Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Why I Published our Pamphlets (Part 2)

Our open call for poetry and prose pamphlet submissions ends this Sunday (13th December) and I've been thinking about what I can do to help people who are still deciding what to send us. I've already written about what we do when we process submissions, so I thought it might be useful to look at submissions from another angle and explain why I chose to publish all the pamphlets we've put out already.

You can read Part 1 here, and all the pamphlets are available to buy in our webshop (pamphlets make great Christmas presents and stocking fillers!).

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Malkin, by Camille Ralphs (£5.00)

Series: The Emma Press Picks

Malkin, by Camille Ralphs
Why: Last year I hadn't worked out how to tether my netbook to my phone to access the internet, so I just downloaded all the Word docs and read them on my many train journeys, only matching them up to their covering letters later. Consequently, I was a little flummoxed by both the premise and language of Malkin: the poems take the form of monologues from those accused in the Pendle witch trials of 1612, and Camille uses unorthodox spelling for various reasons but partly to immerse the reader in the atmosphere of the period. But even though I didn't know who was speaking and why the spelling was as it was, I still had a powerful response to the visceral poems and knew I loved them.

Favourite lines: 'And after, well fed-up but famished, I knashed at th bare bakside 
of an apl csh csh - -/ nd an appl & 
another apple – and felt non the better for it, only old.'

AWOL, by John Fuller and Andrew Wynn Owen, illustrated by Emma Wright (£10.00)

Series: Art Squares

AWOL, by John Fuller and Andrew Wynn Owen
Why: One of my poetry bugbears is poems that don't seem to be written with any reader in mind. I don't need that reader to be me, but in the poems I publish I like to have a sense that a poem has been written with an audience in mind; that the poet wants to share something with a reader. I was drawn to the poems in AWOL because I can't get enough of both poets' joy in form and language, but also because they are letter-poems, written from a poet in his late seventies to a poet in his early twenties. I like the way John and Andrew's different perspectives on life sit together in the book, and I find the tenderness and mutual respect throughout very touching.

Favourite lines: 'We want, not days strung out like beads, 
But the whole present in our hands, 
Constant, as the past recedes. 

We’ve had enough of wonderlands: 
We want our share of wonder now. 
Who cares if no one understands?'

True Tales of the Countryside, by Deborah Alma (£6.50)

Series: The Emma Press Pamphlets

True Tales of the Countryside
Why: I think a good word to describe Deborah Alma’s poems might be ‘indomitable’. She writes about insecurity, fear and self-doubt, as well as sex, the countryside and ageing, but the underlying theme is strength. I love the directness of the emotions in True Tales of the Countryside, and reading the manuscript for the first time felt exhilarating. Little details from everyday life and love leapt out at me, perfectly observed and sometimes horribly familiar: the graffiti on the bus shelter, the sticky closeness of nature, the squashing down and clawing back of self in an abusive relationship. I thought True Tales would resonate with and give strength to a lot of readers.

Favourite lines: 'I am a mother, a field, a house. 
Without me, windows darken, 
no-one else knows how to put on lights 
 just to bring the house to life.'

If I Lay on my Back I Saw Nothing but Naked Women, by Jacqueline Saphra, illustrated by Mark Andrew Webber

Series: Art Squares

If I Lay on my Back I Saw Nothing but Naked Women
Why: This is the book which launched the Art Squares! Jacqueline’s sequence of prose poems was so compellingly strange and full of rich visual details that I knew the best way to present them had to be something that gave the text room to breathe. I liked the idea of creating a kind of picture book for adults, with plenty of white space around the text and illustrations that complemented the atmosphere of the poems. As a publisher, I think a lot about how to influence and enhance the reader’s experience, and I think the format of the Art Square encourages a slower, more contemplative reading experience, which might be how I think all poetry should be read.

Favourite lines: 'When I was a child I tied my mother and father together with bandages and put a song in their mouths. If I wound them up they sang an Afrikaans duet in perfect thirds.'

Myrtle, by Ruth Wiggins (£6.50)

Series: The Emma Press Pamphlets

Myrtle, by Ruth Wiggins
Why: This is another set of strength-giving poems, I think. There are ideas in Ruth’s poems which really stuck with me from the first read of her manuscript, and felt like a good, grown-up way of looking at life. She writes about sex and death with a mix of solemnity and mischief which I love, and which I wanted to share with other readers.

Favourite lines: 'This morning we mostly lay on the couch, 
impersonating cats, talking gibberish. 
This afternoon you fucked me, right out 
of my pyjamas and into yours.'

Rivers Wanted, by Rachel Piercey (£6.50)

Series: The Emma Press Pamphlets

Rivers Wanted, by Rachel Piercey
Why: Reading poetry can sometimes feel like a relief from being me, as I become immersed in another person’s world view. Rachel’s world view is full of sharp, disturbing observations, about animals, social interactions and courtship rituals, but I still find myself delighted whenever I read any of her poems, because they contain such unexpected ideas that I feel utterly transported.

Favourite lines: 'If you have always been 

on a train between two places, 
 put up your feet here. 
A hero has come to show you 

the revelatory stoniness of stones 
 and how, upturned, they disclose 
 an adjacent magic underneath.'

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Valley Press staff update – December 2015

Dear readers,

After five years of being 'Mr Valley Press', flying solo, things have finally got to the point where I literally cannot keep up – the train is running away, I'm racing behind.  So this week I've officially brought in some help, and thought I'd write a blog post to introduce the new faces to VP fans and authors, so it's not such a surprise when they get in touch.  (I'll introduce myself as well, in the third person, purely for reference purposes.)  Here then, is the entire organisation as it stands today:

Jamie McGarry

Jamie started Valley Press as a hobby in 2008, and has run it as a business since January 2011 – more-or-less single-handedly, until the posting of this blog.  Jamie's particular skills are in the area of text/cover design, but his enthusiasm for new literature and willingness to learn has seen him through the first five years of VP relatively unscathed.

Laura McGarry
Executive Assistant

A teacher by trade, and Jamie's wife since December 2014, Laura has recently started helping out with VP's communication and organisation; i.e. sending emails, making phone calls, wrapping parcels, and keeping the calendar in order.  If you hear from Laura when you're expecting Jamie, consider it a compliment, and consider yourself lucky!

Rosa Campbell
Associate Editor

Rosa first came to Valley Press as an intern in 2013.  With a BA in Literature from St Andrews, and a MPhil in 'Literatures of the Americas' from Trinity College, Dublin, she is arguably the most qualified person ever to set foot in the VP office – and if that wasn't enough, she is also a social media whiz, and a more-than-competent designer, all skills she will be using in her new role.

Originally from Leeds, Rosa now lives in Liverpool; so I plan to say she's in charge of the 'West Coast office'.  Apparently (in her own words) she 'eats a lot of guacamole, points out nice dogs, and occasionally writes a poem', and is working towards a first collection.

I'm enormously excited (and frankly, relieved) to have some help on my never-ending publishing mission; it feels like a big step, and probably is!  By the way: look out for a new Valley Press 'instagram' (whatever that is) run by Rosa, and posts from both of my new colleagues appearing on VP's social media feeds soon.

All best,