Jennifer Grigg and the Green Bottle Press


Debut collections

I think most presses will publish a first collection if they are wowed by the poet, but it seems there are more competitions for pamphlets (Cinnamon, Poetry Business, Pighog) that then publish the winners (Flarestack has a competition and only publishes pamphlets). There has been a big rise in pamphlet publishing and competitions generally. From my reading around, it seems there are more debut-only presses in the US.

Why set up a poetry press?

I’d been thinking about it for a couple of years and was finally moved to when Salt closed its poetry imprint. I felt there were lots of poets not being published who really merited a first collection or pamphlet (if younger/less experienced, etc). I almost felt, as a poet myself, and someone who didn’t have to rely on public funding for the first few books, that I had an obligation to set up a press! Only publishing debuts and pamphlets means I’m launching the poet and then they go for their next collection with someone else. So, I don’t have to commit beyond one book for each poet – I think it will leave me free to publish more people in the long run.


Track record

Yes, the submission guidelines state that you have to have a track record of print publication in some of the better known journals. Shortlisted or prize-winning poetry is also a bonus. I’m not so keen on only online publishing because so few are respected editorially. I’ve seen dreadful typos, etc. online.
The publication track record shows that you are able to polish your work to a certain level and that you’re not a beginner. I’m not in a position to mentor anyone – though I think that’s a great route for beginners if they can afford it and have the time.

What are you looking for in a submission?

I want to be surprised by unusual, fantastic, imaginative use of language. Beginner-poet giveaways are clichés that haven’t been edited out and line endings that have no meaning. Sometimes subject matter might initially put me off, but the writing will redeem it. I believe that nothing is off limits as a topic for poetry – it just depends how you write it. If I like someone’s submission I will find myself thinking about it all the time. Sometimes I’ll read something and the proverbial hairs go up on the back of my neck. With both Sarah Sibley and Jill Munro’s work I was surprised, amused and kept thinking about their imagery and ideas.


What kind of writing interests and surprises you?

I am often surprised by good writing on subjects that don’t interest me. I know it’s possible to write good poetry about anything, but rarely do I find poetry about professional sports, young love, dreams or menstruation interesting. I know lots of people write about these things and if the writing is good, I’m interested! I like to be proven wrong. The kind of poets I’m interested in and can read again and again are Elizabeth Bishop, Frank O’Hara, Lowell, Heaney, Michael Donaghy, Carol Ann Duffy, to name a few.

Many thanks for your time Jennifer.


Hungover with rhododendrons



A June Day at Riverhill

The wind shifts time across the walled garden,
whispers memories of a lime-free hillside

before the Waterloo Cedar, the Dawn Redwood
and the Turkey Oak dropped anchor;

before the Japanese maple and Himalayan azaleas
tiptoed in from the deep pockets of plant hunters.

On this June day the garden is dizzy – hungover
with rhododendrons. And along the edges

of steep woodland walks an intoxicating smell
of wild garlic pushes tired legs to the summit –

listen to yesterday’s music in the unfolding landscape,
like children catching a rainbow for the first time.


Valerie Morton



Who thought to call me that?
As though a vixen needs a home for hands ─
if she did, would they be lacy, white and tight?
Elegant evening gloves on speed reaching
from paw to elbow crook.

Or if they’re for her mate, Monsieur Reynard,
would they be thick and rough and hard?
Encrusted gardening gloves for pawing up
the mud and ringing Jack Rabbit’s neck,
when he is unearthed?

Or would they be striped and woolly mitts,
knitted for their kits? Tiny bright paw-shapes
strung on stretchy long elastic through
orange, mangy coats.

Digitalis Purpurea is my better, formal name.
My colour purple, I’m wild, multiplying free,
tall and spikey, inedible, toxic. Don’t you dare
mess with me – the gloves are off.

Jill Munro

poems in wind


The softest whisper
sighs this volcano of trees.
Peace of ancestry.

Luigi Marchini


Mayfield Fringe Festival – Poetry Reading


Several years ago I read at the Mayfield Festival alongside Gill McEvoy and Sue Roe. Jill Munro tells me about this year’s event (her first full reading!) on Sunday May 3rd at the Middle House, 7-8 pm.  Doors open 6.30 pm.

‘The sweetest village in England’ so wrote the poet, Coventry Patmore, of Mayfield in East Sussex. The Medieval Village is currently hosting its 3rd Fringe Festival (25th April – 3rd May) celebrating visual arts, story telling, music, performance and poetry – and I’m one of three poets taking part in a reading on the last day of the festival at Middle House, the lovely pub/restaurant, aptly, in the middle of the village. It is a wonderful Elizabethan building, dating back to 1575 which has a cosy atmosphere and a heavily oak panelled restaurant.


The other poets – Patricia McCarthy and Robin Houghton – are experienced readers on the ‘circuit’ but this will be my first public reading of several of my poems in one session – I’ve only ever previously read an individual poem in public. So this will mean thinking about timing, length of poems and selecting the poems to be read from my forthcoming collection ‘Man from La Paz’ (Green Bottle Press, London). I had hoped the book would be out there by now but, as is often the case in publishing, it’s been delayed until next month. I’m looking forward to what I hope will be a convivial atmosphere and enjoying Robin’s and Patricia’s readings – at least the pub-goers can have a drink or supper to supplement the poetry! Well, I’ll be doing that anyway … seems a shame not to in such a lovely setting and I’ve heard from reliable sources the food is yummy.’



Allotment Man

Last night I dreamt you sprouted from the land,
naked, with a large onion in each hand.
Your head glowed pumpkin orange, not carved
or chiselled, but handsome just the same,
your nose lengthened to a parsnip. Your eyes?
Ripening, rolling black-eyed peas and, quite clearly,
your ears were cauliflowered, so prettily floretted.

Your onion-hand flicked casually, as it often does,
not at strands of hair, but plaited garden twine.
Your bulging forearms curved courgettely,
as both calves deepened to dark marrow green
below your mud-clung, spuddy knees. Giant
mushroom buttocks bloomed (possibly Portobello)
as your round belly switched from pink to gourdy yellow
and then the Armenian cucumber began to grow …

So with scarlet-flowering runner beans curling
round your pearly garlic-dimpled thighs,
I newspaper-packed you in my garden shed,
hoping you’d not rot, and still be there today
as, and this is just aching to be said,
I do truly dig my Allotment Man. Let’s play.


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