Monday, 17 August 2015

Featured Poems: David Clarke

Photo credit: Helen Dewbery


David Clarke was born in Lincolnshire and now lives in Gloucestershire. He works as a teacher and researcher. His poems have appeared in magazines including Magma, Tears in the Fence, Iota, Anon, Under the Radar and New Walk. His pamphlet, Gaud, was published by Flarestack Poets in 2012 and won the Michael Marks Pamphlet Prize. Arc (Nine Arches Press) is his first full collection of poems. He blogs here. 



Lyre


Orpheus wants two Americanos.
His mate is impatient on double yellows
in the van where they keep the harp,
rapping the roof with his knuckles.
Our godly axeman flashes a victory V,
thus drives home the point

       of the goth girl’s pen
       tracing cutely bulbous capitals
       on her yellow pad, endlessly redrafting
       a PERSONAL STATEMENT
       as she chews on a hank of purple hair

              that curtains the puffy eyes
              of the barista. He slouches,
              hung-over, to the steam machine
              with a face full of shrapnel,
              stomach turning at that burnt
              milk smell of hot babies

       screaming in 4x4s. Half-bald pigeons,
       cyclists in eye-watering Lycra,
       the whole ragged street tensed
       beyond the café windows

waiting for Orpheus to swing
back into his van and strike
the morning’s opening chord.






Sword-Swallowing for Beginners


Start by flicking the fleshy switch at the back
of your throat. When you’ve thrown up a dozen times,
you’ll find the impulse subsides – you can sit for hours
with a knuckle softly pressed inside your head,

watching rolling news of the war. Insert spoons,
knitting needles, a length of plumber’s pipe.
Stare at the ceiling, your jaw loose as a gorging
python’s, and try to conjure those shocks that pass

through the body, but leave it intact – the rasp of panicked
breath, the whump of a nearby explosion, a scream.
Or think of the soldier who coughed up a sleeping bullet,
shrapnel burrowing out of a human thigh

to freedom. By then you’ll be ready to take a blunted
bayonet, silver and slick with spit. Arrange
your body around that deathly spindle,
repeat to yourself – I am unharmed. Unharmed.






Permanent Emergency


We find ourselves on a marbled concourse,
      the air tart, the thievery elegant.

We find ourselves flailing in cataracts of red dust,
      our ears ringing at the pitch of the aftershock.

We find ourselves quarantined in the media compound,
      living off shrink-wrapped carbs.

We find ourselves nodding to the security detail,
      the exact nature of their remit.

We find ourselves lobbying for hearts and minds,
      drumming our fingers on the conference table’s
            mahogany veneer.

We find ourselves offering flexible consultancy options,
      straightening our zany neck-ties.

We find ourselves schmoozing the policy-wonks,
      a post-traumatic pastoral.






Exodus

Gay Pride Festival, Clapham Common, 1996


I remember, chiefly, that shocking light,
how we squinted up from the earth,
bleached by the very summer that floored us –

how through that light emerged those thin-armed
boys from my class, proclaiming themselves
the heralds of memory, even that one

I’d hit for calling me queer. Now
our lustrous presence was all the proof
required. We sucked at cans of Red Stripe,

lounged in glare like exiles thrown
on a luminous shore, scuffing at it,
heel by heel, until the dust

threw up another move. Come
to think, we already had the people
we needed – hawkers of ironic

T-shirts and merchants of the old
religion, saving us all in brand new
drag. But then someone was grabbing

the mic. A thousand balloons cut loose
from their net, a pulsing vermilion
arc, while men made little huddles

of grief in twos and threes, their faces
tight with fat and beautiful tears.
I stalked to the edge of the crowd, chippy

as some lad who just missed out
on the war. A whole new country was set
before me, refusing to be ignored.

























More information about Arc here 

Order your copy of Arc here 


David Clarke’s debut collection Arc invites you to follow the trail of fleet-footed poems, and be swept along from sonnets for Scott Walker to ‘epic fails’ and sword-swallowing for beginners. It’s a memorable trip you’ll want to start afresh as soon as you finish reading. Subtle, bittersweet and wickedly sharp, these poems from the winner of the 2013 Michael Marks Pamphlet Prize deserve to be relished and revelled in.


Praise for Arc by David Clarke:

‘“I am the boy who threw the ball / into summer’s empty mouth.” So begins David Clarke’s beautifully-crafted debut. His refined and elegantly playful poems mine popular and classical culture with equal aplomb, as poems about Jimmy Stewart and Superman sit alongside an Orpheus who “wants two Americanos” and an exploration of Plato’s ideas on cake. Here is a subtle control of form, a distinctive voice, a lightly-worn erudition and a feeling that we are in very safe hands, as Clarke sings in praise of this ‘Dumb old world.’ In a time of permanent emergency, there are few better navigators. Just as in ‘The Messengers,’ Clarke laments the fact that we do not hear the angels crying, so I want to say Listen. Listen to this. –  Jonathan Edwards


‘Lenin sheds reactionary tears in the music hall, Scott Walker starts over with ‘only [his] voice and the dark’, a narrator finds the promise of a ‘whole new country’ in a Gay Pride Festival; there are poems about sword swallowing, Jimmy Stewart, assembling a greenhouse, and revolution. Arc is a various, exciting and exhilarating debut collection. David Clarke has a knack for writing lines that take your breath away.’   – Cliff Yates


‘This is an energetic debut and a thoroughly engaging read. At times explosive in imagery and theme, the tenor of discord, both personal and political, flowers through a skillful sobriety of form and theme. Arc contains poems in which the language of the world is returned to us with a lyric excitement. It’s a pleasure to read work as engaged and intelligent as this.’ – Rachael Boast





Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Featured Poems: Sarah James



Sarah James is an award-winning poet, short fiction writer, editor, reviewer and journalist. Her latest book, plenty-fish (Nine Arches Press), is her fourth poetry collection. A multi-media narrative in poems, The Magnetic Diaries, based on Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary in a modern English setting was published by Knives, Forks and Spoons Press earlier in 2015. Her debut collection, Into the Yell (Circaidy Gregory Press), won third prize in the International Rubery Book Awards and other recent competition wins include the Overton Poetry Prize 2015, Wordpool Festival Poetry Competition 2014 (with her poem animated for the Blackpool Illuminations) and the Poetry on Loan ‘homemade, home-grown’ Poetry Competition 2014. She also enjoys collaboration with other poets, artists and photographers, and is editor at V. Press. Her website is at: www.sarah-james.co.uk .




Cactus Ballgown


This dress should be kept for those prickly occasions
when you sense dryness, and wish to make a point.

Take care. Such sun-sanded satin is not easily
removed once you grow into its green sheen.

Do not plan on letting anyone close.
They will only get hurt. These flowers are not

for picking. Instead, strengthen your spine,
prepare for the pain of being justly deserted.

Above all, beware of the needles when you un-
dress alone, your skin riddled now with pins.




For Her, A Different Skin


              Given the right blade, he might slit her.
Not for fox pelt sleekness, or rabbit warmth.

              Hang legs from a rafter, limbs parted.
Not for the lush flush of raw pain.

              Unseam a red circle; cut deeper.
Not for a bitter scream’s squeezed juice.


Slice the underside, finger it from bone.
For the guts’ intricacy untangled.

              Slide away cartilage, loose from flesh.
 For the pulsed butterflies, released.

              Free intergluing membrane, slowly unsplice.
For the cracked almond heart, relieved.

              Glide hand between, peel from carcass.
In hope of finding skin which fits,
           
              without snicking any arteries.




Wanting


It’s his hands, always his hands.

How fingertips skip from the keyboard
to play arpeggios along my arm.

How the pressure of his palm
steadies the small of my back,
so warmth lingers.

How his index finger, which pushes down
on the knife chopping coriander for curry,
traces my thoughts, soothes creases
from letters, gives shape to my lips.

How that chunky ‘c’ of muscle and bone
curls around his pint glass lifting
from full to empty, full to empty,
while his other hand finger-taps
my beer mat till we synchronise rhythms.

How he pulls weeds from the mud,
hands clasped in a firm grasp
around stubborn necks,
or pushes a kiwi-fruit
from its hessian skin –
forceful, but persuasive.

How he snake-coil-palms
a plum stone sticky with juice,
once he’s sucked the flesh clean;
that pincer-flick movement of air
propelling grapes to his tongue;
his thumb-finger grip on a sachet,
that quick pinch open...

how sometimes he uses his mouth.




Losing Faith


Take home a whole shoal from the fair.
Name them Matthew, Mark, maybe John.

Watch how their varnished orange peel
teases through the bubble’s knotted plastic.

Give them a bigger tank to swim in:
a glassed reality of gravel and weeds.

The hide and seek begins. That curving
around stones. The flitting outline of soft bones.

That deceptive width of tails almost thinned
to water’s transparency. Thick smears

on surfaces tinged green by sunlight’s
revelations. Soon their names flake.

After death, you flush away each, past
twitching. Your son demands a prayer.


About plenty-fish







Sarah James’ precise and astonishing poetry invites us to taste and touch the flavours, shapes, memory and experiences for ourselves, the tang of sea-salt tempering the irresistible physicality of these adventurous poems. 

Here, the natural and emotional worlds merge in kaleidoscopic colours and all around us, nature runs riot. Humans are organisms in an ever-growing, changing and vanishing habitat; the family an ecosystem complicated by love, loss and letting go. The poems gather and swirl about you, a shoal of brilliant, electric moments. The water may be deep and clear, but the undertow is strong and dark, and sharp enough to cut to the bone.




Praise for plenty-fish

"Sarah James’s  plenty-fish is an exciting collection with much to surprise and delight. Sarah James has a keen eye for the startling image and memorable metaphor, together with an obvious delight in language and a real sense of how poems feel in the mouth. Each poem is allowed to find its own form, its own space on the page and every line is given its own weight. Reading it from start to finish, I am left with a feeling of the whole collection celebrating ‘the slipperiness of life’ while never forgetting about ‘death’s strong stench’ (from ‘Past Sacrificial’)." – Angela France

"I found the poems in this collection fresh, startling, and at times pleasingly unsettling and disturbing. They aren't poems to comfort but to question and probe. In other words, they're poems doing the proper job of waking you up, making you feel more alert to the world, to its brightness, its cruelty, its beauty. Sarah James has a sure and assured voice, the true poet's eye for detail which she evokes with an unswerving clarity through well-crafted and precise imagery." – David Calcutt

"Sarah James’s poems  bring the natural world to the page in all its sticky, colourful, goose-pimpled and prickly reality, tingling with precisely observed images. With a photographer’s eye, and all her senses finely attuned, she writes with great honesty of the intimate joys and sadnesses of family life, the body’s frailties, and of the losses and gains that come with love and vulnerability. She identifies sacred moments in the everyday and ephemeral; at the flushing away of fairground goldfish, ‘My son demands a prayer.’ These poems are both grounded in a luscious physicality, and boldly metaphysical, touching on the numinous." – Catherine Smith



Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Join us in Wonderful Wenlock: We're Publisher in Residence!

This weekend will be a very busy one for Nine Arches Press - not only will we be launching two superb collections in the form of Jo Bell's Kith and Robert Peake's The Knowledge at Wenlock Poetry Festival, we will also be their Publisher in Residence.





What does this mean, I hear you ask? Well, we're the first publishers ever to take up this role at Wenlock, and it's possibly the first 'official' publisher residency of its kind at a UK Poetry Festival as far as I can tell. The idea in essence is that I will be transplanting the Nine Arches 'office' from its usual home in Warwickshire and taking it with me to the Edge Arts Centre in Wenlock especially for the festival, from Saturday morning through to Sunday afternoon.

If you come along, you'll find me at my desk, not only surrounded by my in-tray, copious cups of coffee, a well-filled biscuit tin and a fair few manuscripts, but also by several poets. The idea is to give festival goers a real insight into a day-in-the-life of a independent publisher like myself, and a unique chance to find out what goes on behind the scenes to make new poetry books happen.

Throughout the weekend, Nine Arches Press poets will be dropping in to, and we'll be live-editing poetry collections, talking about their books and how they came to be, and even sharing a few readings. I'm delighted that I'll be joined by David Hart, Myra Connell, Josh Ekroy and Bobby Parker - I hope you'll come by and take a moment to join us and see what we're up to and eavesdrop on some of our conversations!



Full listings of the Nine Arches Publisher Residency, and timings:



Saturday 25th April

11.00am/ 11.20 / 11.40 Poetry Surgery slots
The slots are ticketed and need to be booked via the Box Office.

12.00noon-1.00pm Live editing & in conversation with… David Hart

1.30pm / 1.50 / 2.10 Poetry Surgery slots
The slots are ticketed and need to be booked via the Box Office.

2.40 -3.40pm Live editing & in conversation with… Myra Connell

These drop in sessions are free and open to all, but will be subject to space and popularity. Please be aware that seating may be limited.

4.00pm Short reading: David Hart and Myra Connell


EVENING:5.30 – 6.45pm - You are invited to:




click for full information (booking advised!)


Sunday 26th April


11.00am – 12.00 noon Reveal: the Art of Editing Poetry
Simon Thirsk of Bloodaxe Books invites Nine Arches’ editor Jane Commane with poets Jo Bell and Robert Peake to talk about what goes on behind the scenes of a poetry book. In the digital age, why does good editing still matter, and what’s the value of the poet-editor relationship? Discover how the poets have found the process of editing and putting their poems together – which poems went it and which were cut? Where here any heart-wrenching choices or roads-less- travelled to take? Explore editing as an art, with a frank discussion of the highs and lows, and maybe the occasional typo...
Booking advised! more info: Sun 26th April - Reveal: The Art of Editing Poetry


1.00pm – 2.00pm Live editing and in conversation with… Josh Ekroy

2.00pm / 2.20 / 2.40 Poetry Surgery Slots
The slots are ticketed and need to be booked via the Box Office.

3.00 -4.00pm in conversation with… Bobby Parker

4.00pm Short Reading: Bobby Parker and Josh Ekroy



Click here to browse the full festival programme and see what else is on at Wenlock Poetry Festival.


Click here to also browse Nine Arches Press events at Cheltenham Poetry Festival


I'm also inviting you, festival-goer or not, to join in with the interactive nature of the residency. So, is there a question about poetry publishing you've always wanted to ask an editor? If so, this is your big chance... Tweet your questions to me and use the hashtag #AskNineArches and I will collate these queries and tweet and showcase the Q&As throughout my residency. It can be a question about getting published, submitting poetry, or how we choose what to publish - anything you've always wanted to know but never had the chance to ask...

I will also be offering some poetry surgery slots throughout the festival. These are limited and must be booked in advance, but are a great opportunity to bring a long a poem that you'd like feedback on or to ask for some advice on publishing. These slots can be booked here - and you can also read here about how the Emergency poet soothes our pre-festival panic and nerves with a perfect poetry prescription!


So, here's to springtime sunshine on the hills of Shropshire this weekend, hope to see you there!


Thursday, 2 April 2015

Jo Bell on Kith

In our latest blog post, Jo Bell tells us a bit more about what's behind the title of her second collection of poems.





Someone asked me once what my favourite word was. Perhaps we should all be grateful that I passed over my usual favourite, schadenfreude, and settled instead on kith.

It came unbidden, and it hasn’t left my mind since. I liked the sound of it. It felt old, and northern-English, and simple in the way that a penknife or a wooden spoon is simple. The word became a prism through which to see the world – or rather, it was the prism through which I had always seen the world, before I knew what to call it.

Who knows you; who are your fellow travellers? Your partner, your ex-partner, your oldest friends – these people know an unvarnished, warts-and-all version. But our impact on one another’s lives is not in proportion to the time we spend together. Holiday friends, one-night stands, hated colleagues, a stranger who shared a moment of drama; these can know you deeply. Likewise those who share your race, your politics, your passion for stamp collecting or transvestism. I once spent an hour speaking with a counsellor who seemed to understand me completely, and left the room with a different life ahead of me. Yet a sexual partner, who knows you so well in some ways, may understand you very little in others.

Once the title fell into place, I realised that most of my poems are an exploration of it. In Raising the roof for Kirsty, old friends enjoy a moment of silliness and companionship. In Worship, ill-matched lovers seize a moment of trespass and sexual connection. In Silbury Hill or A Nightingale for Gilbert Smith there is a fellowship with the dead, who inhabited the same landscape as us and knew things which we have to relearn (my dead, of course, are Northern and stroppy with it, as are many of my living). In Society of Friends, a woman I never even spoke to passes on an illuminating thought. In Lifted and other poems of the canal, I try to explain the relationship of boat dwellers to their watery environment – where, as we say, the only rule of the river is that the river rules. I write often about sexual partners; how we please and disappoint, how we try to know each other. Even if we fail, there’s honour and generosity in the attempt.


All the poems of Kith are an acknowledgement that wherever you’re going, you aren’t travelling there alone. Our relationships with one another are not always easy or clear but they are inevitable, ragged, glorious in their variety; an essential condition of travelling at all.  




Kith is published on April the 14th and will have launches at Wenlock Poetry Festival, Cheltenham Poetry Festival, and on a boat in Birmingham. 



Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Featured Poems: Robert Peake



Photograph: Valerie Kampmeier

Robert Peake is a British-American poet living near London. His previous publication was a pamphlet, The Silence Teacher (Poetry Salzburg, 2013) and his previous short collection Human Shade was included in New Poets | Short Books, Vol. V (Lost Horse Press, 2011). His first full-length collection The Knowledge is forthcoming April 2015 from Nine Arches Press and can pre-ordered here.



Robin from Robert Peake on Vimeo.


Robin


Bold and tattered, slashing into view,
tiny courtier teeming with invidious mites,

we welcome you at the waterspout, bent sprig,
weaving a maypole out of long oat grass.

You wear a red-crossed breast, poor Templar,
far from healthy with your half-feathered head,

blandishing the cold-snapped air, informing
and interpreting the seasons like a wild-eyed monk.

You preach through the frost and meandering drizzle,
moot points of theology and tactics with squirrels,

piecemeal captain of our sinking green ship,
perched like Nelson at the tallest crow’s nest.

Guide us, our skipper, bard and troubadour, into
the winter you know will be your last.


First published in London Grip





Last Gasp

December 30th, 2006


The scorpion is an opportunist for sure.
For days he waits in a desert hole,
the heat driving his prey toward the shade.

Once, a deposed tyrant hid in a hole,
breathing dust and ash, unable to stand.
When we found him, we hanged him.

The lungs balloon and drain
eighteen thousand times per day.
One day the alveoli all flash shut together.

One man’s last breath is Baghdad city air.
Another drowns on his feet in chlorine gas.
Desdemona breathed the perfume of her bedclothes.

There are mothball-scented chambers in a life,
dark places moonlight cannot light up blue—
a held breath that the breather knows is final.

Dare we mention the soft grasses
growing, somehow, underneath a stone?
They, too, must have known the sunlight once.

A salt stain bleaches the pillow cover.
Who can tell if it was tears, saliva, or sweat?
Only that the head was wanting rest,

only that the fluids of the human animal
cannot be contained in sleep, in love, in death.
Some call the incognito intimate.

The chambers of our secrecy are vast.
While sleeping in his hole, our tyrant dreamt
of the high, gilded ceilings of his ballrooms.

More intricate than Arabesque tile,
the workings of a mind in flight, glimmering
and expansive, as a polished marble floor.

First published in Human Shade




La Campagna, London, Friday Night


This is not your nan’s Sunday dinner, a fish-and-chippy
or Chinese buffet. Tonight, this is Italy, no haggis
here, no bottled beers, just pasta, fresh, tailor-made.

The waiter gooses the posterior of the brawny
man in the scullery, then inverts his frown, glides
over to the long table of single women, and flirts.

At first, you think, he hears the clink of coins
on his silver tip plate. But their laughter opens
his face like a daffodil, peeling back the outer petals

to reveal the golden middle of a man surrounded by nieces
and sisters, their heartaches, children, and deadbeat men.
He recommends the right rosé to wash it all away

and they comply with his performance, casting their eyes
over his handsome face and fit physique, investors
in a scheme that yields only the thrill of investing.

But isn’t this happiness? William Blake would whisper
in each ear an accolade for joy caught on the wing
and when they are at home, curling the stockings

from their legs, a little drunk, and over-full,
their smiles that say could have been and you
never know will smile on them again, shaking out

their hairpins, clink, on the makeup mirror,
a sound our Romeo won’t know or hear, scrubbing
the stubborn Bolognese from his stiff apron,

sliding the tongue of the register back into place,
the backstage routine always tinged with sadness,
the afterglow of smiles, the space between applause.


First published in Rattle





April


Barmaids pull green spiral taps,
tippling the bees in swarm
frothing up a golden head of pollen.

O the youthfulness of arrogance.
Blackbirds swap their arcane ciphers,
hacking into the un-redacted news.

Squirrels in fiasco groove the bark
to a barber-pole double helix,
shift a confetti of godsend petals.

Here is the sallow-green heart of things,
sap coursing through like amphetamine,
the sticky truth, its plausible deniability.

The soil steams with overfed grubs,
a richness of embarrassment — on goes
the arms race towards the beating sun.






About The Knowledge by Robert Peake












Publication date: 21st April 2015

Pre-order The Knowledge here.


"The Knowledge is quirky, wide-ranging, luminous and completely enthralling. If there were an A – Z of all the places poetry should take us, this would be it." - John Glenday

Robert Peake’s
incredible eye for detail illuminates a collection of stirring and delicately attuned poems that not only roam but actively seek – travelling to all manner of places but also moving through time, taking leaps of faith or journeys into memory and sensation. These poems refer to a kind of knowledge that isn’t just sought or gained, but is felt and experienced, known in your heart and in your bones as much as in your mind.

From postcards to portraits, from ancient and modern wars to cosmopolitan cities, wildlife, and even a tiny ornamental skeleton, Robert Peake finds a sharp focus for the bigger picture both far and wide and closer to home. These carefully-controlled and eloquent poems know the subtle and deep consequences from each small gesture; the ripple-effect across each story, the altering of lives and history; the still, quiet centre from which it all begins.




Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Nine Arches Press: Review of 2014

What a year it's been! There have been plenty of highlights in 2014, so here are just a few of them from my publishing and poetry year at Nine Arches Press. It has been a really packed year – probably my busiest yet – but it has also felt like a very gratifying year for all the throwing myself into the heart of stuff and feeling much cheered by all the excellent poetry I’ve read and enjoyed and have been so fortunate to have partaken in, edited, published and shared in 2014.



January kicked off with some great live poetry - our first Leicester Shindig of the year, featuring Cathy Grindrod, Lindsay Waller-Wilkinson, Charlie Jordan & Joe Coghlan, all helping us to get the year off to the right start with lively and enjoyable readings. There was also a memorable and rather special evening of poetry at Poetry bites, as Angela France & Daniel Sluman performed to a packed Kitchen Garden Café in Birmingham. After a lot of work over the festive period, I also launched the brand new Nine Arches website and online shop, which has proved to be much more user friendly and popular!

February was a little quieter on the event front, but a hive of activity behind the scenes as the final touches were put to this year’s collections. 

In March, independent publishing was properly celebrated at the annual States of Independence book-fair at Leicester De Montfort – we sold lots of books, as usual, but more importantly had plenty of interesting conversations and a great chance to put faces to names for all those we’ve met online but not in real life. And another great day out was also had later the same month at the inaugural Writing East Midlands Writer’s Conference at Nottingham University, where I provided a series of one-to-ones for  poets to book and ask all those questions about publishing you’ve always wanted to ask but were too afraid to… I hope they proved useful. I’ve been really pleased to see several of those writers now in print in recent months too, which is always heartening.

April came around, and I found myself at the wonderful Wenlock Poetry Festival. Nestled in the Shropshire hills, for one weekend each year this small town is taken over by poets and poetry audiences and all manner of performances, talks and workshops. It was a great chance to catch up with lots of people, but also to make some new friends and acquaintances and enjoy plenty of poetry performances too. Rebecca Goss’ and Helen Tookey’s reading was particular moving and memorable, as was David Morley and Gregory Leadbetter’s outdoor reading at the abbey ruins, where we just about dodged the both the impending rain and the dusk. We concluded our weekend with a Maps & Legends reading, with Jo Bell compering some wonderful readings from Matt Merritt, Mario Petrucci and Maria Taylor that celebrated our first five years in poetry publishing.


May saw the first ‘Towards Poetry Publication’ six-week short course for Writing West Midlands (so popular it was fully booked, and we're now running a second course from 27th Jan 2015). It was also the launch of our Forward Prize-commended debut poetry collection Ways to Build a Roadblock by Josh Ekroy. We headed down to London to launch Josh’s book in a packed cellar bar at the Betsey Trotwood and had a warm reception far and wide for this much-anticipated debut –including requests for signed copies for bookstores! With poetry that is both satirical and instinctively humane, Ekroy has been building a reputation through magazine publication and readings for a number of years. It’s so rewarding when readers take to heart a poet whose work you have also admired and followed – and to see your faith in their work and its distinctive qualities repaid when the books are released out there to find good homes on bookshelves up and down the country. May closed on an especial high point - I spent 31st May at the Sabotage Awards in Oxford, where Nine Arches came away as a prize-winner - Most Innovative Publisher 2014! It's an award that really means a lot to me, as it was voted for by the general public and our readers, and to get that vote of shared love for our books feels important and rather special.

 




June brought us the launch of Richie McCaffery’s Cairn and Markie Burnhope’s Species – two very distinct and exciting debut collections that I was enormously proud to have as part of 2014’s list. From Richie’s brilliantly-detailed and revelatory miniatures to Markie’s sharp and astonishing technicolour focus on otherness and injustice (amongst so much more), there was a great deal to be celebrated here in these two first collections.

In July we had a grand time at Ledbury Poetry Festival It was also (at last) a delightful opportunity to meet poets Bobby Parker, Richie McCaffery and Dorothy Lehane for the first time in real life, after many months of email correspondence and working on their collections, and a proper treat to hear Dorothy, Richie, and Bobby read from their debut collections at the festival. It is often in those first ‘voicings’ that a collection truly comes alive for me. This month also saw the launch of the brilliant second collection from Tony Williams, The Midlands. It’s always a pleasure to work with a returning poet, and a real treat to have the opportunity work with Tony again on a book that touched on so many of my personal favourite themes – ideas of places lost and found, walking and journeying, and of course the Midlands themselves which, characteristically, lurked resplendent, both bashful and beautiful, within the collection’s own marvellous scenery.




August saw a short break in book launches but still plenty of behind the scenes work going on, and plenty of planning as a busy Autumn lay ahead on return form my holdiays!

September was a particular highlight of the autumn, with a lovely day in London at the Free Verse Poetry Book Fair, where we joined with our good friends at Worple Press (Peter Carpenter and Michael McKimm) to give a joint reading outdoors with Matt Merritt and Josh Ekroy representing Nine Arches in the park café, whilst indoors, books sold rapidly and we had a chance to catch up with many of our other fellow publishers and poets. It seemed to be particularly busy this year, and there was a real buzz around the whole fair. Huge thanks to Joey Connolly and Chrissy Williams for yet again putting on a great day, and for the beautiful book fair booklet – which featured a poem by Richie McCaffery amongst many others from each press.

October brought another annual highlight in the form of the Birmingham Literature Festival. A personal favourite among my events this year was out ‘Poetry Afloat’ event at the festival with Jo Bell and Tony Williams joining a (quite literally) captive audience aboard the canal boat Frederick as we toured Birmingham’s inland waterways and saw the city from an entirely new viewpoint, accompanied by Jo and Tony’s poems along the way. Even the Brummagem drizzle couldn’t dampen our enjoyment of this little poetry voyage! This was also a month of frenetic publishing activity – with the launch of three books. First up was A Midlands Odyssey (ten stories re-imagining the Homeric epic as heard recently heard on BBC Radio 4), which is now also available as an eBook. Hot on the heels of this came Dorothy Lehane’s debut poems, Ephemeris and Bobby Parker’s Blue Movie. Whilst taking unique approaches, both Lehane and Parker share the theme of personal territories within their poems. Solidly and deftly written, both also are attuned to the particular music that their poetry requires, an understanding which makes them urgent and unmissable debuts with a great deal to say.






November saw us entering the winter with a flurry of activity. Leicester Shindig! featured wonderful live poetry from Michael W. Thomas, Andrew Taylor, DA Prince and Ben Wilkinson and, as always, an excellent selection of open-mic readers bringing a breadth of subjects and styles to proceedings. I also took part in The Writer’s Toolkit for Writing West Midlands, and enjoyed several informative panel talks and a good end-of-year catch up with lots of regional friends and colleagues – even if it seemed a little incredible that 2014 was already speeding past us and out of our grasp...

December opened with a thoroughly enjoyable day at the Library of Birmingham for the first ever Library Toolkit (convened by the West Midlands Reader’s Network and Writing West Midlands) were I gave a talk on how to work with independent publishers and spread the good why about why indie publishers matter (and what we can offer to libraries that the bigger publishers just can’t). And one last reading – a great evening in the best bookshop in the region, Nottingham’s very own Five Leaves Bookshop. With probably the best poetry section since I’ve seen since (the now sadly-demised) Borders, this bookshop is a real gem and I urge all book lovers to pay it a visit. As well as thoughtfully-chosen poetry and fiction, it has a brilliant selection of political, social and historical and lots of independently-published books that show real, dedicated book-lovers are responsible for this warm, cosy and welcoming bookshop. Bobby Parker, Tony Williams, Dorothy Lehane and Matt Merritt all joined us for an excellent showcase of Nine Arches talent, which (along with the mince pies and wine) was much enjoyed by an appreciative audience. December has also seen the end of a few projects, including one I have worked on with HEARTH over this last year, and also the beginning of several new projects (some of which I can’t talk about yet, you’ll just have to wait and see!).



  




All of which brings me to the end of this round up, and to wish you, our poets, readers and supporters, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Here’s to much more great new poetry in 2015, and a happy, healthy and creative year ahead to you all.