Posts Tagged ‘the flower and the plough’
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
The setlist:Richard O’Brien Rachel Piercey
Scintillometry Songs about Louise Desire Path
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
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.
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.
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 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.
I’m very excited to announce that the ebook for The Flower and the Plough is available for purchase now in the shop, both on its own and in a bundle with the printed book. If you’re used to buying your ebooks through online retailers with proprietary devices, you might not know how to load ebook files onto your devices manually. Hopefully the instructions below will make things clearer, but if you have any problems feel free to send me an email, preferably with some screenshots to show me what you’re seeing.Files
You will receive a .zip file which you’ll need to extract/unzip before the files work correctly (some computers let you see inside the zipped folder, but the files won’t function properly). This folder contains two folders:
The third option makes the folder too large to upload on my systems, but if you email me after your purchase I can send it to you too, if you want it:One labelled ‘Old Kindle,’ containing a .mobi file which is intended for the 1st- and 2nd-generation Kindles (see the Wikipedia page for more details). This is the most basic file. E-reading devices
If you have a physical device, you can load the appropriate file onto it by plugging the device in, opening the folder and dragging and dropping the .epub/.mobi file into the ‘books’ folder. Or, if you have email set up on the device, you can send the appropriate file to it via email and open it up within the device.
If you don’t have a physical device but would still like to look at the ebook, there are many options available to you. These are the three I’m familiar with:Adobe Digital Editions, which you can download here. Once you’ve downloaded this, the icon next to your .epub file should change to the ADE icon and when you double-click on the .epub it will open up in ADE. The main thing people find confusing about ADE is the registration screen which appears when you first open it up. This asks if you want to sign up or register, and (unless you want to have ADE managing your ebooks on your computer) you can just skip this step. Kindle Previewer, for if you feel more comfortable with Amazon products. You can download it here. Once you’ve opened the screen, just drag the .mobi file onto it and it will open up. The whizzy thing about this (for me) is that you can view the file as if in the various different devices. For my ebooks, definitely use the second .mobi file and select Kindle Paperwhite or Kindle Fire for your viewing options.
Calibre, which you can download here. Again, once you’ve opened up the program, you can just drag your .epub straight into the middle of the screen
So, give it a go, and if it doesn’t work or you have problems with the files, send me an email at editor [at] theemmapress [dot] com and I’ll do my best to help.
NB: there’s no DRM on my files, and if you’ve bought several copies of the book and given them away as presents, you can of course give them the ebook as well.
I often find myself zoning out at poetry readings. A terrible habit, and partly a hangover from attending early-morning lectures at uni, but I think it’s also because I absorb dense text better visually. I wish they’d project the words onto the screen behind the poets so I could engage more with the text, and with that in mind I’ve created a video for Symbiosis, one of the loveliest poems in The Flower and the Plough. I’ll be showing it at the launch next week, but I’m so excited I want to share it on my website right now. I hope you enjoy it!
If you want to see more of The Flower and the Plough, you can read the knockout poem Bonfire here.
Turns out it’s hard to get a book by an unknown author from an unknown publisher into bookshops, and it doesn’t help if the author’s a poet and the book doesn’t have a spine. I didn’t expect booksellers to be clamouring for copies of The Flower and the Plough, but it still made quite a change from seeing five-figure orders coming into the production department and being able to identify most of the books on the WH Smith’s bestsellers wall as from Orion. I felt like a trained corporate administrator reduced to the status of a bum.
After many rejections from some nice independent bookshops I’d approached, things started looking up when the Albion Beatnik Bookstore in Oxford agreed to take a couple. The Albion Beatnik is exactly the kind of place I’d imagined the book in: cosy and full of obscure titles and character. It’s the kind of bookshop you’d visit if you just fancied buying a book, any book.
I also sent some to Quimby’s, a very cool-sounding bookshop in Chicago which specialises in ‘unusual publications, aberrant periodicals, saucy comic booklets and independent ‘zines.’ I like the idea of my first publication going ahead to places I might visit one day. If I’m ever in Chicago I’ll definitely swing by Quimby’s, because it looks like a treasure-trove; check out this statement from the founder:
“I really want to carry every cool – bizarre – strange – dope – queer – surreal – weird publication ever written and published and in time Qvimby’s will. Because I know you’re out there and you just want something else, something other, something you never even knew could exist.”
I salute you, Steven.
My friend Helen then suggested I try florists, which was a complete masterstroke. It’s not as though I expect every shop in the country to stock my books, but I do really want The Flower and the Plough to have a real-life presence. I want it to attract people who might not usually make a beeline for the poetry section of a bookshop, and until Rachel or I are household names the only way people are going stumble across this book is if it’s displayed in shops, facing forwards. It’s a tactile, beautiful object and the poems are so fantastic that I think my main hurdle is getting people to pick the book up in the first place; once they’ve looked at a few pages they’ll see how wonderful it is.
I emailed some independent florists asking if they’d like to sell a book of love poems alongside their flowers and a few replied saying yes, they would love to give it a try. Libby Ferris Flowers is a gorgeous, friendly shop in central Norwich, which my aunt recommended to me. Daisies is the fanciest flower shop in Oxford, up in Jericho. I remember going there once as a student in a frantic search for red carnations. Zita Elze Flowers is a magical greenhouse-style grotto near Kew Gardens, which looked all the more magical when I went to deliver the books in the snow last Friday.
Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I went into Magma in Covent Garden, where I used to go on my lunchbreak when I was looking for birthday presents. I was lucky enough to speak to a man who turned out to be the owner and he agreed to give it a go too, and to display the book in the gift shop instead of in the Magma bookshop where it would just get lost.
So I’m thrilled. I count my blessings like Pokémon and I feel very lucky that the Emma Press’s first book is on sale in six real-life shops. What’s more, these are six gorgeous, independent shops run by people who are passionate about their business and willing to take a chance on a small, hopeful, poetry press. The best kind of shop, then, so if you’re passing by any one of them, do go inside and take a look.