Sunday, 28 August 2016

This week at Valley Press, #24: 'Back to work'

Dear readers,

I’m back. To quote the great Nigel Gerrans: ‘the summer is ended, and we are not saved’.

I’m writing to you a week earlier than planned, as last weekend I was literally stopped on the street by people ‘jonesin’ for a fix’ of literary news. ‘Where’s the newsletter gone?’, ‘when will it be back?’ they cried. I had no idea you were so keen on it!

I took the summer off as there weren’t any new books coming out (from VP, anyway), or events to attend – but that’s all about to change. There’ll be a new book from us every week in September; poetry collections for (literally) all ages, a ‘surprise anthology’ which only insiders currently know about, and possibly two 300+ page poetry epics, both from familiar faces.

And that will be the quiet month this autumn. October is expected to start with me and Mrs McGarry becoming parents for the first time – what a thought! – and to feature minimal Valley Press activity until the last few days, at which point I’ll spring back into action and give you a new book every week again, until the end of November.

(That list doesn’t currently include the much-anticipated ‘Yorkshire anthology’; editor Miles is currently wading through a sea of entries, thousands in fact, so I’ve relieved him – and myself – of any deadlines regarding that volume. It’ll turn up eventually though, and be fantastic.)

The first book due after my ‘paternity leave’, at the end of October, is Antony Dunn’s fourth collection, titled Take This One to Bed. I’m mentioning this now as there’s a chance for you to pre-order a very special, limited-edition hardback (with the fish design pictured above) – I’ll only print a hundred of those, so if you want one, move early! I’ll end this email with a wistful summery poem from that book to whet your appetite (which you might recognise from Faber's Jubilee Lines anthology). It’s a really special collection, and you'll be hearing a lot more about it in the near future.

I think that’s all you need to know for now; thanks for your support during the summer, and I look forward to telling you more about all the wonderful publications we’ve been putting together.

All best,
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher


by Antony Dunn

York, 25 – 26 June 1991

These are the longest days. Exams are done
and we are indolent and steeped in sun
and somewhat drunk by dark, one couple gone
to fumble, inexpert, beyond the lawn
and the reach of the bonfire, when someone
cries ‘Midnight’. It’s the twenty-sixth of June.
I am sung to an end; I am begun.

Tifanny, Rachel, Joby, Simon,
Michael, Sally, Charlotte, John.

We lie back in the ordered grass as smoke
riddles the machinery of trees, tracks
east across the fields, and east. Someone cracks,
‘It might be ours to go and not come back,
drafted to Sarajevo or Iraq.’
We can’t make each other out. No one speaks
but someone pokes the fire and scatters sparks.

Adam, Isla, Sophie, Kinshuk,
Indraneil, Becky, Mark.

We have exhausted everything that burns
bright and quick and the fire has guttered down
to a smallness of embers before dawn.
A blackbird starts at a rumour of sun.
The day will come along the green dark lane
with processing cars to carry us on.
We will not be this way again.

Tifanny, Rachel, Joby, Simon,
Michael, Sally, Charlotte, John.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

How a Poem Changed my Life: the Beginnings of the Emma Press

I started the Emma Press when I was twenty-five. Up to that point, I had tried very hard to live sensibly, but then a quick succession of events jolted me into the realisation that playing it safe held its own risks, and perhaps I didn’t know as much about life as I had thought.

So I quit my job as an ebook production controller, resigned myself to living in Winnersh with my parents again, and decided to start from scratch. What did I love? I thought I might try to make a living from sewing or illustrating, and then I read a poem by an old school friend and was gripped by the desire to make other people read it too. This poem – 'Bonfire' by Rachel Piercey – resounded with me as I read it on either side of an impossible relationship, and I wanted to share it with other people who might be navigating similar emotional binds. Here are the opening lines:
I have felled
all the trees in my wood
to keep you going, […] 
Anyone can post a poem online, but whether anyone will read it is another matter. I decided that the best way to encourage people to read the poem was to create a little book on beautiful paper which could be thrust into people’s hands. A book that would be a pleasure to open and read. It turned out that I knew enough about book production to create a book (and an ebook), and so 'Bonfire' became the centrepiece of the first Emma Press pamphlet: The Flower and the Plough by Rachel Piercey.

The Flower and the Plough
Nearly four years on and twenty-seven books later, many things have changed. I live in Birmingham now, with my own office, and I’m never just working on one book at a time. Everything is larger-scale and longer-term, but I still have the same feeling about everything I publish. From individual poems in anthologies to the single-author pamphlets, I want to shout about them all from the rooftops, and share them with as many people as possible. I’ve gone from safe living to ludicrously unsafe living, trying to build a self-sustaining business on poetry, but I love what I do and I hope the books I publish bring a similar joy into readers’ lives.

* * *
This article was originally commissioned for ARTEMISpoetry Issue 16, May 2016.