Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

The Emma Press has announced that they are relocating to Birmingham in October 2015. To mark the end of their time in Berkshire, the publisher is collaborating with local arts organisation Jelly to deliver a special day of events in The Oracle.

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The Emma Press has been awarded a grant from Grants for the Arts, supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, to conduct a 15-date national poetry tour for children.

The Myths and Monsters tour will include poetry readings, interactive storytelling and poetry-writing workshops aimed at children aged 9-12, featuring thirteen poets including Joseph Coelho (shortlisted for the 2015 CLPE Poetry Award), Kate Wakeling (writer-in-residence with Aurora Orchestra) and Andrew Wynn Owen (recent winner in the Society of Authors’ Eric Gregory Awards).

Emma Wright, founder of the Emma Press, said: ‘We are thrilled that the Arts Council is supporting this tour and helping us to share the joys of poetry with children across the country. We hope that our events inspire children with a sense of ownership of both language and stories, and that we contribute to their ongoing enjoyment of literature.

The Myths and Monsters tour begins this month at Tales on Moon Lane Festival, run by Tales on Moon Lane bookshop in partnership with Dulwich Picture Gallery, and will visit Penzance Literary Festival, Bags of Books children’s bookshop in Lewes, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, the Village Storytelling Centre in Glasgow, Loogabarooga Festival in Loughborough, Lakeside Arts Centre in Nottingham, and community libraries in Slough, Woodley, Wokingham and Birmingham.

Wright added: ‘We want to use the tour to draw attention to the importance of poetry for children of all ages: it’s a terrible shame how poetry seems to drift from being a ubiquitous delight for younger children, present in nearly all picture books, into something you just read at school. As Chrissie Gittins has pointed out in the Bookseller and the Guardian, this is reflected in the often paltry children’s poetry book sections in bookshops, with the implication being that there is no demand for it. We hope to challenge this perception and demonstrate during the tour both how vital poetry is for children and how much they enjoy it.’

The tour follows the publication of the Emma Press’s first children’s book, Falling Out of the Sky: Poems about Myths and Monsters, edited by Rachel Piercey (Newdigate Prize, 2008) and Emma Wright.

Full details of the tour can be found on the Tour page.

The Keen Bean, a tiny coffee shop in Oxford run by poet and entrepreneur Will Davies, has just started a series of free poetry nights to promote small and independent publishers. Will was kind enough to invite me to curate the first event and I leapt at the chance; I’ve been planning some events to coincide with the publication of The Emma Press Anthology of Mildly Erotic Verse from September onwards and I was glad to be able to try some ideas out in front of a small audience.

The event, which took place on Saturday 3rd August, was a two-hander featuring Rachel and Richard, both friends of The Emma Press. Here are the introductions I wrote for the Keen Bean event page …

Richard O’Brien reading

Richard O’Brien is one of the most exciting and in-demand young poets around, popping up most recently at the BBC Proms. He won the Foyle Young Poets of the Year award in 2006 and 2007, and his debut pamphlet, your own devices, has almost completely sold out. He has a second pamphlet coming out in the autumn with Dead Ink, as well as one scheduled for January 2014 with The Emma Press.

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Rising star Rachel Piercey was President of the Oxford University Poetry Society and won the Newdigate Prize in 2008. She writes beautiful, lucid poetry and her illustrated pamphlet of love poems, The Flower and the Plough, was published by The Emma Press earlier this year. Last month she joined the editorial team on Cadaverine Magazine.

The Keen Bean pamphlets

With a line-up like that, I was pretty confident about how the poetry side of things was going to go, but I also felt pressure to hold up my end of proceedings. I made some hand-stitched pamphlets, so the poets wouldn’t have to shuffle bits of paper around on stage, and I planned an informal speech explaining the origins of the press. The Keen Bean had the intimate atmosphere sorted already, so all that was left was the running order. At the suggestion of Rachel, I organised her and Richard’s poems into alternating chunks of 2-5 poems, designed to work as individual segments but also to speak to the preceding and following mini-sets.

Rachel Piercey next to my banner

Richard and Rachel, as it turns out, have very complementary styles. Richard approaches his subjects with great intensity and depth while Rachel has a sparer touch, drawing out her often startling observations with deceptive simplicity. They share a love of form and a nice line in almost masochistic emotional honesty, and watching them alternate was like taking a too-deep breath in and then puffing it out too fast: both giddying and intense experiences, but in different ways. They were brilliant on Saturday, and I really hope we can put on this show again so more people can see it. The whole event went as well as I had hoped it would, not least due to the relaxed charm of the Keen Bean and Will Davies himself.

As mentioned above, there will be many more Emma Press events taking place from September onwards, so do sign up to the newsletter and keep an eye out for announcements on Facebook and Twitter. These will involve lots of the poets from the Mildly Erotic Anthology (available for pre-order here) and will be completely amazing, so start getting excited … now! If you wish you’d been at the Keen Bean event, you can check out the setlist below and even read some of the poems for yourself.

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The setlist:

Richard O’Brien Rachel Piercey

Scintillometry Songs about Louise Desire Path

At the arcade The corps Lilac tree Boys who take traffic cones Sea bed

More Sharks Than Ever Before Actaeon Munch’s Cock

On Rosebery Avenue Bath time Truth or dare

Ransom The Smell of Apples Orpheus

Know not me Ride Tonight, Matthew…

Magician’s Assistant Victorian Pornography

Family tree Symbiosis

If you were just kicking yourself for not having made it down to Lower Marsh Market during office hours on a Friday recently, then stop kicking yourself. I’ve been enjoying the market very much, so you now have another month in which to wander down and get your hands on some poetry books which you might otherwise have had to order online, or maybe never seen at all. These are beautiful, tactile objects, so I would recommend strongly against forgoing this experience – these books have to be seen and felt to be believed, and where better to browse than in a sunny street in South London under a gazebo presided over by ME?

NEW DATES:

Friday 12th July, 11am – 4pm Friday 19th July, 11am – 4pm Friday 26th July, 11am – 4pm Friday 2nd August, 11am – 4pm

As for the kinds of books I have to offer, there is of course The Emma Press’s The Flower and the Plough, resplendent in pink, and also a variety of books from the following independent poetry publishers:

Donut Press. Donut Press has been producing beautiful poetry pocketbooks since 2001, when book-selling colleagues Andy Ching (editorial) and Liam Relph (design) joined forces to create a small publishing dream team. They are based in Devon and are publishing Murder Bear, by W.N. Herbert in the autumn.

Sidekick Books. Sidekick Books was founded in 2009 by Jon Stone and Kirsten Irving, both award-winning poets. They publish anthologies with themes as diverse as Japanese monsters and British birds. They are currently working on Coin Opera II, a poetry anthology about video games, which was funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Valley Press. Valley Press is a dynamic Yorkshire-based publishing house, founded by writer and poet Jamie McGarry in 2008. Valley Press recently published the poetry produced by official Glastonbury Festival poet-in-residence Kate Fox and will be publishing an anthology of the winning short stories from The Big Issue In The North New Writing Award.

So the number of people who regularly buy poetry books is decreasing. On the other hand, the population of the earth is on the up. The way I see it, there’s everything to play for. With that in mind, I will be running a poetry stall at Lower Marsh Market from Friday 14th June, selling The Flower and the Plough and a variety of Emma Press cards and postcards. I am also delighted to be selling books from a few other independent poetry publishers whose work I admire. These are:

Donut Press, a Devon-based independent press run by Andy Ching and Liam Relph

Sidekick Books, a poetry press run by Jon Stone and Kirsten Irving in London

Valley Press, a literary publisher based in Scarborough and run by Jamie McGarry

I’ll be presenting the poetry books as ‘the perfect gift,’ both for other people and as a personal treat to oneself on a Friday afternoon. They are all beautifully-designed and presented, and at £5 – 10 for potential mind-blowing and bliss-inducing language, cheap at the price.

I want to challenge the idea that poetry is inaccessible or ‘difficult,’ and that you need a literature degree to understand and appreciate it. Some poetry is difficult and inaccessible, but it’s difficult and inaccessible to everyone. At its best, poetry can be comforting, challenging and life-enhancing, sometimes all at once, and its place should be in everyday life, not just in English lessons and the rare moments when one has psyched oneself up to really concentrate.

The Flower and the Plough on sale

I hope the gift-shop context will help with this, and to bring the idea home I’ve challenged some artists I know to produce affordable (£10) art squares inspired by a selection of poems and lines I picked out. Sometimes a way into poetry can be through a line or phrase that speaks to you, so I hope by isolating some of these and representing them in prints or sketches or stitches that people will be encouraged to look up the full source poems.

I can’t wait to have all the books and art squares laid out in front of me, and I’ll be updating my Facebook and Twitter pages with news from the market and my responses to the books from other publishers. If you’re in London on any of the dates, do come by and say hello. Lower Marsh is just behind Waterloo, so it’s very accessible, and you can grab a drink at my favourite bar while you’re there too.

Dates (11am – 4pm each day): Friday 14th June Friday 21st June Friday 28th June Friday 5th July Friday 12th July Friday 19th July Friday 26th July Friday 2nd August

 

When I first came across Aunt Elsie’s Secret Market, I thought it might be a cult. A sandwich board chalked with an owl and an arrow caught my eye on the way to meet a friend in Reading last year, and I weighed up the thrill of following a mysterious sign up into an office block against the embarrassment of falling for some textbook cult trickery. Would I have learned nothing from watching both the Children of Barabbas and Life Mechanics storylines on Neighbours in the 90s? Then my friend arrived and curiosity got the better of us, and boy am I glad it did. Aunt Elsie’s is AMAZING. It’s lovingly curated by Suzanne Stallard from local arts charity Jelly and full of gorgeous stalls selling everything from ceramics to vintage clothes to handmade fabric accessories to books by local presses. Ahem. . . I knew I wanted to be part of it and was  insanely excited when my application was accepted for the Spring Fling event in the marketplace at the beginning of May.

My canvas signs

I’d had one experience of having a stall at a fair before, but not on this scale. This time, I felt more confident about setting up my table and I was pretty pleased with my new signs, knocked up on some canvases from Hobbycraft the night before. I wanted to create some height on the stall without bringing my entire remaining stock of The Flower and the Plough, so I built a little wall from some of my favourite books, which I thought might come in handy if footfall was low during either of the days. 

The Flower and the Plough on sale

As it happened, I didn’t have time to pick up a book once. People kept stopping by to read the cards and leaf through the The Flower and the Plough, and often they wanted to chat about the poems or how I was finding being a new publisher. One lady read the Catullus postcard the whole way through and was astonished by how apt the line ‘Oh kiss me all the way to the tattoo parlour!’ was for her daughter, who’d married a man with a sleeve tattoo and subsequently had her own arm tattooed to match. Another lady read the Napoleon BonaCard and couldn’t believe that this ardent declaration had come from the same man she’d studied at school.

Selling as I do mostly online, it was lovely to be able to see people’s reactions to the book and my cards and brooches, including the new cards I’d made just in time for the Spring Fling and the brooches I sewed on the Friday, as a non-aggressive way to occupy myself while people were browsing my table. Since my last craft fair, I’ve refined my business plan to focus more on publishing rather than having a gift shop, but I enjoyed running the stall so much that I really would like to do it more often. To that end, I’m going to have a stall at the Lower Marsh Market (behind Waterloo) every Friday from 14th June for a month as a kind of pop-up shop, to see how it goes. I’m hoping to sell Emma Press products as well as books by other small poetry publishers and poetry-inspired affordable art by some very talented artists I know. It’s going to be AMAZING.

I had my first stall at a craft fair today. It was in a barn on Stokes Farm near Wokingham, and before you ask, no, I didn’t make a killing. I had just the one customer, and since this was my friend Harriet’s mum I’m not sure how much this counts if we’re trying to evaluate my sales techniques. But, but but but, making money was not the point of my first fair, and I’d spoken to enough craft fair veterans to realise that this was an unlikely outcome anyway. The reason I did the fair was because I wanted to give myself an incentive to put together a decent-sized collection before Christmas and start learning about the craft fair circuit.

So, what did I learn? The most important thing as far as my business is concerned was:

1. People from the Wokingham area who go to craft fairs on a Friday afternoon do not want to buy silly and romantic cards for their significant others. Literally three women said to me after reading my Napoleon card, ‘Ha, that’s very nice, but not for my husband! We’re LONG past that.’ An alternative interpretation of this data would be: go to Wokingham craft fairs if you want to learn some harsh truths about marriage.

The majority of my creations are love- or romance-themed, so if I want to thrive on the Wokingham scene I’ll have to rethink my product range.

Lesson 2: Alternative ways of arranging my stall. I don’t have a huge amount of stuff right now, so I chose a small table and piled it on as best I could on 3 gold shoeboxes. Looking at the vintage clothes stall next to me, I wondered if I should have been more imaginative in the display of my goods. For example, tiny pigeonholes. I also wished I had more things so I could pile it up even more, and then browsers could discover little gems amongst the rubble.

On the other hand, and on my other side, I had the example of Jayne Ward, whose incredibly cool textile art had plenty of space to breathe and looked classier for it.

Lesson 3: When standing in a barn for seven hours, be sure to wear thermal underwear and two pairs of socks.

All good lessons, I think you’ll agree. Next time I do a craft fair, I should be warmer, better prepared for the demographic, and maybe I’ll even make some money.