Interview with Sharon black editor of Pindrop press

Billy CollinsCheryl Pearson’s Bob CooperMark RussellElisabeth Sennitt Clough

sharon1

pindroplogo-gif

Can you tell me how you very first heard about Pindrop Press when you were looking for a publisher?

An online poet friend mentioned that she had just met a lovely editor, Jo Hemmant, who had published several collections by established poets, and was now looking to publish a debut collection by a UK writer. I had just completed a manuscript for my first collection and sent it to her the next day.

What made you choose this press and how was it working with the editor, Jo Hemmant?

When Jo offered me a publishing contract, I had already checked out Pindrop’s backlist and decided this was a serious press I could trust, with a sound reputation. I also clicked with Jo on a personal level, which felt important as we were going to have to work together over something extremely close to my heart. Finally, I admired her very much as a poet in her own right, which again felt important for taking on board her editing suggestions.

Working with Jo was a dream. I’ve since discovered that publishers and editors vary enormously in the way they work with authors. Jo was prompt, thorough and open to suggestions. She also allowed me a large say in the book’s look and feel – she was happy to use a cover image I suggested, for example –which I was deeply grateful for.

 

How did you become interested in taking over the press and how does your vision compare with the Founder’s?

I had recently had my second collection published – by a different press – and on learning that this other press might be on its way out I expressed an interest in taking it over. That takeover didn’t work out, but during my discussions with the owner I’d dropped Jo a couple of emails with questions about the industry to help me make up my mind. In one of these emails, Jo said – well, if it doesn’t work out with this other press then maybe you’d consider taking over Pindrop?

I would say my vision for Pindrop is very close to Jo’s. Like many small presses, Pindrop is run by just one person – me – and as such its output is low, at the moment 4 titles a year, though this may increase in time. What this means is I can really focus on quality – both manuscript and finished book. Like Jo, I handpick titles that I believe are excellent, and I work closely with authors, ensuring they get their say in everything from the content and layout of the poems, to the cover. This last point I think is very important – I know presses vary greatly in the extent to which they allow their authors input. I see no point in putting out a book that a poet is not 100% behind. It’s a relationship that’s being created, not just a product.

What do you look for in a submission now you are the editor?

Quite simply – poems that I love, work that I believe in. Poetry that I am convinced should be out there in the public arena, touching people in the way it touches me. Really it boils down to that. The usual clichés – writing that is surprising, challenging, pushes boundaries – apply of course to some extent. But only insofar as the poems have that effect on me. I know that’s not very helpful, but I think it’s true.

What titles are being published in the future. Can you tell me a little about the poetry/poets you have chosen?

Pindrop will be publishing 4 titles over the next 6 months, and I am enormously excited about all of them. The first is by poet Mark Russell, who lives in Scotland and has a previous pamphlet to his name. Mark’s debut collection, Spearmint & Rescue, is a wonderful blend of poetry that is bittersweet, hilarious, tragic, sexy and poignant. After that comes another debut collection, Sightings, by the fabulous Norfolk poet Elisabeth Sennitt Clough, whose pamphlet Glass won the 2016 Paper Swans Press Pamphlet Competition. Elisabeth’s poetry is rooted in the everyday, yet manages to find the magical and the universal in the most mundane details. Next is Bob Cooper, a seasoned poet from Birmingham whose poetry is sometimes surreal, sometimes skilfully plain, but always understated and exquisitely observed. Finally, Cheryl Pearson’s debut collection Oysterlight is powerful, raw, delicate and quite beautiful poetry, with mythology, history and love as its central themes.

picture1

What challenges have you had so far and where would you like to see the press heading?

The only challenges I’ve had so far have been administrative and technical. Fortunately, I have a wonderful IT team in place, in the form of my long-suffering husband Alex, who is a dab hand at all things software and hardware related. Reading reams and reams of poetry has been a pleasure. Turning down poets whose work is good but just not quite good enough, or simply not to my taste, is never easy, but that’s just one of the necessary drawbacks of the job. Luckily there are lots of poetry presses out there and I know many will find good homes elsewhere.

I would like to see the press heading exactly where it wants to head. I don’t believe it setting long-term goals. I’d much rather watch an organic evolution taking place than push Pindrop in a certain direction. As long as my own passion lies in poetry and in creating beautiful books, then this will remain Pindrop’s emphasis.

If you could select one person in the world (this or another) living or dead who could make you a coffee in the morning and look over submissions with you, who would you choose?

It would have to be Billy Collins, the former US poet laureate. I’m a huge fan of his work and I think he’d make an excellent coffee. He’d take his time over it and serve it up with something unfancy but unspeakably delicious. Then he’d sit blowing slow smoke rings over the desk while calmly pushing this page into that pile, that page into this pile, barely saying a word but managing to convey which poems to take and which to leave, and why, by just the simplest gestures. Could I have him for the week?

Jo Hemmant: Featured Poet

Jo Hemmant

.

On the occasion of Mayer Samuel Houdini’s 17th birthday

He would be the one to invent a son.
Perhaps his greatest sleight of hand: letters
in that dramatic copperplate, Dear Mrs Houdini,
Mayer has his first tooth, is crawling, can say his name,
in full, our boy, tender anecdotes of bumps and scrapes –
trying to fly before he could walk, of course –
of night-time vigils, lisped funnies, tantrums, slapstick.
………………………………As if I’d have as little say

in my own son as I do in his act: ever the flunky;
the suspension of disbelief; the accessory after the fact.
He did allow him a likeness though – my dark eyes.
Little touches like that, they’re why he’s the success he is.
A locket with a wispy golden curl for Mother’s Day.
A scuffed pair of calf-skin baby shoes. And when the child
would have started school, the reports began, always
in a different hand – outlining academic glory,
popularity, sporting prowess. I’ve even an invitation
to his bar mitzvah somewhere.
 …………………………….He has never mentioned him
to my face; realises that would be too much to stomach.
No, I find the letters on my pillow every month,
about that time; a thoughtless gift.

..

Scratch Days

Now and then we have to let ourselves in,
knowing before we’ve unlocked the door
that inside it’s as if no-one’s home —

TV off, radio quiet as the hush
between each tick of the kitchen clock,
the only sound a distant rat-a-tat-tat.

She’s up in the box room
with towers of tins stockpiled
against famine and flood, hunched

over the Singer, feeding swags of polycotton
across its cool, metal plate
while the frenzied needle stabs,

retreats. Pins clamped between her lips
like threats, foot down like a racing driver
accelerating out of a corner’s rubber stink.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Light Knows Cover 1_4.jpegforpostcardJo Hemmant lives in the Kent countryside with her husband and two sons. She is the director of Pindrop Press, a boutique poetry press that has published twelve titles to date. She is involved in local poetry, acting as Secretary of The Kent and Sussex Poetry Society and running creative writing workshops.

Her poems have been published in many magazines and anthologies, including Magma, Iota, Dream Catcher, Brittlestar, nothing left to burn (Ragged Raven Press, 2011), Jericho (Cinnamon Press, 2012). She has also won prizes in various competitions – including first prize in The New Writer Poetry and Prose Competition 2011 (collection category), second prize in the Torriano Poetry Competition in 2011 and runner-up in the Cardiff International Poetry Competition 2012.

The Light Knows Tricks is her first collection and can be bought from Doire Press.