Friday, 29 September 2017
As you can see above (if you squint), Valley Press is safely ensconced at the BBC's 'Contains Strong Language' festival, currently running all over the city of Hull. The lovely ladies from Inpress will be manning the stall today (Friday) and tomorrow, then I'll be dropping back in on Sunday to enjoy a bit more of the heady literary atmosphere.
Meanwhile, you may be wondering what to do with your Saturday, so let me offer a suggested itinerary: start the day in London at the Poetry Book Fair, listening to our Yorkshire Anthology poets (11.30am). Then whizz up to York for Oz Hardwick's launch (2.30pm), which promises to include a slideshow; then hop in your helicopter to catch John Wedgwood Clarke in Hull (4pm). After that, since you're in Hull, you may as well visit the VP stall, and enjoy some of the other BBC festivities!
Someone asked me how long the CSL festival was on for; I replied: 'four days... no wait, a fortnight...' and then just looked confused for a few seconds. Turns out both were right; there's one four-day festival and another straight after. There's also the Turner Prize shortlistees to see while you're there. If you ever think you might visit Hull, this is the time.
However, if you don't like travelling (I quite sympathise), we've got some spoken-word poetry for you right here, right now. I had an email from Helen Burke a couple of weeks ago: 'Am doing a new CD of poems with musician Grammy nominee friend Kevin Keough. Will forward you a couple of the spoken poems, wonder if we might refer to em in next newsletter! Might be handy.'
They are really brilliant actually, a whole new avenue for our pal Helen. You can listen by following these three links: 'Moon Landing' (a brand new poem), 'Moments' (from the Collected, page 227), and then the rather dramatic 'Road Poem / Hustle', two uncollected poems which started life separately, then were combined a few years ago.
Hope you enjoy those, and let me end by wishing everyone involved with this weekend's events the best of luck. I'll see you back here next week, when I'm hoping peace and quiet will have once more descended on the literary world...
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher
Friday, 22 September 2017
This week I'm pleased to introduce you to a new face: Caroline Hardaker with her debut pamphlet Bone Ovation. Caroline submitted during our now-infamous 2016 submissions period, the one with the 20,000 leaflets that asked 'have you got a book in you?' She had, it turns out, and her book is the first of those 600 submissions to make it onto bookshelves. All three October publications are from that enormous pile, with a half-dozen more coming in 2018. (November's publications are special cases, more about them in due course).
Without any particular hooks or publicity angles to speak of, and as the work of a 'new' author, Bone Ovation soared to the top of the pile purely on the strength of Caroline's poetry. I won't say any more about it (for fear of over-doing expectations!) but I will let you see a couple of poems. Here goes:
Each raindrop contains a soul
I’m told, and sleet is nought
but the urgent need of the dead to meet
their loved ones once more in the mortal world.
To stroke their skin, to leave a living trace;
a tear drop – a thin, translucent meridian.
My grandmother never used an umbrella
and would tip back her head and eat the rain.
She said it made her feel alive again.
The Woman is Like the Picasso
You’ll not know her, she looks to the side
a spectrum of illicit shades
hair all quantum in sharp directions
but swooning around the face
a moon, in carven perfection,
radiating with flowering action
a myriad of connections between
the dazzling colours she’s made.
See that fierce pride under bashful eyes?
Even Picasso couldn’t capture it.
through abstract and dreams
to channel by subconscious
a force too violent
a face too vibrant to lay down
and his mind filled with it
Her form so potent for creation
it was like painting the rain in clouds,
She is facing away, but she is looking.
Though not officially published until 5th October, we're selling Bone Ovation now – copies are here, we figured we may as well! It's already a fairly reasonable £6.99, and remember that newsletter subscribers get 10% off all our books forever; you lucky souls. If you'd like to read a few more poems (including a great one about feet), head here.
Now then: this coming week is a busy one, so you may want to get your diaries out. You'll remember that if you're in York on Saturday 30th, there's an Oz Hardwick launch event and in Hull there's John Wedgwood Clarke. Also in Hull that day (Thursday to Sunday in fact), Valley Press is taking part in a book fair organised by the BBC as part of their 'Contains Strong Language' festival. It's in Hull College, in the Horncastle Building. Myself and Jo Haywood are hoping to be there on Thursday, and I'll likely be back on Sunday if it's as exciting as I expect – but VP books will be there for the four days.
Also on Saturday 30th, this time in London, we'll be at the Free Verse Poetry Book Fair. I'll be manning the stall most of the day, except for a lunch break; and between 11.30 and 12, when seven of our Yorkshire Anthology poets will be sharing their poems with a packed audience in the Brockway Room. Do pop and see that if you're going to the PBF, and of course, come for a chat with me and Emma at our shared table.
Adding some extra excitement to the week (which is clearly needed), Thursday 28th is National Poetry Day, which means there'll be some kind of poetry event near you, for certain. NPD have taken our Yorkshire Anthology under their wing this year, listing it as an official recommendation (see their write-up here). Which was nice of them!
Finally, you can now see John Wedgwood Clarke's BBC programme Through the Lens of Larkin on iPlayer here; yet another way for you to celebrate poetry this week. If you're reading this as someone who doesn't like poetry (I hear such people do exist), I'd first say: give it a chance? And second, don't give up on us ... we have a mammoth non-fiction book coming before the year is out, and all kinds of novels next year. There's always another book around the corner at Valley Press!
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher
Friday, 15 September 2017
This coming week sees another familiar face back with a new collection: Oz Hardwick and The House of Ghosts and Mirrors. The cover art, partially pictured above, is a photo of the exact spot where Oz was born, which should give you a clue about to what to expect from the new book – we're looking backwards only to find ourselves, figures from generations past, and a touch of both the infinite and the domestic. (And there's a few darkly funny bits, he's only human!)
Here's the opening poem, which asks a few questions that may linger, unanswered, within your mind for some time: (you have been warned)
The Pros and Cons of Immortality
Is it really so bad to begin with an ending?
Here I am, queueing for dreams
in a new world that hardens around me
like a scab on the wound of growing apart
from where I belong, what I know.
So, I ask again, is it really so bad
to be here, where walls crumble,
where your solitary love
is long gone and, surely, forgotten?
Because from here – half a century away,
and counting – even I forget
most of the time. But
that’s what hurts, you tell me,
the long forgetting that hangs
in the air, its cold breath
dampening your sleepless face.
You forget everything
one heartbeat at a time
until you forget yourself.
But is that really so bad?
Antony Dunn says Oz's new collection is 'sad in the best way', which is a great turn of phrase (he's known for them I guess). By the way, you can now enjoy an hour in Antony's company via the video of our sixth "Literary Lunch Hour", which can be found here; we really get to the bottom of how he writes, what makes him tick, how his latest collection was assembled and many other crucial matters. I'm so glad we took the trouble to film these events; they stand as a great record of some truly magnificent writers.
Back on the subject of Oz, and speaking of events (this newsletter is a tricky one, keep up!), he is launching his new collection at York Explore on the 30th September, all details here. This is our day of being in four places at once: you'll remember John Wedgwood Clarke's book launch is also that day, and I'll tell you about the other two events in the next newsletter – you're spoiled for choice!
What's more, both those authors are leaping out from the printed page at the moment: John can be seen on TV screens shortly hosting Through the Lens of Larkin, which Yorks/Lincs residents can catch on BBC1 next Wednesday, the 20th September, at 7.30pm. The rest of you must wait until the 25th September on BBC4, also at 7.30 (and I'll share the iPlayer links here if I remember). It should be excellent, particularly if you have even the slightest interest in Philip Larkin.
Oz, meanwhile, has been working with musician Peter Byrom-Smith on an album setting some of his latest poems (also featured in the book) to music, which can be found here; one for all you opera fans I would say, and there's a great story behind it involving Oz's maternal grandfather.
You're up to date with Valley Press now, thanks as ever for sparing me some of your time. I'd like to end by saying we approve of the shortlist for this year's Booker Prize (we didn't have any eligible titles, so there's only good wishes!) It includes a debut author from York, evidence (as if you needed any) that North Yorkshire is fast becoming the centre of the literary universe ... and Paul Auster, who after hanging out with Nora Chassler last month, is pretty much part of our gang. As are you, dear reader! It's quite the organisation we're running here...
Jamie McGarry, VP Publisher
Friday, 8 September 2017
Friday, 1 September 2017
This is Jamie – Jamie McGarry that is, "the original" – back at the helm of the newsletters to see you through what should be a busy autumn season. The start of September means the beginning of our new schedule, bringing you three new titles per month in September, October and November; and we'll need to maintain that pace going forward, to keep the now seven-strong VP team supplied with the posh biscuits that they deserve.
Our first September book is titled This Is Not a Stunt, and it's by Cath Nichols, from an original submission in May 2015. Like many poetry collections, simply listing the key themes – in this case, disability and gender identity – fails to do justice to the great swathe of human existence which is captured within the pages. Many of the joys, frustrations and monotonies of life are featured, but it was the short poem below that originally stopped my eye when reading through the 2015 manuscripts:
I then saw this one, which sealed the deal: