult it can be for authors to find a publisher, and how much it means when they do. Publishing is a sacred thing; we must respect it and our responsibilities. (Such as, letting you know you can pick up a copy of Sarah's book here).

The larger article was about overcoming adversity and gaining success; 'We had the last laugh' was the title. Victoria Beckham had the first page to herself, and Sarah was joined in her section by Holly Willoughby, Matthew McConaughey and Carol Vorderman. Did you know Carol recently quit ITV1's Loose Women to pursue her dream of flying a plane solo around the world? You do now!

I don't know about the legality of reposting the article here, so what I'll do is close my eyes and start pressing buttons randomly on the keyboard - if something should happen, so be it. See you next week!


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

POEM CLUB #9: 'Bonfire' by Rachel Piercey

Rachel Piercey
We had some nice comments for 'Night music' last week, so let's have another poem from an Emma Press Pick, our series of short, themed, illustrated pamphlets. This one is from our tentative first publication, The Flower and the Plough, which began my collaboration with Rachel Piercey. As with previous editions of Poem Club, I'll post the poem below along with some of my own thoughts to start things off.

* * *


Bonfire


I have felled
all the trees in my wood
to keep you going,

thrown old faithfuls
and flimsy, startled
saplings into your

hot ears and come-
to-bed mouth.
Then all that was left

was the pointy scent
of gum
and the bellow of an oak.

So I hacked off my hair
with barely
a second thought,

and both ears
were carelessly slung in,
then my thumbs

with their crucial
opposability.
I’ve got my toes lined up

and my unaccountable hips
and my knees
are ready too,

so please
give me more
of your particular brand

of alchemy.
Because when you temper
scraps into treasure

I think it’s worth it,
and when you
spit out glass

though you only got sand
I think it’s worth it.
Because I could

spot you
a mile away
on any frightening night

and when I got there
you’d soften me.
Because I hope

that when I’m down
to just my heart in the open air
you’ll keep it warm.

— by Rachel Piercey, from The Flower and the Plough

* * *

Emma's thoughts. This poem has a very special place in Emma Press history, as it's the first poem by Rachel that I ever read. I had an instant, visceral reaction to it, and was amazed by how she had described exactly that insane leap of faith you can take in a passionate relationship. I love how the wild, raw imagery captures the exhilaration of going all in for a love affair. My favourite bit is 'when you / spit out glass // though you only got sand', because it expressed how a loved one can feel like both a miracle-worker and a miracle in themselves.

Your thoughts. Tom gave a great reading of the poem in the comments below, which I highly recommend reading in full. He was particularly struck by the violence of the poem and concluded: 'I know the fire could be read as creativity or something, but you know a bonfire the next morning is just damp ash. For me it's like the poem says the whole *point* of love is to destroy yourself; and maybe that's actually what we want; what we're trying to do.'

Kristen also had a great response, with a slightly different take to Tom on the escalation throughout the poem: 'This poem has a spectacular longing that I remember from early love affairs, giving it everything I had and then getting creative and trying to be new and interesting just to keep the fire going ('old faithfuls and flimsy') when in the other person was happy to let it die down. Rachel has captured it beautifully, and I can see why it's a favourite.'

In this penultimate week of Poem Club, I'm going to award a book to both Tom and Kristen!

* * *

The Flower and the Plough
What do you think of 'Bonfire'? Is that how falling in love feels to you? What do you think of the forest metaphor? Which is your favourite image? Let me know in the comments section below. All comments will be held for moderation, so don't worry if it doesn't appear immediately after you send it.

<-- POEM CLUB #8: 'Night music' by Kristen Roberts
--> POEM CLUB #10: 'A Love Poem: From Snail to Slug' by Jamie McGarry

Friday, 8 August 2014

Valley Press Friday Digest, #15

Absolutely nothing to report this week - mostly been doing freelance work. Here's a picture of some instructions for a watch that made me laugh... I can't promise it'll be the same for you. See you next week!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Poets on their Pamphlets: an interview with Kristen Roberts

Kristen Roberts
We're in the final month of our call for poetry pamphlet submissions, so I've asked a few of the Emma Press pamphlet poets to write something about their experience of working on their pamphlets. First up is the lovely Kristen Roberts, an Australian poet based in Melbourne. We published The Held and the Lost, an Emma Press Pick (a short, illustrated pamphlet), back in February 2014.

*

Hello Kristen! Can I ask you to describe your pamphlet?

Hi! My pamphlet is a collection of poems about the happiness that we find in the sense of belonging, of just being with family and lovers, and then the sadness that swells around us when someone we love leaves or dies. I write what I think of as everyday poetry – sort of conversational, and less structured or formal in style – so the collection feels a bit like a written snapshot of everyday life. I think Emma captured its spirit beautifully with a calm, yet melancholic blue cover.

Why did you decide to submit it to The Emma Press?

I find the passion and creativity behind the Emma Press publications so appealing, while the size of the pamphlets makes them a perfect step for someone like me who does not have a large body of new work ready.

I first met Emma and Rachel via Skype when I had a poem published in The Emma Press Anthology of Mildly Erotic Verse, and found their enthusiasm was infectious. And Rachel’s pamphlet is just gorgeous, so I wanted one with my poems in it! I was so keen that when I saw the call for submissions I responded almost immediately, and now that I’ve seen the other pamphlets that were released this year I’m really glad I did it.

How did you choose which poems to include in your original submission?

I had some favourite poems, some published and others shiny and new, that I knew I had to send in. I’m not always brilliant at identifying my strongest work; sometimes it’s the unexpected pieces that treat me well, so I pulled together a range of poems that wove into a common theme with my favourites (I seldom actually write with a theme in mind, so it was interesting to see how much of my work fit within this idea of love and loss). When I had a group that I thought worked, I picked out the ones that I thought best showcased my voice and style.

When did you write the poems?

Some of the poems are a couple of years old – a few had been published already, and others were sitting in a file on my computer waiting for the right opportunity. There were others I’d been working on in the year leading up to the submissions window, giving them the occasional stir and leaving them to simmer, and there were a few that I’d only written very recently (they were still raw in the middle!).

How did you come up with the title?

Hmm… it’s terrible of me, but I don’t actually remember! I do remember liking that ‘the Held’ referred to both those I hold, and those who feel held, and that ‘the Lost’ could refer both to those feeling lost and those who have been lost. It was only a working title in the beginning, but I think it grew on us all.

What did it mean to you to have your first pamphlet published?

Gosh, it was the most fabulous opportunity, and a lovely validation that I should keep up this writing thing. I’ve been writing for years in the spaces between my young children’s needs, stealing snatches of time while they slept or played in the garden, and while I’ve had single poems published in journals and anthologies, nothing feels better than having a gorgeous little volume of poetry with my name on the cover. It’s my turn, and it made all the hard work worth it.

What kind of a reaction have your friends and family had to The Held and the Lost?

I’ve had a fantastic response! My family and friends were incredibly supportive and proud, and all bought a copy without me even having to hint. Some of my favourite reactions have been from those who don’t ordinarily read poetry. I think some were surprised to find themselves enjoying the experience - they’d find certain poems that resonated with them, and then they’d come and discuss them with me! I’ve loved it.

What advice would you give to people preparing their pamphlet proposals for this round of submissions?

Go for it! Give yourself your best chance by showing off your range and voice, pull together the poems that illustrate a cohesive idea, and be brave.

* * *

'Night music', a poem from The Held and the Lost, was recently up for discussion in Poem Club – read more here.



Tuesday, 5 August 2014

POEM CLUB #8: 'Night music' by Kristen Roberts

Kristen Roberts
There's just a month left in our call for poetry pamphlet submissions, so this week's Poem Club poem is by someone we encountered wholly through our first open call for submissions, back when we were on the scrounge for mildly erotic verse. Melbourne poet Kirsten Roberts first came onto our radar with her gorgeous poem 'Cool change at midnight', and when she submitted her pamphlet proposal for The Held and the Lost we were smitten. The poem featured below is the first poem in the collection, and it's one which sets the tone and resonates throughout the whole book. As with previous editions of Poem Club, I'll post the poem below along with some of my own thoughts to start things off.

* * *


Night music


After the party we lie beneath open windows
and listen as insects play night music. 
Each note glimmers like a tiny white light in the darkness, 
incandescent against the solid noise of the semi-trailers
that groan up the highway’s climb and whine down.

In the kitchen, a flock of wine-stained glasses 
has settled at the sink 
and bottles stand, awkward as pelicans, among them. 
The floorboards relax into our silence 
like fingers releasing the night,
like the house exhaling a long-held sigh.

There is laughter soaking the walls, 
smiles and exclamations still glowing amber on the deck, 
waiting for morning’s breath to reignite them.
We’ll gather them when we wake
and carry them home in our pocket seams like sand, 
each memory a tiny constellation
to be discovered on our ordinary days. 

— by Kristen Roberts, from The Held and the Lost

* * *

Emma's thoughts. I could dive right into this poem and stay there! Kristen captures that spaced-out, floaty feeling you get after a really good party, when peace descends, your ears are still ringing and the house is a mess. This isn't a perfect moment, but it's as perfect as it gets in the very real, defiantly mundane world Kristen often writes about. The poem is stuffed with details of gentle, unstoppable movement – the ebbing away of heat and the passing of time – so overall it feels like a celebration of the small joys of mortality.

Your thoughts. I think it's safe to say this poem was a hit! Everyone seemed to enjoy Kristen's post-party snapshot, and we had some lovely responses. MonochromeThief commented: 'I love how all aspects of the poem's world are animated: the corporeal and the mundane.' She responded with her own images: 'The radiating warmth of smiles & laughter "still glowing amber" remind me of hot stone underfoot in summer, long after the sun has sunk below the horizon.'

Claudia Harkavy was similarly charmed, commenting 'I love this too – agree completely with, and can't outsay your wanting to dive in and stay there.' For her, the poem evoked 'the absorption of good times – their sounds, their twinkling in us - into ourselves, and our habitats which can throb with these memories when such times are scarce.'

Courtney Landers, our victor from last week's Poem Club, shared some great insights, commenting: 'I love the Australian-ness of this poem. I can hear the crickets, smell the still-warm bitumen and feel the cool breeze coming in through the windows.' She added: 'It's a happy poem because the high is still there from the party, but a sad poem because the party is over, and now 'real life' must be begun again.'

And the winner of this week's 'Most Thoughtful Commenter' prize is... Courtney Landers!

* * *

The Held and the Lost
What do you think of 'Night music'? Do you recognise the feelings described? Is this is a happy poem? What do you think of the ending? This Poem Club is now closed, but you can still let me know what you think in the comments section below. Don't be afraid of sounding stupid! All comments will be held for moderation, so don't worry if it doesn't appear immediately after you send it.

<-- POEM CLUB #7: 'Raspberries' by Andrew Wynn Owen
--> POEM CLUB #9: 'Bonfire' by Rachel Piercey

Friday, 1 August 2014

Valley Press Friday Digest, #14

Hello again, readers. It's time for another of my 'weekly digests', and I'd like to follow the format of last week's post exactly, if it's all the same to you - announce a 2015 book, share a couple of minor bits of news, and finish with another poem from Helen Burke's new collection (probably the last one I'll share - I want to leave some mystery to it!)

Photo by Marcos Avlonitis
  • In March 2015 Valley Press will publish Seahouses, the first collection of poetry by noted medical historian Richard Barnett, pictured to your right. Think you've heard that name somewhere before? Richard contributed two poems to our Pocket Horizon anthology, so he's the second PH 'alumnus' to graduate to own-book status (after Kelley Swain) - and perhaps not the last. You may also have heard of his book The Sick Rose: Disease and the Art of Medical Illustration, published this year to rave reviews (including by Will Self in The Guardian, who said the writing was 'superbly erudite and lucid' - I'm still pondering whether I can use that comment on the Seahouses back cover!) When Richard sent me his manuscript, my expectations were pretty high, and he exceeded them by miles - it's exceptionally good. I'll just give you one line for now, as a tease: 'tomorrow we will keep bees for all the wrong reasons'.

  • If you want to read an even lengthier blog post by me today (and why wouldn't you?), the Young Poets Network have posted an interview I did for them in May. I must stress that the questions are all from different people, which is why they're so random - several people have commented to me that the interviewer has quite an odd approach, thus necessitating a patient explanation by me of exactly what the deal was there.

  • A short, fair review of John Wedgwood Clarke's In Between appeared this week, by Greg Freeman on Write Out Loud - you can read that here. He calls it 'modest but enjoyable', which may not make it onto the cover for the reprint, but is quite a nice thing to say.

  • Sarah Holt was interviewed this week for Woman magazine, about the experience of writing and launching Love and Eskimo Snow. The interview is set to appear in the August 12th issue, so make sure you grab one - as I certainly won't be scanning it and posting here (wink wink).

  • And so to end, another poem from Helen Burke's forthcoming collection Here's Looking at You Kid, which I've just finished typesetting - hoping to go to print next week. My head is full of these poems at the moment, which is why I keep posting them... in the hope that they will take residence in your brains too. This is perhaps the funniest one (there's some serious stuff too - but you don't want that on a Friday night!)


French Cat in French Window


So. I am a French cat in a French window and you
are just passing by – you take my photograph –
why wouldn’t you? – because I am beautiful.
I am beautiful – and you are English – that’s how the cookie crumbles – yes, life can be unfair. Life can be a dog.
I am licking my arse – and I am still beautiful – don’t try
it yourself. I can’t be responsible for hospital bills.
I am a French cat in a French window – you are on your
way to – how you say it – Yorkshire?
I am on my way to Montmartre to buy a little sardine
on a bed of couscous – perhaps a little wine, if the year
she seems a good one. You look very pale – as if
your whole world, she is not coloured in and has no
way of turning the other cheek – and looking up at the moon
and singing in the night. At midnight.
That is when the French cat comes to life.
I myself run a little café in the Bois de Boulogne. I even
let a few English sit at the tables there. But, at this moment
I am cleaning my bottom – with the care of an artiste –
and you take my photograph.
I feel a little sorry for you – but even so, as you click your camera
I will turn my arse right around to face you.
This is – how you call it? –
the French Resistance.

Sarah Hesketh on Dementia and Ageing

Sarah Hesketh
Sarah Hesketh is currently editing an anthology of poems about ageing and age for The Emma Press. She is passionate about the project, and in this blog she explains some of the background to the anthology. Submissions to The Emma Press Anthology of Ageing and Age close on Sunday 31st July 2014 – read all the guidelines here.


* * *

In 2009 a colleague of mine at the Free Word Centre lent me a book. ‘You have to read this,’ she said. ‘I met with the editor the other day. He’s looking for people to help edit his next book.’ The book hadn’t been commercially produced. It had a strange black and white striped cover and it was printed on thick, creamy paper. There was no author or blurb on the cover. Just a title which read:

Ancient Mysteries
Stories from the Trebus Project

I started reading it on the bus on the way home from work. After about forty pages I had to stop. I was getting through it too fast. I didn’t want it to be over so soon. This was my first encounter with the Trebus Project and the work of David Clegg. David had spent over five years working with people with dementia, piecing their life stories together from hundreds of fragmentary phrases. Ancient Mysteries was a collection of these life stories as told by the elderly people who had lived them. Some of it was fantastic. Some of it was mundane. In each monologue the personality of each speaker came through so vividly. Here were people who had lived, and despite society’s dismissal of them as not just old, but often some kind of crazy, they had a huge amount to say.

I volunteered to edit one of the pieces in David’s next book Tell Mrs Mill her husband is still dead. Then in 2013, David sent me details of a vacancy for an artist in residence post with Age Concern. Where the heart is was a multi-disciplinary project which would see artists from different art forms placed in dementia care settings and then produce work based on the experiences they had.

As my friends could all tell you, I could bore you for hours about the people I met, the things I saw, the times I needed to have a large glass of white wine and a bit of a cry when I got off the train at the end of a day in placement. I won’t. If you’re that interested, I kept a blog about the whole experience. But one of the most important things, I realised, was just how little we think about getting old and what might happen to us, or the people we care for, when we get to old age. Either we fear age, or we try to pretend it simply won’t happen. When I looked around for poetry on the topic, I found Larkin’s Old Fools, or Jenny Joseph’s old lady in purple, but not much else that tried to capture the difficult combination of the pain and the pleasures of old age. Yes, some of the people I worked with on Where the heart is drooled, but they also told some great jokes; one old lady was really angry all the time – ‘that’s not the dementia, she’s been like that all her life’, her daughter-in-law commented. As the residency progressed, I found myself less concerned with trying to capture some sepia snapshot of who these people had been, and much more interested in who they were now – what things made them laugh? How did they feel about the other residents in the home? What did they think of their (often terrible looking) lunch?

When I saw that the Emma Press was producing anthologies on the themes of fatherhood and motherhood, an anthology about age and ageing seemed like a perfect fit. When I pitched the idea to Emma, I said I wanted to find poems that would respect the complexity of old age. They might be celebratory or they might be very sad poems – the best ones would probably be a bit of both. I had a feeling that the theme might have a very wide appeal; that here was a topic that doesn’t normally get much attention, even though, if we’re lucky enough to get that far, we’ll all feel the stiffness in our joints one day, or find ourselves just losing an hour, thinking about someone from very long ago. As it is, even I’ve been surprised by the volume of submissions we’ve received already, and I’m also really moved by how personal so many of these poems seem to be. I’m really excited to get started on the editing process. This is hopefully just the very beginning of the conversation. If just one more person picks up the phone to their grandma more often, as a result of hearing about the anthology, then I think I’ll consider half my job done.

* * *
Sarah Hesketh is a poet and freelance project manager, whose first full collection, Napoleon’s Travelling Bookshelf, was published by Penned in the Margins in 2009. In 2013 she was a poet in residence with Age Concern and a book of poems resulting from the residency, The Hard Word Box, will be published in autumn 2014. 

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

POEM CLUB #7: 'Raspberries' by Andrew Wynn Owen

Andrew Wynn Owen. Photo
   © Belinda Lawley
We had some very exciting news last week, that Andrew Wynn Owen had won the Newdigate Prize. We published Raspberries for the Ferry, Andrew's first pamphlet, so we are incredibly proud of his achievement. This week in Poem Club we're going to look at the opening poem of his pamphlet, which gave the collection its title.



* * *

Raspberries


Available, but not for long,
They look like lesser fruits of Eden.
So sweet they force you into song
And fill your head with dreams of hedon-
istic gymnasts born in Sweden.
These luscious buds should be illegal,
Reserved for emperor and eagle.

Yes, don't they make you salivate?
That danglingness, their regal nods
To passers-by as if to state
A bloodline running back to gods.
You'd like them to arrive in squads
And drag you screaming to a cell
With sticky fists on each lapel.

These friendly triffids catch your eye
Across a busy motorway
And beckon you to have a try.
Their trimming is décolleté
With underbrush for négligée
And crimpled leaves that make you think 
Of Cleopatra draped in mink.

The provenance this clustered fruit
Can claim is unlike any berry:
Venusian origins impute
Its power to party and make merry.
When Charon chauffeurs in the ferry
The only bribes to turn his head
Are juicy, globular, and red.

— by Andrew Wynn Owen, from Raspberries for the Ferry 
* * *
Emma's thoughts. I love this poem for many reasons, not least of which is that raspberries are also my favourite fruit. They deserve a hymn, because they're wonderful: a great shade of pink, sweet and tart, and delicious. I also like the layers of menace eased into the poem, which create a sexy kind of tension between the speaker and the raspberry: they 'force' you into song, should be 'illegal', and, err, 'drag you screaming to a cell'. Is fruit erotica a thing? With Andrew Wynn Owen at the helm, it should be!

Your thoughts. A couple of great comments this week! ThatBookGirl had the only natural response to the poem, as far as I'm concerned: 'This poem makes me want to go and eat all the raspberries in my garden, but now I think of Swedish gymnasts when I chew them!' I hear you, ThatBookgirl.

Courtney Landers had a similar response, and gave a helpful blow-by-blow account of her reading experience: 'The first time you read it you think ‘oh that’s cute, I like raspberries too', the next few times you start to catch the multiple layers, and then each time you read it you’re giggling because ‘did he just say THAT, about RASPBERRIES?!’ She gives an in-depth description of her favourite bits in the comments below, so I'd highly recommend you scroll down to read it in full.

And the winner of this week's 'Most Thoughtful Commenter' prize is... Courtney Landers!

* * *
Raspberries for the Ferry
What do you think of 'Raspberries'? Do you think it is funny? Do you think it is sexy? What's your favourite line? Bearing this poem in mind, why do you think we choose 'Raspberries for the Ferry' as the title of the book? This week's Poem Club is closed, but you can still let me know in the comments section below. Don't be afraid of sounding stupid! Just let me know what you like about the poem or what it makes you feel. All comments will be held for moderation, so don't worry if it doesn't appear immediately after you send it.

<-- POEM CLUB #6: 'Brown Leather Gloves' by Oliver Comins
--> POEM CLUB #8: 'Night music' by Kristen Roberts