Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Everything That Can Happen poets discuss what inspired their poems…

Edited by Suzannah Evans and Tom Sastry, Everything That Can Happen contains many kinds of future: an android fills out a passport form; the local cricket pitch is lost underwater; frozen limbs thaw from cryogenic sleep; robotic shoes allow for highspeed parenting. We asked anthology poets what images inspired their future themed poems. Here’s what they said…

Shauna Robertson

‘My poem, 'Everything That Can Happen', is loosely based on Hugh Everett's many worlds theory in quantum physics - but I'm no scientist so don't shoot me if my interpretation is even more 'out there' that Everett's! The basic premise is that every possible version of every possible event exists somewhere in an infinite number of parallel universes. Therefore, everything that can happen, does happen. The implications of the theory are pretty tricky to get the old grey matter around in any meaningful sense. For example, right now there's a version of you (or indeed many versions of you) reading this blog. At the same time, there's also a multitude of versions of you doing something else entirely. And several versions of you that probably wrote the blog. And the poem. And edited the book. Or something like that!’  

Ilse Pedler

 ‘I was brought up near Worcester where the county cricket ground is very near the river Severn and often used to flood. It got me thinking about global warming and the fact that in the future it might be flooded more than not! My poem ‘Flood Defences’ came out of me thinking about this and what might become of the old cricket ground and indeed other places that may end up under water.’  

Rishi Dastidar 

‘The image that sparked the poem 'Algorithmically Designed Electronic Universal Score' was from 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's one of those films that has haunted me from when I first saw it, and many of its scenes still pop up in my dreams unbidden. I had just seen a production of Amadeus at the National Theatre, and that night, in my dream I saw in this space so familiar to me, what looked like a harpsichord. Everything else flowed from trying to tell the bigger story of that image and what it might portend.’  

Pamela Johnson

‘My poem ‘counting’ emerged from my walks along Aldeburgh beach in Suffolk as I began to count the gaps between each break wave. Thinking: how relentless they are; how to capture their movement and endless forms; how not to get my feet wet. After several walks – taking photographs, stopping to stare – it seemed that ten seconds between breaks was a regular pattern. I became curious – What else happens on this planet – and beyond – every ten seconds?’  

Sharon Black

‘Here's a photo of the photo/sculpture by the French artist Marc Gaillet, that my poem 'The Tiger' is based on. The artwork is called 'Dommage Collateral' ('Collateral Damage') and was part of a collection of work by Gaillet on exhibition in Montpellier last year. The pieces on display were about climate change and about humanity's violence towards humanity as well as to our environment. The first stanza of 'The Tiger' really was about my reaction to this artwork and to another piece, 'Voyage au Bout de l'Enfer 1' ('Journey to the End of Hell 1') which shows a tiger in a forest alongside a tiger-coated box. The second stanza opens out to include other pieces in the exhibition - miniature plastic soldiers melded together in various states of combat. It all felt very much part of a single body of work and the effect was powerful.

I've never written about climate change before and tend not to write explicitly political poems, but this one had to be written. I think because a single art-piece was the hook, it was easier to enter that world, that anger, that sense of desperation - feelings that might otherwise be too big and all-encompassing to distil on paper otherwise. And once started, of course, the pen often runs away with itself.’  

Robert Hamberger

 ‘I live with my husband Keith in Brighton, only a stone's throw from the prom, so we see this amazing sight of the sea every time we step out of our flat. My husband (who is seventeen years older than I am) has always been a supporter of Palestine, and has taught me about its history. One afternoon, when we were sitting on our favourite bench on the prom, I read him Don Paterson's powerful sonnet 'The Foot' (from his 2015 Faber collection '40 Sonnets') about Palestinian boys being killed playing football on the sand. There was something so moving about us reading before the sea, and the boys being killed before the sea, that led to my husband's statement that forms the basis of my poem, ‘Gaza’.’  

Marion Tracy

‘My poem, ‘On the Last Day’, has at its heart the Resurrection pictures by Stanley Spencer. I mixed references to the pictures with more colloquial and humorous ideas. I think it's the contrast between the two styles which gives the poem its strength.’  

The poems in Everything That Can Happen explore time, language, changing landscapes, future selves, uncertainty, catastrophe and civilisation. Whether imagining a distant, apocalyptic future or the moment we live in, nudged slightly beyond what we know, the poems ask what we can do to prepare ourselves for a future that edges a little closer every day.

Intrigued? Order your copy of Everything That Can Happen: Poems About The Future here.

Monday, 11 March 2019

A quick interview with Kate Wakeling, co-translator of 'The Adventures of Na Willa'

It's launch week for our latest childrens book, The Adventures of Na Willa, a collection of stories about a little girl growing up in Surabaya, Indonesia. Here's a quick interview with one of the translators, Kate Wakeling!

What were your first thoughts on reading The Adventures of Na Willa?

I remember thinking: this is absolutely brilliant. The book has this sharp humour and total honesty – it feels so refreshing and alive.

What's your favourite story in the book? 

I really love the book's opening chapter, 'Just Like Mak' – it captures so much of the spirit and purpose of the book and yet handles these huge topics with such a deft touch. I also love 'Fish', which hones in so playfully and sensitively on the particularities of a child's preferences.

What did you find challenging about working on the translation? 

It was challenge to make sure we always stayed true to the tone of Reda's writing, particularly the humour that underpins everything in the book and which is so crisp and alert and never-ever-ever-ever twee. And then there are all sorts of interesting quirks to Indonesian – as of course there must be with any language – but I remember getting particularly flummoxed by certain Indonesian exclamations like 'wah' (which sort of means gosh/wow/heck/well...) and 'aduh' (oh dear/oh no/poor you/poor me/ouch). These words have such particular senses/implications in Indonesian depending on the context (and I was also struck that the way they are uttered is also crucial – they're often articulated with a particularly musical/theatrical ring) and I remember thinking: the English language just doesn't get quite this. (Aduh.)

Why do you think it's important for children to read books in translation? 

Reading in translation really helps transport us beyond those little bubbles of familiarity that we can so easily float about in. Books in translation remind us that there are zillions of different sorts of lives and give us amazing access to different ways of thinking and being, which seems so very crucial. At any stage in life. But of course the sooner better.

What are your favourite books in translation? 

I read The Vegetarian by Han Kang (translated by Deborah Smith) a couple of months ago and still haven't really recovered. I've loved devouring everything by Elena Ferrante (translated by Ann Goldstein). And I have loved W.G. Sebald's books (as translated by Michael Hulse and Anthea Bell) since I was a student and only wish he could have lived until he was 107 and kept on writing his strange and wonderful works.

Buy The Adventures of Na Willa (£8.99) from our webshop here.

Kate Wakeling is a poet and musicologist. Her debut poetry collection for children, Moon Juice, won the CLiPPA in 2017 and was nominated for the Carnegie Medal. A pamphlet of her poetry for adults, The Rainbow Faults, is published by The Rialto. Kate studied music at Cambridge University and holds a PhD in Balinese gamelan music from SOAS. She is writer- in-residence with Aurora Orchestra.

Twitter: @WakelingKate

A quick interview with Ikhda Ayuning Maharsi Degoul, co-translator of 'The Adventures of Na Willa'

It's launch week for our latest childrens book, The Adventures of Na Willa, a collection of stories about a little girl growing up in Surabaya, Indonesia. Here's a quick interview with one of the translators, Ikhda Ayuning Maharsi Degoul!

What were your first thoughts on reading The Adventures of Na Willa

I thought: finally, a book which can take me back to my glorious childhood! It’s Na Willa!

The Adventures of Na Willa is a must-read children’s book that can be enjoyed by all ages. Once you have this book in your hands, you won’t be able to stop reading. It talks about the essential freedom of thought which all the children in the world should possess – that’s why this book should be read universally.

All the elements – places, characters, conflicts – are drawn with care and brought alive by the fun and spontaneous Indonesian and Javanese expressions. The Adventures of Na Willa is fun but also powerful; funny but full of wisdom.

What's your favourite story in The Adventures of Na Willa

All of the stories! It’s a difficult question, isn’t it? I really like ‘Just Like Mak,’ which might be some children's first introduction to ideas about gender equality. Oh yes, Na Willa! You can be whatever you want and for sure, girls wear trousers too!

What did you find challenging about working on the translation? 

I was born in Surabaya, east of Java, the city where (I believe this is fate) Na Willa lives too. Every time I came across pieces of Javanese dialect included by the author, Reda Gaudiamo (Did I mention I was already a mega-fan of hers? Well, now you know!), I understood what they meant but found it hard to express this in English.

This was my biggest challenge in translating The Adventures of Na Willa, because I wasn’t just translating the text in terms of grammar – more than that, I was trying to communicate the vibrancy of Javanese culture so it could be shared by everyone.

My co-translator Kate Wakeling (I hope I’ll have a chance to drink a glass of wine with her this summer, finger crossed) helped a lot about this, as she has a great sensitivity to Javanese culture and the words she has proposed were absolutely brilliant!

Why do you think it's important for children to read books in translation? 

As a mother of mixed-culture children, I think reading books in translation is an essential delight. By reading literature across borders, children open their minds and their hearts to new ideas, new realities. It’s like the biggest adventure for them, giving them inspiring ideas as a change to their school routines!

What are your favourite books by Indonesia authors?

Buy The Adventures of Na Willa (£8.99) from our webshop here.

Ikhda Ayuning Maharsi Degoul is an Indonesian poet currently based in Japan. Her debut pamphlet, Ikhda by Ikhda, was published by the Emma Press in 2014. Her poems have been published in Mildly Erotic Verse and The Emma Press Anthology of Motherhood. Her second poetry collection, The Goldfish, is forthcoming with the Emma Press in 2019.

Twitter: @ikhdadegoul
Instagram: @ikhdadegoul

A quick interview with Reda Gaudiamo, author of 'The Adventures of Na Willa'

It's launch week for our latest children's book, The Adventures of Na Willa, a collection of stories about a little girl growing up in Surabaya, Indonesia. Here's a quick interview with the author, Reda Gaudiamo!

When did you start writing stories? 

I wrote my first story when I was 6, a very short one.

Do you remember the first story you wrote? 

Yes, it’s about a farmer who found a tiny seed, he planted it, and it grew beautifully and multiply by itself. Turned out that tiny seed was a grain of rice.

What do you like writing about? 

People and their stories, their lives, feelings….

What’s your favourite story in The Adventures Of Na Willa?

Oh my, this is difficult. I can’t pick one – “This Evening” and “Party”.

What were your favourite books as a child? 
What advice would you give to a budding writer? 

Good writing is like drawing, riding a bike, baking… You need practice. You start with something simple and easy, and move to something more delicate. You might stumble along the way, but then you become better and better.

Buy The Adventures of Na Willa (£8.99) from our webshop here.

Reda Gaudiamo is a writer from Jakarta, Indonesia. She was born in 1962 and she wrote her first story when she was in the first grade, reading it to her parents after dinner time. Her first book – Bisik-bisik / Whispers (EKI Press), a short story collection consisting of dialogues – was published in 2004. In 2012, she published her first children’s book: Na Willa (Aikon). This was followed by Meps, Beps and Me (2016) – a collaboration with Soca Sobhita, her daughter, and Na Willa and the House in the Alley (2018). These last two books were published by Post Press, who also reprinted Na Willa. Reda is also well known as a singer and musician through the AriReda duo, whose poetry-inspired ballads have captivated audiences across Southeast Asia and Europe.

Twitter: @reda.gaudiamo
Instagram: @reda.gaudiamo

Friday, 8 March 2019

Happy International Women's Day from the Emma Press!

Happy International Women’s Day! We are so proud to be a publisher run by an all-female team and to have published some fantastic books written by women, including poetry, short stories, and books for children – here are just five of our favourites: 

Paisley by Rakhshan Rizwan

The poems in Rakhshan Rizwan’s debut pamphlet explores issues of class, linguistic and cultural identity – particularly for women – in the context of Pakistan and South Asia. The pamphlet was shortlisted for the 2018 Michael Marks Award and judges commended it for “her formal control over the prose poem or ghazal…an impressive tonal sharpness, [and] a fascinatingly laconic voice”.

Once Upon a Time in Birmingham words by Louise Palfreyman, illustrations by Jan Bowman, Yasmin Bryan, Amy Louise Evans, Saadia Hipkiss, Chein Shyan Lee, Farah Osseili and Michelle Turton

Meet the women who made – and are making – Birmingham the great city it is today. Featuring stories and portraits of 30 inspirational women from Birmingham, this book is sure to encourage and motivate a new generation of female artists, activists, athletes, and more. The book will also be part of several events to celebrate International Women’s Day in Birmingham, including a model display of the book in Victoria Square – find out more on our events page.

The Secret Box by Daina Tabūna, translated from Latvian by Jayde Will, with illustrations by Mark Andrew Webber

This book features three short stories, all narrated by young female protagonists at different stages of their lives. Two siblings realise they’re too old to be playing with paper dolls, a teenager re-examines her religious beliefs and fixation with Jesus, and a disaffected young woman stumbles into an awkward relationship with an office worker. The narrators of these three stories each try, in their own way, to make sense of how to behave in a world that doesn’t give any clear answers.

The Emma Press Anthology of Motherhood, edited by Rachel Piercey and Emma Wright, with illustrations by Emma Wright

Mother’s Day is coming up – why not give this beautiful anthology as a gift? The poems in the anthology examines the depth and complexity of emotion surrounding motherhood, celebrating motherhood at the same time as challenging the huge expectations placed on mothers.

Trouble by Alison Winch

This pamphlet presents a “distinctly feminine (and feminist) perspective” on intimacy in various relationships and settings – between lovers, between a granddaughter and a grandmother, and in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The poems move through these explorations of intimacy in a witty, playful, and bold voice.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

World Book Day with the Emma Press: favourite books from the past year

In celebration of World Book Day 2019, we asked a few of our recent and upcoming authors and poets to tell us the best book they’ve read in the past year…

Aalfred and Aalbert by Morag Hood – Rachel Plummer, poet

‘A book I've really loved sharing with my kids this year is a picture book called Aalfred and Aalbert, by Morag Hood. It is a sweet and funny queer love story for younger children, about two aardvarks who are perfect for each other but need a little push along the way. Sweet and charming, this book is great LGBT representation and a lovely read. What's not to love?’

Don’t miss Wain by Rachel Plummer, a collection of LGBT themed poetry for teens based on retellings of Scottish myths.

The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara – Rassi Narika, author

The People in the Trees was my second Yanagihara after I read A Little Life - I was an emotional wreck after reading it. It was so good, I laughed and cried with it. In 2018, The People in The Trees left me with a different kind of wreck. I kept rereading its pages just because I wasn't sure how I feel about the story. I love the book because my interpretation about each character, and their story, was continuously challenged in every turn of events. I had many moments of self-conversation, questioning the social construct of how we see culture, and who decides – or defines the cultural narrative of the Ivu'ivu's world. It made me think about an alternate universe where civilization has a different storyline than one we have today. And, the fact that this fiction was inspired by true events, made me even more obsessed with how Yanagihara beautifully tells such difficult story.’

Publishing later this month, When It Rains by Rassi Narika is a children’s picture book that spins a story of hope and discovery to brighten even the rainiest of days.

Keats: A Biography by Andrew Motion – Kathy Pimlott, poet

‘My favourite book during 2018 was the only prose book I read, Andrew Motion’s biography of John Keats, published in 1997 and given to me, I see from the inscription, in 2002. I’d started it two or three times but had always been distracted. In 2018 I was just finishing an 18-month Writing School with the Sheffield-based Poetry Business and one ‘homework’ was to read a poet’s biography. Keats was my schoolgirl crush (along with Micky Dolenz of The Monkees, Simon & Garfunkel and Hamlet), the book was on the shelf, so it was a no-brainer. Though, of course, I knew Keats’ short and tragic story, I wasn’t ready for the emotional undertow of the book, how it would drag me into the deeps over and over again. It sent me straight back to the poems I thought I knew so well, to the house on Keats Grove, and prompted four new poems of my own. What more could you ask?’

Newly released, Elastic Glue is a poetry pamphlet by Kathy Pimlott exploring the ways we own and are owned by land – how we both make and are made by the places we inhabit. 

The Bubble Wrap by Dean Parkin – Ieva Flamingo, author & poet

‘It’s so hard to choose! Because all of them are really interesting and special to me. The Bubble Wrap is a poetry book, written and illustrated by Dean Parkin. I choose this book because the author not only writes for children, but also thinks and lives in these poems like children. The poems are vivid, funny, cheerful and heart-warming.’

Ieva Flamingo’s The Girl Who Learned All The Languages of The World is an illustrated story for children exploring the joys of language learning.

Snail, Where Are You? by Tomi Ungerer - Rūta Briede, author & illustrator

‘Sometimes there are books with not a lot of text in them. And sometimes silence and observing is the best state of mind when nothing really happens but everything happens. In Snail, Where Are you? by Tomi Ungerer, there aren’t too many lines to read. Only two. But can a story be told by a good question? Can one feel the author’s bright and playful mind by seeing some illustrations and reading one question and one simple answer? Yes, it’s possible if the author is Tomi Ungerer. This is a book where simplicity is done by a true master and one question is exactly the one that must be asked and the answer is truly simple. Can you guess it?’

Don’t miss Rūta Briede’s latest children’s picture book, The Dog Who Found Sorrow, a beautiful, resonant story about sadness and healing, suitable for all ages.

Insectopedia by Hugh Raffles – Lenni Sanders, poet

Last year I really loved reading Hugh Raffles' collection of essays Insectopedia. It's a fantastic book that I read slowly from summer through to winter, dipping in, reading an essay here and there. This means for months at a time in 2018 I was saying "Oh look, a bee! Hey, did you know...?" and things like that, to anyone around. His style is captivating and clear as he explores our various relationships to insects. I was especially into 'My Nightmares', a poetic and incantatory piece about what it is about insects that can be so frightening to us - 'There is the nightmare of putting the shoe on and of taking the shoe off. There is the slithering nightmare and the one that walks backwards. There is the squirming nightmare and the squishing nightmare.'’

Publishing in May this year, the wryly funny Poacher by Lenni Sanders is influenced by magical realism and puts strange characters in mundane places.

The Book of Clouds by Juris Kronbergs – Reda Gaudiamo, author

‘This is a book I cannot stop talking about. The Book of Clouds by Juris Kronbergs showed me that Indonesian children need to read and enjoy poetry — the format often considered the most serious one compared to other formats. Poems are seen as being the type of text for adult, the rhymes we know are so old, and forgotten. Little do we know that poetry is the type of format that helps children to read, love reading, helps their articulation... and much more. This book makes me want to pursue a new project: working with Indonesian poets to write poems for children.’

Launching at the London Book Fair, The Adventures of Na Willa by Reda Gaudiamo is a collection of stories of curious adventures and musings of a multicultural girl growing up in Indonesia.

The Carrying by Ada Limón – Jeffery Sugarman, poet

‘Ada Limón's newest collection, The Carrying, is one for these times, and I think, for the ages. Her poetic speakers are most always astonished and bewildered in, and by, this troubled world; yet they won't be stopped by it, nor let us be stopped. She's a poet whose very flesh seems composed of compassion—the poems of incandescent feeling, wrought in simplest words. Seeing and feeling with, and through, the flesh—often in emotional and physical pain—she captures essences, in poems which, nonetheless, cast outward toward timeless reflection, resolutions on the desire and will to survive, indeed flourish. She's also a master at "saying the thing", and plays few linguistic games. I marvel at her directness and clarity, how it conjures the profound; and gain great pleasure too from the jewel-like epiphanies that rise up within, and often end, her poems with fresh insight, but seem also inevitable! In this new collection, especially, she's unflinching in her effort to understand and describe the world, even if her methods become ruthless; thus she's able to live in this world, I think, for the better—and so might we. In "Killing Methods" her speaker, reflects— "I'm thinking of how we make stories, / pluck them like beetles out of the air // I don't know how to hold this truth, / so I kill it, pin its terrible wings down / in case, later, no one believes me." The Carrying, helps me to see how we might hold the truth, and believe.’

Jeffery Sugarman’s pamphlet Dear Friend(s) is due to publish in April. Its long title poem is an elegy, to a specific “Dear Friend”, dead from AIDS in its earliest years.

What's your favourite book from the past year? Comment below or tag us @TheEmmaPress on social media. We'd love to know what you're reading!