Thursday, 26 November 2015

Why I Published our Pamphlets (Part 1)

Our open call for poetry and prose pamphlet submissions ends on 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 2 here.

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Oils, by Stephen Sexton (£6.50)

Series: The Emma Press Pamphlets

Oils, by Stephen Sexton
Why: These are definitely poems which grew on me each time I read them (we read manuscripts at least twice, if not three times, before even shortlisting them). I found it hard to get a handle on the poems initially, but then literally dozens of Stephen's nervy, melancholic thoughts – like 'I ask what it means when even / in my dream I'm a coward' – stuck in my head and I knew that these were special and I had to publish them.

Favourite lines: 'I can’t hold onto anything, Anne. Because it doesn’t exist, 
I’ll meet you in town. Borrow some wine from the woman 
next door, reach for glasses. Live, then show me what I got wrong.'

Captain Love and the Five Joaquins, by John Clegg (£5.00)

Series: The Emma Press Picks

Captain Love and the Five Joaquins
Why: The Pick is the original Emma Press pamphlet format and I always hoped that established poets would use it for their more experimental projects. Captain Love is a wonderful example of this, as John Clegg tells the frankly unbelievable (and yet true-ish) story of bounty hunter Harry Love, through a mixture of poems and prose. It's short, but by gum is it swashbuckling, packed with swordfights, tequila and... Zorro?!?

Favourite lines: 'Love isn’t safe. The lines across his palm, which Ezmerelda stared at for so long before confessing she could read no future there, have started to converge. One eye popped halfway open overnight and Love was busy with his needle in the morning. Nothing’s ready for the visit. Love must send to Fresno for his epaulettes. '

Raspberries for the Ferry, by Andrew Wynn Owen (£6.50)

Series: The Emma Press Pamphlets

Raspberries for the Ferry
Why: I do have a soft spot for formal poetry, and Andrew Wynn Owen's way with metre and rhyme is so infectiously playful that he had me at 'These luscious buds should be illegal / Reserved for emperor and eagle.' The language in his poems is rich, textured and colourful, which I love, and – more than that – his worldview in this pamphlet is exuberant and joyous, which makes it a pleasure to read and very easy to want to share with readers.

Favourite lines: 'I précis 

this shaky simile because I am 
so happy, life-hallowed, the carp that swim 
in the Arno know, the leaves by the dam 

rustle knowledge of it, and the pilgrim 
stops short to wish me well [...]'

Ikhda, by Ikhda, by Ikhda Ayuning Maharsi (£6.50 / £4.25)

Series: The Emma Press Pamphlets

Ikhda, by Ikhda
Why: Ikhda is a multi-lingual globetrotter, so she uses the English language in a rollicking way which feels instinctive and fresh. When I was reading her manuscript, I liked how her poems had a surreal quality and could be viciously satirical and angry but also innocent and tender. This pamphlet feels feminist to me on a very personal level, so it felt important to publish it.

Favourite lines: 'I smelled your distinctive 
typical smell 
from hundreds of kilometres, 
branches of trees swaying gently. 
I walked along silently 
looking for a stud 
to marry me once 
and feed my ren for years.'

The Held and the Lost, by Kristen Roberts (£5.00)

Series: The Emma Press Picks

The Held and the Lost
Why: Escapism is a large part of the appeal of reading for me; it feels like a weight is being lifted when I can immerse myself in someone else's way of seeing the world. I've never been to Australia, but from Kristen Roberts' poems I can imagine the wide gaping spaces, luscious vegetation and oppressive heat. There are so many finely-observed details in Kristen's poems that reading the manuscript felt like stepping out into a variety of distant bedrooms, backyards and beaches.

Favourite lines: 'You cook and we eat, fingers barbeque-blackened, 
lips soft with lamb fat. Your smile is eager, 
mine a dam defying rivulets of ageing, unpaid crimes. 
 We ignore the old conversations pressing at closed doors 
 and instead talk longingly of rain.'

The Emmores, by Richard O'Brien (£5.00)

Series: The Emma Press Picks

The Emmores, by Richard O'Brien
Why: Love poems were my point of entry into liking poetry as an adult, but before long I started feeling resentful of the treatment of the muse: either they would barely be present in the poem, sidelined by the poet's interest in the poet, or they would suffer a lot of assumptions being made about their feelings. What I like about The Emmores is the honesty of these love poems – Richard doesn't pretend that these are anything other than the hopeful declarations of someone whose main pulling power is his way with words.

Favourite lines: 'and if I could I’d call tornadoes down 
to wrench up rooves of Collyweston slate, 
disintegrate unyielding dry-stone walls 
and crazy-pave a path across the fields 
to your door.'

The Flower and the Plough, by Rachel Piercey (£5.00 / £3.50)

Series: The Emma Press Picks

The Flower and the Plough
Why: Back in 2012, these poems struck a deeply personal chord with me, and I was astonished that another person could express feelings that I felt intensely but couldn't articulate. It felt like these poems were about my failing relationship and increasingly conflicted ideas about romance, and I felt all the better for having read them.

Favourite lines: '[...] when you temper
 scraps into treasure

 I think it’s worth it,
 and when you
 spit out glass

though you only got sand
I think it’s worth it.'

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this and also the introductions to new poets and books, all sound excellent.