Magma 59 London Review Bookshop launch


Last night’s launch at the London Review Bookshop was a great evening, a friend said, “worthwhile and life enhancing”. There are so many poetry events going on that it is hard to make time to attend many of them, so this one was extra special because it was a brilliant venue, the poets reading were a pleasure to hear and Lorraine Mariner and Colette Bryce held the audience spellbound.

Roberta James and Alex Pryce edited this issue – they wanted, “poems of such creative energy, poems that show how words strain under the burden yet still let in the light.” I think they got them. If you haven’t thought about subscribing, have a think about it now and follow this link: Magma

A couple of poems from their site and, oh yes, one of them is mine 😉


By William Stephenson

Around five, when the Polish girl touches my elbow
to lead me downstairs to eat, the curtains ignite
like the shot-down Messerschmitt I saw;
struts exposed, ribs of a crackling corpse.
A hot turpentine wash as the drop-tank explodes;
the pilot dangles from his chute five fields away,
an exclamation mark punctuating the sky.

I assemble the memory. It comes in prefab parts
whose tapering extrusions grip the frame;
an Airfix kit I stick together, propeller, fuselage,
cannon. If my eyes could cope I’d find my old
darning tin, unravel a thread, hang the model,
tap it so it twists; evasive action. But cataracts
shrivel the world; residue flakes off a dry seam;

I see only the corpse of glue. Still, this evening,
when the sun crashes into room 209,
I teeter on the cockpit’s lip, bail out and
fly, leaving the shell to fry in kerosene.
Halfway from heaven, I watch the horizon
yaw and right itself, the silk dome fill.
The Polish girl screams, a plunging engine.


Nesting in the Wardrobe

By Abegail Morley

She takes her child-small hands from her pockets, shakes them
till her fingers tingle at the pads, shelters air in her palms
as if it were a white-blue egg that might just wake.

Her time ticks in shameful hours – cedared, Yardley-soaped,
she hides at the back behind black dresses, chiffon blouses,
knee-high boots until the lolling egg rolls from her grasp, white-blue,

slips from her fingertips and she watches it (as if in slow motion)
collide with the edge of the wardrobe door. Skull first,
it’s struck like plate glass and she’s stuck in no man’s land

with only startled air and centimetres between them.
Her voice, huddled in her throat, lets out only the slightest sound,
amniotic fluid flows in rivulets down her wrists, spills like silk.


Magazine of the month: The Reader

The readerPublished quarterly since 1997, The Reader offers the whole literary mix: new fiction and poetry, classic and neglected works, interviews with leading figures in the world of the arts, thought-pieces, advice for reading groups, research into reading and news from the world of books.

Recent issues have included poetry from Sean Haldane, Jean Sprackland, John indexBurnside and Michael Schmidt, as well as a selection of reflections on the work of Thomas Hardy and George Herbert. The magazine also features regular contributions from Ian McMillan, Brian Nellist, Enid Stubin and The Reader Organisation’s Director and Founder, Jane Davis.

Poetry and Short Fiction

Poetry and short fiction accounts for 20-25% of each issue of The Reader and they encourage published and non-published writers to send in their work.

As a guideline for length/quantity, short stories or (more rarely) extracts from novels are normally 2,000-2,500 words long, and they ask that no more than six poems are submitted at one time. Only one short story should be submitted at one time.


General Articles: The Reader publishes longer articles on individual writers, on aspects of literature, on literature and thought, and on the role of reading in life. These range from 1,500-2,000 words in length. Here, as elsewhere, the editors look for freshness of perception and quality of engagement.

Reviews: The magazine welcomes reviews of recent titles in the fields of poetry, fiction, autobiography, literary biography and literary criticism. Purely destructive reviews are not usually published. Reviews are normally between 1,000-2,500 words long but they can be shorter. They should include full details of the book reviewed.

Recommendations: The ‘Reader Recommends’ section of the magazine is an opportunity to commend a favourite or recently-discovered work, usually (but not necessarily) of fiction. Titles have included ancient classics as well as modern novels. The editors look for work which communicates why the book matters, and which makes telling use of quotation. Recommendations are normally 500 words long.

Alternatively, you could write a shorter recommendation for their ‘Good Books’ section, which is usually around  50 to 100 words.

Click here to find out more.


Flarestack Poets – an interview with the editors

Flarestack Poets 2

Can you tell me a bit about Flarestack Poets and its roots?


Flarestack Poets emerged in 2008, when Charles Johnson, who had been publishing pamphlets as well as the journal ‘Obsessed with Pipework’ under the Flarestack imprint since 1995, decided to focus on the journal and look for a new editor or editors for the pamphlets.

Jacqui and I had both recently had pamphlets published by Flarestack. That’s how we got to know each other; co-incidentally we both live in Birmingham and had both thought of setting up as publishers ourselves, so we realized it might be both interesting and energy-efficient to work together. Flarestack already had a formidable reputation for publishing an eclectic mix of grass-roots poetry; and it was typically generous of Charles to give us a free hand in developing our own imprint – Flarestack Poets.


We both felt strongly that we wanted to maintain the ethos of the earlier Flarestack imprint but we also agreed that we wanted Flarestack Poets to be distinctive in what it published and how the pamphlets looked. We began with a competition, for a number of reasons. One was that we were open to whatever was out there; we didn’t just want to publish poets we knew personally. I think that being based in the West Midlands, particularly as that’s where I’m from, must affect the way I respond to poetry, but we receive submissions from all over the world and we’re prepared to publish work from anywhere. The competition also raised awareness of the new Flarestack Poets and created a certain amount of excitement. And of course it brought in some revenue to support the set up of the press and publishing our first titles.  We’ve never sought public funding, from the Arts Council or elsewhere. From a very large entry, submitted anonymously, we chose Wake by Cliff Forshaw and Advice On Wearing Animal Prints by Selima Hill; we also published an anthology of the best single poems, Mr Barton Isn’t Paying. We had clear ideas about appearance right from the start and we worked with designers and printers to achieve the look we still have, strongly typographical, with no image on the cover, apart from the flare logo, each pamphlet as far as possible a different colour which is carefully chosen to reflect the content as we see it, and the name of the press on the front cover, along with title and author. A number of presses don’t display their own name on the front, so that at book fairs it’s sometimes quite hard to identify them. Some people collect our books and there’s nothing wrong with branding If the content is good.

agau_0003_NEWHow many poems are there in a pamphlet and what makes a good pamphlet ?


The number of poems in a saddle-stitched pamphlet is limited by the number  of pages that can comfortably be fitted in between the covers; too many and the book won’t close flat. We use good quality paper inside so forty pages is probably the most we could accommodate. We pay a great deal of attention to  spacing when we’re typesetting. Though we have used different fonts where appropriate for particular titles – for example Ag&Au, which has a poem about John Baskerville, is set in Baskerville Old Face as a tribute to him – our house font is Garamond which is very airy on the page and we don’t like our pamphlets to look as if we’ve squashed too many poems in. Unless there is a particular reason to, we don’t normally set more than one poem on a page and most of our titles have 32 pages of poems or less. I’m keen on using constraints in my own writing, because they stimulate creativity, and I see the constraint on length being beneficial to our pamphlets. It means that authors and we as editors have to consider everything that goes in and what doesn’t need to be there, which helps to make each book an entity in itself. In selecting, we have to be aware how the poems work together as a collection, and of the overall effect, the whole being more than the gathering together of separate poems.


Essentially, however, when all’s said and done, there is no recipe for what makes a good pamphlet. What we’ve published has surprised us; poets have understood the form, played with it, extended it, delighted us – and that’s why we’ve published their work.

Where do you see pamphlet publishing in the poetry market?


I hope that what we’ve said convinces that the pamphlet occupies a unique place in the poetry market. It’s a thing in itself – it isn’t just a bunch of poems in search of a good home, and it isn’t begging to be bedded in a full collection. Take a look at David Hart’s Misky; Claire Crowther’s Incense; or Alasdair Paterson’s Brumaire and Later for example – or indeed at any of our pamphlets. Each offers a unique experience in which form and content are inextricably linked. We believe that the form is flourishing, and that poets are beginning to see it as a particularly delicious challenge.

I’m optimistic about the future of poetry pamphlets in the world of e-readers and smartphones, because of the very particular aesthetic quality of the experience they offer. Like a number of other independent poetry publishers, we care deeply about paper, typography, colour, and layout. We think of Flarestack Poets pamphlets as small pieces of art with a cover price of £4.50 – just a bit more than a cup of coffee – making them widely affordable.

From the poets’ point of view, we publish quite rapidly once a manuscript has been accepted – weeks or months, rather than years, as is the case with longer collections from mainstream publishers.


I agree with all that Meredith has said here. I’ve come to value pamphlets more and more as we’ve gone on. At the start I had vague ideas about us ‘graduating’ to full, perfect bound collections one day, but now that’s unlikely, because, for all the reasons Meredith has said, pamphlets seem to me to be the best print vehicle for poetry. It’s a shame, though, that the poetry establishment, if such a thing exists, doesn’t recognise the value of pamphlets more. There’s only one major national award for pamphlets, the Michael Marks, compared with the Forward, the Costa, and the T S Eliot for full collections. It would be good if the Forward, amongst its many categories, introduced a pamphlet award, and if pamphlets were short-listed for the other major awards as a sign that quality matters as much as quantity.

You won the Michael Marks Award with Selima Hill’s Advice On Wearing Animal Prints, can you tell me about this and what it means to the press?

Jacqui:Flarestack Poets 1

In 2010 Selima won The Michael Marks Poetry Award, which recognises an outstanding work of poetry published in pamphlet form in the UK. The award that Selima won is to the poet, not the publisher. However, that one of our first three titles won the only major British annual award for poetry in pamphlet form was wonderful. For me it was an affirmation that we’d done the right thing by starting the press and it vindicated our decision to begin by running a competition. Selima had taken a huge risk for such a well-known poet by submitting anonymously to a competition run by an imprint that hadn’t published anything yet, so it was gratifying that she won the award.  Advice On Wearing Animal Prints is a terrific pamphlet, and still one of our best-sellers.


I can still remember the impact of that manuscript on first reading. It was exhilarating; and, while emotionally savage, it was also beautifully constructed and hilariously funny. When Selima came to read here in Birmingham at the launch, the audience reacted quite spontaneously with appreciative laughter.  That enjoyment, shared with readers and later, with the judges of the Michael Marks, was a reward in itself. Advice on Wearing Animal Prints set a high bar for later pamphlets; but I think having one of our first pamphlets win the Michael Marks strengthened our trust in our own gut reactions.

What advice would you give to poets about submitting to you?


Look on our website at www.flarestackpoets.co.uk to find out when we’re open for submissions. We find material in a variety of ways. We’ve run competitions (in 2008 and 2012) and we’ve recently had a three month window for submissions which ended at the end of July, so it’s likely we’ll be looking again in Spring/Summer 2014. When we are open for submissions there will be guidelines on the website about how to submit work.

If we don’t publish something, it doesn’t mean we think it’s unworthy. But we can only publish a tiny proportion of what we receive, and in order for us to take something on we have both to be very enthusiastic about it and its chances of finding a readership. It has to be doing something new in terms of either form or content – preferably both.

Flarestack Poets 2Jacqui:

Anyone hoping to be published by us should familiarise themselves with at least some of our titles. I used to believe that rejections saying, “Not for us” were just trying to be kind but now I realise it can be true. Having said that, the more we publish, the less easy it is to define exactly what we’re looking for, because, as Meredith said earlier, there isn’t a recipe for a good pamphlet. For me, the response to receiving a submission I would like to publish has always been physical at first, a gut reaction, yes, but also tingling and trembling and wanting to punch the air, quickly followed by the cerebral, which is about wanting to read the whole thing through again. Though it’s good if the author is active in promoting his or her work, ultimately it does depend on the poetry. We’re happy to publish debut collections as well as those from established poets. In competitions we’ve committed ourselves to publishing without knowing anything about the authors and never been disappointed, particularly as our competition winners have won the Michael Marks and been the PBS pamphlet  choice. I think that before submitting anywhere, poets should ask themselves if they’re ready to be published, what they expect to get out of it, and whether they’re prepared for disappointment, both at rejection and if the book is badly received or sinks without trace: publication isn’t an end in itself but a milestone on the path of a poet’s development. Also, they should carefully research and decide which publishers they would genuinely like to be published by, then follow those publishers’ guidelines, with an individual submission to each. Sending out a circular email, beginning ‘Dear Sir’, addressed to every publisher you’ve found on the Internet, including some who don’t even do poetry, probably reduces drastically the chances of work even being looked at.  And ultimately poetry publishing will increase if the market for poetry increases so anyone hoping to be published should be buying poetry if they can afford it, encouraging others to buy by persuading them how great it is and trying to get poetry into the wider world so that the people who read poetry are not only those who write it.

Meredith Andrea’s pamphlets are ‘Grasshopper Inscriptions’ (Flarestack) and ‘Organon’ (Knives, Forks and Spoons). ‘Screen of Brightness’ from Cinnamon Press is a book-length poetic collaboration with Fiona Owen.


Currently Writer in Residence at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Jacqui Rowe is a poet, mentor, workshop leader, independent literature producer, a tutor for the Poetry School and Poetry Editor for the Writers’ Workshop. She works extensively as a poet with people with dementia.
Her published pamphlets are ‘Blue’ (Flarestack), ‘Apollinaire’ (Perdika) and ‘Paint’ (Flarestack Poets).

Prole – interview with Brett Evans

prole11Earlier this month I caught up with Brett Evans, one of the editors at Prole and asked him a few questions about the magazine and the press.

When was Prole established and when did your first magazine appear?

Prole became a twinkle in both editors’ eyes over a few pints of Guinness in The Hope and Anchor in Heaton, Bolton, in the summer of 2009. My co-editor to be, Phil Robertson, and myself felt that many literary magazines were embracing an elite while distancing themselves from the general reader (only some I hasten to add. There are many that I admire and several I subscribe to) where style seemed to dominate accessibility and quality. We felt sure there was a space in the market for a journal which offered engaging and accessible poetry and prose. By accessible, I do not in any way mean lacking in quality. We quickly decided that we wanted our little baby to be fully independent, therefore we did not seek funding and decided to dig into our own shallow pockets.

Prole’s embryonic stages of doubt lasted until a business account was set up in February 2010 and issue 1 was born, to our delight, on April 6th of that same year – fathers and child all well.

What is it you look for in poetry submissions?

The short answer to that would be – great poetry. But poems can strike in so many different ways: the poem that grabs you by the throat with its first line and drags you along breathlessly, the more subtle and reflective poem that can appeal at once or become richer with every reading, the poem that lightly amuses or results in a belly laugh, but whatever the poem’s style or content it is weight and balance that are important. Is the poet verbose in what they are saying? And that old cliché, show don’t tell, still holds true.

Prole considers all poetry, and the wider the variety an issue contains the better, but it is the execution which must wow both editors. From the start our policy was that for a piece to be featured both editors would have to believe in it 100%. Contrary to popular belief editors are only human and sometimes a piece may be rejected not because it is bad writing but simply that the editors could not agree upon it. On occasion we have worked alongside contributors to strengthen a piece until editors and author all agree that it works better than when originally submitted.

You have very clear submission guidelines on your site, when it comes to a covering letter what information do you want to see?

Just common courtesy (and submissions to the correct address – poetry or prose – saves time). We get some submissions without so much as a ‘Hello’ which I find rude but if the work speaks for itself it will be considered.

Humour is always very nice to see in a cover letter or bio – even if the submission is not successful, making us smile goes a long way. We aim to respond to submissions within 3 – 4 weeks as both editors know what it is like to have publications sit on your submissions for months on end.

I’m really interested in the Prole Laureate competition, can you tell me more about it?

The Prole Laureate competition (along with its prose equivalent, The Prolitzer Prize) is an annual comp that offers cash and publication in Prole for the winner and two runners up. Each year there is a different judge (a poet we respect) and the editors filter the entries and send a selection of anonymous poems to said judge.

Unlike a lot of journals, Prole pays its contributors a profit share four months after each respective issue. As we do not rely on, nor seek any funding, the profits from our competitions go back into ensuring the continuation of Prole.

Outside of Prole, Prolebooks have published a handful of poetry pamphlets and collections with more to come later this year and in the new year. Our journey saw us starting on a steep learning curve. While we hope always to be learning more, it has been fun – our editorials outrageous fun at times – and we are pleased to have made positive and reaffirming relationships with our contributors and others. We hope to continue making many more. Prole never sleeps just passes out on occasion.

For further information our website can be found here http://www.prolebooks.co.uk/

and Prole can be followed on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Prole/236155444300?ref=hl

and Twitter https://twitter.com/


Who to submit to this summer?

Now the sun is out (I should be in the garden!) I’ve got the motivation to do something about the poems that have been hanging around and find homes for them. That’s not easy – it takes a lot of time to ensure the poems go to the right magazines, researching and reading them beforehand is a must. Subscriptions to lots of magazines can be costly, but back issues can give you a good idea of the type of writing that magazine favours. If you can get to The Poetry Library you can easily spend half a day browsing a whole range of magazines.

Poetry LibraryFollowing submission guidelines is a must and you can check this on the magazine’s website. For general guidelines the Poetry Library suggests:

Presentation of your poems is of major importance, and it is advised that you spend some time doing this. The following points, although not true for every magazine, are intended as general guidelines you should check before submitting your work:

  • Make sure that your poems are typewritten on a separate sheet and that they look clean and presentable
  • Do not send more than six poems unless the publication asks you to do this
  • Include a short and polite covering letter to the editor/s
  • Always be sure to send a stamped addressed envelope with your poems, for the editor/s to make their reply
  • Always keep your own copies of poems in case the ones you send go missing
  • It is usual to have to wait for a period of time to get a response. Depending on the magazine, the Editor/s may be inundated with submissions and need time to get through this
  • It is unlikely that you will be paid in money for having your poems published, but it is usual to at least receive a free copy of the magazine. It is not usual to have to pay yourself to have your work published

submitAs an editor I always feel disappointed (and a bit cross) by poets who email their work saying “See below” or “Poems attached”. I think it’s rude not to include a formal letter (using the editor’s name is a bonus and might get you brownie points). Once you’ve sent out your work there’s usually that long wait for replies, the dread of the envelope that feels stuffed with the poems you posted, or the email subject line “Your submission” which makes you hold your breath before clicking on it. You might be interested to read what Robin Houghton says about this.

Have a look here at the list of magazines and follow the links to their site. A couple of my favourites are The Frogmore Papers and New Walk magazine.

Jo Hemmant

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.

Jeremy Page

Jeremy Page: Featured Poet



They say it smells of dead holidays.
I say it always did.  And out of season
was never the time to connect anything
with anything here, where you can only
wonder at the sea in all the shades
of grey on Richter’s palette, wonder
where the ice-cream vendors go
and if the deckchair man can really
hibernate in his cave beneath the cliff,
with his chairs, his memories of summer.

On the pier a salt breeze ruffles
a scrap of gaudy poster,  and offshore,
somewhere close, a ship’s bell tolls
for something gone, for some thing .


Jeremy Page has edited The Frogmore Papers since 1983.  His short stories have been published in magazines like Ambit, Citizen 32 and The Interpreter’s House, and he is the author of several collections of poems, most recently In and Out of the Dark Wood (HappenStance, 2010).  His work has been translated into German and Romanian, and a selection of his poems was recently broadcast on Radio Romania Cultural in English and Romanian.  His own translations of Catullus are published by Ashley Press as The Cost of All Desire.  His play Loving Psyche was staged in Bremen in 2010.


The Cost of All Desire: after Catullus (Ashley Press, 2011) available through good bookshops, from Skylark in Lewes, or by post (£5.00) from: The Frogmore Press, 21 Mildmay Road, Lewes BN7 1PJ.

In and Out of the Dark Wood (HappenStance Press, 2010) available from HappenStance (or through good bookshops)

The Alternative Version (Frogmore Press, 2001) available through good bookshops, from Skylark in Lewes, or by post (£4.95) from: The Frogmore Press, 21 Mildmay Road, Lewes BN7 1PJ.

Secret Dormitories (Crabflower Pamphlets, 1993) out of print

Bliss (Crabflower Pamphlets, 1989) out of print