Archive for the ‘Good Things’ Category

The Emma Press has been awarded the £5000 Michael Marks Award for Poetry Pamphlets. The Jewellery Quarter-based publishing house, headed by Emma Wright, took home the cheque on Tuesday. Wright completes the hat-trick of Birmingham women winning big on the poetry scene, following Jenna Clake’s £1,500 win in the Melita Hume Prize and Cynthia Miller’s selection for the prestigious Primers scheme.

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The Emma Press has been shortlisted in the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets for the second year running.

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The Emma Press has been shortlisted for the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets. The independent publisher, based in Winnersh and founded by Emma Wright with editor Rachel Piercey, has been shortlisted for the £5000 Publishers Award alongside Flipped Eye, Rack Press, Smith/Doorstop Press and Shearsman Books.

The Michael Marks Awards are run by the Wordsworth Trust and the British Library, with the support of the Michael Marks Charitable Trust. There are two awards: the Michael Marks Poetry Award, for ‘an outstanding work of poetry published in pamphlet form’, and the Michael Marks Publishers’ Award, for ‘an outstanding UK publisher in pamphlet form, based on their publishing programme between July 2013 and the end of June 2014’.

The Emma Press published its first pamphlet, The Flower and the Plough, in January 2013 and will have published ten more by the end of 2014. They recently launched a pair of pamphlets, Oils by Belfast poet Stephen Sexton and Rivers Wanted by Rachel Piercey, with events in London, Oxford and Belfast.

The judges of the 2014 Awards were Tanya Kirk, Lead Curator of Printed Literary Sources at the British Library, Zaffar Kunial, current Poet-in-Residence at the Wordsworth Trust, and Andrew McCulloch, a poetry reviewer for the TLS.

The judges said: ‘A newcomer to the pamphlet world, the Emma Press was founded in 2012, with an aim to create poetry books that are visually stimulating with illustration and bespoke design. […] The judges were impressed by the confidence of this newly established press.’

Emma Wright said: ‘Rachel and I are beyond excited about being shortlisted for the Michael Marks Awards. Poetry pamphlets are quite an overlooked artform, by most literary awards as well as booksellers, but we believe that they are the key to finding new audiences for poetry. We are passionate about our books, and we are thrilled that the judges picked us to be on the shortlist.’

The results will be announced at a special dinner for the shortlisted poets and publishers on 25th November at the British Library.

He’s done it again! Mere months after being awarded the prestigious Newdigate Prize, Andrew Wynn Owen has now also won the Lord Alfred Douglas Memorial Prize for ‘the best sonnet or other poem written in English and in strict rhyming metre.’

The prize, open to students at Oxford University, required entrants to submit their poems anonymously, inscribing each page with a motto which could be matched up with their names and mottos in a separate envelope. Andrew’s winning entry was a section from his detective epic poem ‘The Adventures of Elmó Elmínus’. You can read it in full here and here’s a little extract:

‘Elmínus, in those days, was oft invited Along to parties thrown by courtly friends. He was the perfect guest – his name excited Those lively spirits that good speech attends, Which is the best of sprezzaturan ends. He grinned, he sang, he sipped a vodka tonic, His jokes were frequent and his humour chronic.’

In July, Andrew was awarded the Newdigate Prize for his poem ‘The Centrifuge’ and joined such noble alums as Oscar Wilde, Andrew Motion and one Rachel Piercey.

Publisher Emma Wright says: ‘The Emma Press published Andrew’s debut pamphlet, Raspberries for the Ferry, in March and we are incredibly proud and unsurprised that he is winning all these awards. He’s obviously brilliant and amazing, and I’m pleased that other people are recognising this.’

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Raspberries for Ferry is on sale for £6.50 in the Emma Press shop and we’re running low on first editions, so get your copy now!

Andrew is reading at the Southbank Centre on 3rd December as part of the Special Edition event celebrating Emma Press pamphlet poets. Entry is free but booking is essential. More details here.

My favourite bookshop, the Arkadia International bookshop, is only two minutes from a church built inside a rock, on Nervanderinkatu in Helsinki. At first glance, it appears to be a small but arty, cleanly-designed book boutique, with neat shelves and several tables and sofas dotted about. Half bookshop, half gallery, perhaps.

Step inside, however, and you will learn otherwise. I stumbled upon Arkadia last month with a friend, having intended to visit it at some point but not having looked it up on a map. We wandered in hesitantly and were welcomed by Ian Bourgeot, one of the proprietors, who suggested we might want to take a tour of the shop, all bajillion rooms of it. For it turns out Arkadia is not a one-room book boutique but in fact a veritable empire, stretching out far underground in a network of rooms all filled with secondhand books and gizmos. A man on a sofa recommended we take a butter eye bun and leave a trail of crumbs in case we got lost.

So we went down the stairs and discovered a wonderland. It was as if someone (ok, Ian and his wife Liisa) had asked themselves, ‘What are all the best things in the world?’ and come up with books, company, space, music, nice surprises and good lighting. There was a sense of neatness and everything having its place, but also enough intriguingly-labelled cardboard boxes and cubbyholes to make it feel like we were discovering it all for the first time. The first room contained a billiards table and a children’s section, a globe and several bookworms deep in study; the next was lined with boxes of blockbusting authors; from the third poured a lugubrious old English man’s voice, which turned out to be an audiobook; the fourth was a light and charming meeting room; and the fifth was a chapel. For quiet contemplation and the drinking of wine.

If I were pressed to describe the Platonic ideal of bookshops, I’d come up with pretty much an exact description of Arkadia. This aptly-named establishment isn’t just a bookshop; it’s an M&S, Carlsberg-made, glacially-proportioned utopia, where people can go to browse, hang out and study, all in beautiful surroundings and hosted by the delightful Ian and Liisa. They hold events nearly every evening, ranging from lectures on international politics to poetry and jazz, and if I lived in Helsinki I know I would be there all the time. Do yourself a favour and swing by if you’re in Helsinki, or maybe go to Helsinki just to visit Arkadia. I promise it will be the highlight of your trip (assuming you love books and/or people).

http://www.arkadiabookshop.fi/

I thought that the Anthology of Mildly Erotic Verse would be my first erotic publication, but quite a few people have observed that the title of The Flower and the Plough is pretty erotic too, along with some of the poems within. Embarrassingly, this hadn’t occurred to me at all, but since working on the Erotic Anthology I’ve become a lot more alert to potential erotic content and if anything I’ve gone too far the other way, seeing eroticism in everything.

So far, the best submissions for the anthology have done exactly what I asked for in my brief and surprised me, both with their treatment of all matters erotic and in their interpretation of what can be erotic in the first place. It’s not that I equate eroticism with novelty, but it’s hard to be excited when you know exactly how that flower metaphor is going to unfold. None of that in The Anthology of Mildly Erotic Verse, which is shaping up to be an utter delight. I can’t wait to start sharing it with everyone in September, but until then here are four things I didn’t expect to be erotic, either to me or other people. Then roll on September, when you’ll never look at wolves or peanut butter or cassette tapes in the same way again.

 

7 Minutes In Heaven with Mike O’Brien, guest starring Patricia Clarkson

All of Mike O’Brien’s videos in this series are gold, so funny and charming and always surprising. O’Brien takes the central premise of the American high-school sleepover game and expands the scope of what one can get up to within a cupboard (mini dramas, hard-hitting interviews, musical breaks) while clinging doggedly to the original and best occupation. He gets the best out of all his guests, whether they’re comedians or just celebrities, and the humour is never uncomfortable or cruel. I love the ones with Seth Meyers, Amy Poehler and Kristen Wiig, but for sheer and incredible eroticism you have to watch the Patricia Clarkson episode. It is sexy and hilarious. ‘Are you really gonna kiss me?’

The photo of John Steinbeck on the Kindle screensaver.

Obviously the worst author portrait in the Kindle screensaver series is Emily Dickinson. No-one wants to pick up their Kindle and see her massive black eyes staring out at them. When I worked in ebook production and carried a Kindle around with me, the usual reaction to Emily Dickinson was to shudder and flip the switch, except for one time when I was told by a co-worker instead to ‘stick it on that saucy little picture of John Steinbeck.’ Sorry, what?

Gene Kelly in a bodysuit in An American In Paris

 

 

 

 

 

Gene Kelly didn’t immediately strike me as an attractive man when I first watched his films as a teenager. He was sturdy and safe, jolly and enterprising, which somehow didn’t add up to hotness when I was fifteen. However, there was this disturbing bit in An American In Paris where Kelly recreates a Toulouse Lautrec drawing and does a waggly kind of dance which irresistibly recalls Ned Flanders in a ski suit.

Tegan’s eyebrows in the music video for Closer

Eroticism is all in the tiny details.

One of my main motivations in setting up the Emma Press was to create the means by which I could bring great writing to a wider audience. As soon as I read Rachel’s poems I wanted to package them up appealingly and tell everyone to read them, and I’m looking for the same response in myself to submissions for the Erotic Anthology. Once I’ve found something I love, I want to share it with as many people as possible. With that in mind I give you … five terribly romantic and wonderful things.

A book: The Morning Gift, by Eva Ibbotson

Don’t be put off by the classic ‘random girl’ YA cover and don’t read the blurb on the publisher’s website. Or rather, you can read the blurb but before you start thinking this is just another romance, with a marriage of convenience which unsurprisingly turns out to be more than that, consider one thing: it’s by Eva Ibbotson. Eva Ibbotson didn’t do trashy romances set against the dramatic backdrop of whatever. Eva Ibbotson wrote uniformly magnificent novels spiked with pathos and wit. Her children’s books are a riot, and her adult romances possibly the best ever written. They’re all amazing, but The Morning Gift is my absolute favourite, possibly because the story was closest to the author’s heart (the historical setting is somewhat autobiographical) and this really comes through.

A music video: Elephant Gun, directed by Alma Har’el

I must have watched this at least thirty times. I love the song by Beirut, but oh my god the video. It’s a Bacchanalian fantasy full of loose-limbed dancers, antique maps, elephant masks and people falling over. All the dancers are stripped down to their braces and shirtsleeves or petticoats and stockings, and Zach Condon is sporting an exquisite bouffant hairdo. It’s exuberant, bonkers fun and utterly beautiful.

A song: Cherish, by the Four Tops

I first came to this song through Glee, but it was combined with a Madonna song such in a way that excised all the best lines. I didn’t begin to really love it until I found this heartbreaking version by the Four Tops, with backing vocals from the Andantes.

A poem: Symbiosis, by Rachel Piercey

It’s hard not to make judgements about people depending on which poems they like best from The Flower and the Plough. I’m probably offensively wrong 100% of the time, but it does seem like Symbiosis is especially popular with people in happy, stable relationships (that’s a nice judgement, so it’s ok to make, right?). Or it could just be that it’s a lovely poem and people are responding to that. Either way, it’s gorgeous and we made a video so people could enjoy it aurally as well as visually.

A bar: Bobby’s Bar, Bob Bob Ricard, Soho

I believe you can create a romantic atmosphere anywhere, though it helps if you have the right lighting (dim), furniture (sturdy, high-quality materials) and background noise (definitely some, though hushed). Bobby’s Bar helpfully provides all three, along with friendly staff who take your coat like you’re royalty even if you’re wearing a moth-eaten jacket and a too-short skirt. It taketh with the other hand, however, by being incredibly pricey (£10.50 for a cocktail).

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If you want to read more romantic things, try matching the lovers to the love letter in a quiz.