Over the course of our call for pamphlet proposals, we'll have some of our existing pamphlet authors writing about their experience of having a pamphlet published with us. Here we speak to Stephen Sexton about his pamphlet, Oils!
Tell us about your pamphlet and what drew you to the Emma Press.
My pamphlet changed shape many times, as these things do. It contains several poems based on paintings — I was very into that at the time. One is based on large, strange landscape by Peter Doig, and there is a little sequence of three poems based on various images of Orpheus, or more specifically, his head, since he’s only a head in each of paintings. I guess I was interested in the act of looking, and the politics of looking, and figured it would be interesting to look intensely at one of mythology’s biggest lookers. Besides that, there’s a poem about an English class watching Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, and a poem in the voice of Popeye.
I encountered the Emma Press sometime in early 2013, I think, when Emma and Rachel Piercey accepted a poem to be included in Mildly Erotic Verse. It was the first, or one of the first significant publications for me, and I was overjoyed that Emma and Rachel brought Amy Key and Jacqueline Saphra on the accompanying book tour to Belfast. I had been thinking about pamphlets and how I should go about finding someone to publish it. Over a terrible falafel that Emma never tires of hearing me complain about, she and Rachel so warmly suggested the Emma Press might publish my poems.
What did you enjoy about working with the Emma Press?
I enjoyed everything about working with the Emma Press. I found the editing process to be both considerate and rigorous. Rachel is a really wonderful reader, and she has such an eye not only for the ways in which a poem can go amiss, but also the ways its can go. At every stage of assembling the pamphlet, I felt supported, but I also felt encouraged to try different approaches to the poems. I expect the sequencing of the pamphlet varied widely, but it settled in an order I’m pleased with.
Besides the practicalities of assembling the pamphlet, the Emma Press supported it hugely. Emma so generously invited me to several events in support of the pamphlet — including a wonderful showcase event at the Poetry Library in the Southbank. Emma worked so hard to help promote the pamphlet, and kept an eye out for reviews of it. Moreover, she entered the pamphlet for the various accolades for which pamphlets are eligible, such as the Michael Marks Awards. It meant a lot that Oils was selected as a Poetry Book Society Winter Pamphlet Choice in the year of its publication.
What have you been doing since publishing your pamphlet?
I feel like the publication of Oils began the most recent phase of my writing practice. Since then, I’ve completed a PhD at the Seamus Heaney Centre, and I’ve been fortunate to have my work published in some fine journals and magazines across the UK and Ireland. I’ve also received support in the form of a grant from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, for which I’m hugely grateful. Most recently my poem ‘The Curfew’ won the National Poetry Competition. I’m pleased with how my writing has been going, and these acknowledgements give me a lot of encouragement and confidence. I’m so happy to have published Oils, and I am delighted that many exceptional writers who happen to be good friends have also had pamphlets published with the Emma Press. It’s always an occasion for me to read the Emma Press’s latest publications, and I look forward with excitement to the pamphlets of 2018.
Oils is available to order on our website. You can also find out more about our call for pamphlet submissions here.