Jo Hemmant, Sharon Black

Interview with Sharon black editor of Pindrop press

Billy CollinsCheryl Pearson’s Bob CooperMark RussellElisabeth Sennitt Clough

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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.

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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?

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Cora Greenhill

Cora Greenhill featured poet

Cora greenhill

A Hum

A colony has been moved from the loft
this morning, the rafters scraped clear
of their stash of sticky gold.

Brick-sized ingots drip into buckets,
bowls overflow. The girl who cleans knows
honey’s royal role in winter remedies

and how it keeps you young. Her grandma’s
skin is soft as a baby’s at eighty, she says.
Today, she’s straining and storing the harvest

for the bankers who bought the house
with the honey in it. They know nothing about it,
she says. Just sniff at the mess.

They know even less about her, the help,
and the man who’s followed her from Waterford,
erected a tent in their orchard.

How she trickles downstairs, slides into night,
belly brimming amber, trembling
to be touched, to be tasted.

How the tent walls billow,
how the orchard is flooded with light,
and the lovers are humming somewhere

outside of themselves, without names,
or addresses, on sweet rooty earth, where air
smells of honey musk, the heather in bloom.

By the end of the week, jars are sealed,
shelves stacked, tables scrubbed –
the kitchen reeks of Vim.

She is replete, still perfumed by him.
The bankers pay her to leave.

 

Cora Greenhill grew up in rural Ulster, mostly outdoors, escaping the turbulence of family life. She has lived in The Peak District for nearly 30 years. She studied literature at Warwick University, most memorably with tutor Germaine Greer, a lifelong inspiration. She’s had a long and varied teaching career, the high point of which came early, at The University of Nigeria just after the Biafran War.

Cora’s latest collection, Far From Kind is published by Pindrop Press. She self-published two collections and The Point of Waking came out with Oversteps Books in 2013. She hosts Writers in The Bath, the premier poetry reading venue in Sheffield!

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Emer Gillespie’s shed

emer

MY SHED

 
If I had a shed, it would be a cold walk down
a frosty garden, filled with white, feathered grasses,
leaf mulch in flower beds, to the far corner
and a door with a lock and bolt, stiff to slide open
 
with my gloved fingers, the house behind
calling me back. Pushing on into the gloom, I would
turn on the gas on that camping stove I’ve had for years,
strike match after match, until the flame took,
 
blue with yellow at its heart, and put the water on.
Getting used to the smell of mildew and the lack of light,
I’d look around, find, leaning up against the wall,
that bookcase filled with books I’ll always keep,
 
take in the table, the skewiff chair, the open notebook
and the pen, quickly glance down, as if avoiding
some old friend I can’t bring myself to talk to on the street,
I’d place a teabag in the old, chipped mug, sink
 
into that button-backed armchair I had as a girl,
threadbare now, sagging where it should, keeping my coat
wrapped around me, tight against the cold, listening
to the slow rumble of water coming to the boil,
 
breathing out, watching my breath, blowing rings,
look towards the window, ice that patterns the cracked glass
creating a haze beyond which the garden hibernates,
a phone rings somewhere else, steam rises,
 
gas flames and the ice begins to melt, soften, disintegrate.
The page won’t go away. The pen rolls across the table.
If I had a shed, I’d stand, cross over, straighten up
that skewiff chair, take off my coat.

 
 
Emer Gillespie is co-founder of Ekphrasis with Abegail Morley and Catherine Smith and currently researching a PhD at Kent in Poetry and Translation working with Dante’s Commedia.

Her first collection, THE INSTINCT AGAINST DEATH, was published by Pindrop Press in October 2012.

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Jo Hemmant’s shed

garden-shed
 

Chaperone

 
Tipsy on a swig of Cinzano and lemonade,
you watch the local hunk
 
send halos of smoke
to the ceiling of his garden shed –
 
his left hand in your mate’s lap
like a cat; like opportunity.
 
He passes you his soggy roll-up;
you can’t reel your smile in fast enough
 
and as the Sex Pistols shriek
Frigging in the Rigging’, he moves in
 
for the kill, the lyrics as daring
as him squeezing the 34Cs
 
you’d give anything to have.
She doesn’t object.
 
The words enough’s enough
lounge around in your throat.
 
 

Jo Hemmant lives in rural Kent with her husband and two sons. In late 2010 she founded Pindrop Press, a boutique poetry press. Her own poems have appeared in anthologies and magazines and won prizes in various competitions. Her first collection, The Light Knows Tricks, is available from Doire Pres.

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Sharon Black’s shed

Shed

Shed

I hand you nails
to secure the roof felt
torn off in a gale. Inch by
inch, you work the spine
like an osteopath.
I stand on tiptoe
watching you unroll
the pitch into place,
my back rod-straight
as you hammer down
each square. And I think
how I’d have left
the shed till spring
when, shoving open
the rickety door, we’d have found
the deckchairs slimy,
the dolphin burst,
towels damp,
the rot set in.

Sharon Black is originally from Glasgow but now lives in the Cévennes mountains of southern France with her husband and their two young children. In her past life she was a journalist and taught English in France and Japan. In her current one she organizes creative writing retreats at her home in France: http://abricreativewriting.com/

She has won The Frogmore Prize 2011, The New Writer competition 2010 for Best Poetry Collection and the Envoi International Poetry Prize 2009. She was runner-up in the Wigtown Book Festival Poetry Competition 2011, and came 2nd in both the Kent and Sussex Open Poetry Competition 2011, judged by Jo Shapcott, and Agenda Poetry Competition 2011.

Her first collection, To Know Bedrock, was published by Pindrop Press.

Janet Sutherland

Janet Sutherland: Featured Poet

It was great to meet Janet at her joint launch with Jeremy Page a couple of weeks ago and amazingly the poem she sent me for this blog is my favourite in the collection. Serendipity?

janet sutherland

 

My Red Morocco Jack Boots

There are seven stations between Belgrade and Alexnitza
where changing horses takes an hour. At Pashapolanca
we had bread and slivovitz then lay on hard board
and slept very soundly. In white caps and German blouses,

Turkish trousers, with twelve yards of stuff, and jack boots
(mine were red morocco) our cavalcade moved off.
At night the path was very striking, summer lightning
pierced the dense foliage. I am not a Romantic

but here and there we came suddenly upon
encampments of caravans from Stambul and glimpsed
the wild forms of shadow men around a blazing fire.
At one such place I left my companions

these travel notes being all I took. They blundered
onwards to their next hotel, a consul dinner
in a dirty town, while I dismounted gesturing
and asking, in English, for the local wine.

These days I while away my time in idle pleasures
for the men are very sociable and well disposed.
I found a good specimen of a Serbian woman,
alone in the woods on her way to market,

her hair dyed black and twisted to one side;
she wore, like the Greeks, a tight under vest,
a purple velvet jacket, embroidered in gold and silver,
a treble row of ducats around her neck

and a silk petticoat which slipped through my fingers
like the river Morava. A practical woman,
she saw what I wanted, and opened her legs
by the side of the mountain, saying nothing.

 

Janet Sutherland was born in Wiltshire and grew up on a dairy farm. She has an MA in American Poetry from the University of Essex. Her poems are widely anthologised from The Virago Book of Love Poetry to The New British Poetry 1968-88 (Paladin). Her essay Reznikoff and his Sources appeared in the recent Black Sparrow (US) and Five Leaves (UK) editions of Reznikoff’s Holocaust. She lives in Lewes, East Sussex. She has three full collections from Shearsman Books the most recent of which is Bone Monkey (April 2014)

This new collection from Janet Sutherland explores the deeply mischievous, but darkly malevolent figure of Bone Monkey. A trickster who has always existed, he’s one of the old gods who sprang to life fully formed. He is by turns perpetrator and poet, murderer and lover, gardener and carer.

With sonnets, ballads and lyrical free verse Bone Monkey wanders through a series of shamanic creation myths into reveries on memory, love and loss. If he is brutal and amoral at times, he is also a dreamer rejoicing in those longings to eat the whole world, as Robert Bly has it, which are intrinsically human.

Shearsman Books

Jo Hemmant

Jo Hemmant: Featured Poet

Jo Hemmant

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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.

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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.

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Garry Ely: Featured Poet

.Garry

You’ve been reprieved,
or so I believe.

It is possible for you to walk today from Tintagel
to Boscastle.
This abrupt descent
takes you down to the bay. Your footfalls cease.
You are recuperating
in the whitened air: fatigued,
unafraid;
and silently waiting for me
to catch you up.

.

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Garry Ely was born in Tunbridge Wells in 1953 and studied at Newcastle University. He was head of buying for an organic food company for many years and is now a support worker in a community mental health team for older people in Oxford. Angel Visits brings together poems written over a lifetime.

Angel Visits is a delicate and moving sequence which manages, through its clarity of expression and control of language, to deal with intensely personal and painful material while never excluding the reader. Each short poem is complete in itself, emotionally rich and full of allusion and yet with never a word too many: in each, the language is pared back to the minimum to leave the central image pulsing like an exposed nerve. The cumulative result is a powerful and finely-judged insight into and evocation of love, loss and grief.’ Caroline Price

‘I encountered the unmistakeable bullseye, the authentic maximum…when you know, by whatever means, that this is the real thing.

“Incurious,
condemned, you go on staring at the broken shapes
your clothes make in the shadows,
preparing to give themselves away.”

Very sad; very good poetry.’ Kit Wright

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Launch of Eva and George

The Young Plan: 1929cover eva

Whiteman, your King of Jazz,
dazzles you. Germany cannot pay.
We watch as banks slump,
benefactors bankrupt; you paint
body parts recumbent:
a thigh out of place, a torso
limbless, a breast of lace.

Tonight you play the banjo
and we remember our forgotteness:
Germany pivoting on its wheel
in the darkness and you crossing
through granite to pick and pick
at its city, extracting life
from crystal seams.

 

Widmung an Oskar Panizza

In this infernal abyss you paint your psychiatrist
and lunatics, bleed them on to paper: Liebeskonzil
syphilis, hellscape. Here in your red world,
the grim reaper rides the coffin, takes a slug
of spirits, drops the dead in some pitiless pit.

There’s no mercy with your marauders, your whole street
clambers through chaos and somewhere in it
you’re trapped opening and closing your sketchbook
like it’s a pair of wings desperate to leave.

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Copies now available from

Pindrop Press

“These are fine hard-bitten poems with the imaginative strength and resonance to stand alongside the work of George Grosz without    being in any way diminished by it. The realisation of Eva Peter’s voice is a triumph, and introduces Abegail Morley as one of our most impressive and rewarding poets.”   Peter Bennet

“Abegail Morley’s sequence Eva and George: Sketches in Pen and Brush, marked by both  authenticity and originality, impresses with startling imagery and the striking juxtaposition of the private and the public. Her poetic  account of George Grosz and Eva Peter’s life in the Weimar Republic is at the same time a compelling panorama of a whole era characterized by struggle, violence and radicalism.” Wolfgang Görtschacher, Poetry Salzburg Review

“Morley skilfully captures the rawness of George Grosz’s acerbic images of despots and outcasts in post WWI Germany,while tenderly evoking a portrait of the man behind the art. In lucidly-voiced poems spoken by his wife, Eva Peter, she explores the passion and compassion that drove him. In doing so, she reminds us of the casual and calculated malice we are capable of inflicting on each other in daily living, and that ‘We are those passers-by’.”

Heidi Williamson