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Pamphlet: Chat 2 with Suzanna Fitzpatrick

A quick chat with Suzanna Fitzpatrick

szWhat was it that steered you towards publishing a pamphlet?
I have been writing poetry all my life, but focussed on it more when I became a freelance writer and editor in 2006. After building up a track record of poems in magazines and anthologies, I wanted to work towards a pamphlet, and felt that a themed sequence would work best for this format. I actually have several pamphlet-length sequences; some drawing on my work as a volunteer shepherd, for example, but these poems are closest to my heart for obvious reasons.

How long did it take to build up the poems?
I began writing the poems in 2011, when pregnant with my son. This obviously coincided with a period in my life when I didn’t get much writing time! However, I scribbled down notes as ideas for poems came to me, and came back to them whenever I had a moment. Hence the sequence begins with pregnancy poems, and moves through birth, breastfeeding, and the early days of motherhood. The later poems consider experiences as my son begins to fledge out into the world and encounters all the joys and hazards that this entails. Some of these were written as recently as the end of 2015, by which time I was pregnant with my daughter, now nearly 7 months old. Here we go again…

How did you choose a press?
There are many great small presses; we seem to be having a wonderful renaissance period as far as pamphlet publication is concerned. But Sheila Wakefield does a particularly brilliant job of producing books which are both beautiful objects, and full of interesting ideas. Red Squirrel is 10 years old this year; interestingly the same amount of time as I’ve been focussing on poetry. Having long admired their work, I submitted ten poems from Fledglings to their James Kirkup Memorial Prize in 2014, and was delighted when Sheila called me last spring to say that I had been selected as the winner by judges Bob Beagrie and Stevie Ronnie.

When you first saw the publication what did you think?
I was thrilled when my box of pamphlets arrived. Things have been so hectic since my daughter was born that I did the final proofs very much on the fly and forgot even to ask what the cover would be like. But Sheila had hit upon one of my favourite colours. The typesetting is meticulous, and each poem is given plenty of space on the page. As for any poet, holding one’s debut publication in one’s hands after years of work is very moving. The pamphlet very much feels like my third child – hopefully the first of many (books, that is; no more babies, or I’ll never get any writing done!).

Fledglings

I stroke the tiny kites
of your shoulder blades,
imagine wings. Gingerly

I stretch my own.
It’s been so long
since I trusted them.

As your nestling’s down
gives place to feathers,
I’ll re-learn flight with you. Let’s stand,

teeter-happy, brink-thrilled,
taste the wind. And we’ll soar,
my darling. We will soar.

 

 

Duet

I sing to you.
My notes rise like bubbles
through a darkness warmed by breath,
telling an old, old story
like the freshest news.
You listen, stir
in time to the music,
reassure me. I move my hand
across the dome of you
your fingers tracing mine
on the other side of my belly’s glass.

On the other side of your belly’s glass,
your fingers tracing mine
across the dome of you
reassure me. I move my hand
in time to the music
and you listen, stir,
like the freshest news
telling an old, old story
through a darkness warmed by breath.
My notes rise like bubbles:
I sing to you.

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Poetry Pamphlets – Indigo Dreams spills the beans…

IndigoWe had been looking to create a poetry pamphlet division for some time, as it’s a format we enjoy. As a self-funding indie company we had to be certain the time was right and last year we made our entry to this market. We wanted our pamphlets to show the same production values we give to their big brothers, be perfect bound and have identity branding.

We like poetry pamphlets for many reasons. Among them is the thread that runs through many poetry pamphlets, a general theme that, although sometimes less obvious than others, unifies under one title. There may be insufficient numbers of such poems to fill a full-length collection, so they would be a section of the whole. Here they can be the entirety.

A glance through some of the pamphlets we have published to date show themes as different as the people of a village in Italy, the natural world, the human body, the various guises of ‘gods’, railways – even a correlation between poetry and poultry! Those yet to be published have themes as varied as the Solway Firth, the theatre, a relationship with a grandson…we love the diversity!

They are affordable (or more affordable) and can easily be read in one sitting, should the reader choose to do so. They no longer serve as an introduction to new poets, but are now an established and respected form in their own right.  And pamphlets do of course have their own awards and prizes, like the Michael Marks and Callum MacDonald, Templar,  Poetry Book Society, Cinnamon and, shortly, Indigo Pamphlets.

Brett cover

Bretts poem

Indigo Dreams has a very strong commitment to poetry, (and we were delighted to receive the Ted Slade Award for Services to Poetry this year) and will continue to combine new poets with the more established. One example of a first publication success was Brett Evans pamphlet, The Devil’s Tattoo. It can only help a newly published poet to not only be runner-up in its category in the recent Saboteur Awards, but also to read comments like ‘these poems cut like rust’, ‘a deeply divine read’, ‘displays both vulnerability and wit’, ‘eye-opening soul baring magic’. Greg Freeman’s ‘Trainspotters’ was read by Brian Patten who wrote to Greg saying his pamphlet has “more going for it than many a fatter collection. The poems are snapshots of gone and going worlds, more evocative than any photo.” That quickly made it to the back cover!

This year we will publish almost twenty pamphlets, some new voices with a track record in magazines but no previous publication, some by established poets including Bernard Kops, William Oxley and –don’t edit this out! – Abegail Morley. Your own pamphlet, Abegail, is a perfect example of how a pamphlet fills a void – a short series of poems based on the ruins at Scotney Castle, too small for a large collection, but perfect for a pamphlet.

Its popularity among poets is proven by the number of enquiries and submissions we receive each month. Along with our three magazines, collections and anthologies, our pamphlet division is here to stay. The amount we publish will, as ever, be determined by what we enjoy, our physical capacity and the quality of submissions we receive.
Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn BaulingCapture

 

 

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Flarestack Poets – an interview with the editors

Flarestack Poets 2

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

 Meredith:

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.

Jacqui:

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 ?

Jacqui:

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.

Meredith:

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?

 Meredith:

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.

Jacqui:

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.

Meredith:

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?

 Meredith:

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.

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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).
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2012/13 International Book and Pamphlet Competition

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The 2012/13 Poetry Business Book & Pamphlet Competition

“One of the career milestones for very many poets of note has been winning the prestigious Poetry Business competition.” — Anne-Marie Fyfe

 

The 27th annual Poetry Business Book & Pamphlet Competition is now open for entries.

JUDGE: Simon Armitage.

DEADLINE: Last post on 29 November 2012, or online by midnight on 1 December.  EXTENDED! Last post on 18 December, or online by midnight on 19 December*

ENTRY FEE: £25, or £20 for North subscribers, Friends of the Poetry Business and members of the Poetry Society. A £1 surcharge is applied to online entries.

The Book & Pamphlet Competition invites entrants to submit a collection of 20-24 pages of poems for the chance to win a cash prize and publication by Smith/Doorstop Books.

Four first stage winners are selected and given the opportunity to submit a full-length manuscript to the second round of the competition, in which one of them can win book publication. The three first-stage winners receive pamphlet publication.

All four winners will receive an equal share of £2,000, and have a launch reading at The Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere (Spring 2013) and read alongside Simon Armitage at the 2013 Off The Shelf Festival in Sheffield.

The judges

Simon Armitage was born in 1963 in Marsden, Yorkshire, and is Professor of Poetry at Sheffield University. He has published ten collections of poetry including Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus the Corduroy Kid (Faber & Faber) and his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the Death of King Arthur. His awards include one of the first Forward Prizes, The Sunday Times Young Author of the Year, a Lannan Award, and an Ivor Novello Award for his song-writing in the BAFTA-winning film Feltham Sings. He is also a playwright, novelist, regular broadcaster. His most recent prose memoir was his epic Pennine Way book, Walking Back Home.

Ann and Peter Sansom are directors of The Poetry Business and editors of The Northmagazine and Smith/Doorstop Books.  Ann’s publications include Romance and In Praise of Men & Other People (Bloodaxe) and Peter’s include Writing Poems (Bloodaxe) andSelected Poems (Carcanet).

The Sheffield Poetry Prize

The Sheffield Prize category was launched in 2008, to mark the Poetry Business’s move to Sheffield. The best single poem from each collection submitted by an entrant with a Sheffield postcode is automatically entered into the Sheffield Prize category, for the chance to win £100 and publication in The North magazine.

The University of Sheffield Faculty of Arts and Humanities

The Sheffield Poetry Prize is sponsored by the University of Sheffield Faculty of Arts and Humanities.

Previous winners

'Exploring the Orinoco' was a winner in the 2009 Competition

The winning collections are beautifully produced, widely promoted, reviewed in high quality poetry magazines and nationalnewspapers, and entered for all eligible awards and prizes. The collections are also launched at high profile readings and distributed via bookshops across the UK.

Consequently, many previous years’ competition winners have gone on to achieve glittering careers; including Mimi Khalvati, Michael Laskey, Patrick McGuinness, Allison McVety, Pascale Petit, Kathryn Simmonds and Catherine Smith.

In the words of Anne-Marie Fyfe, the Book & Pamphlet Competition has been “one of the career milestones for very many poets of note”.

Daljit Nagra:

“The publicity and reviews took my work seriously and I gained exposure in the PBS and the broadsheets. All this was entirely unexpected and absolutely thrilling. I still feel so excited to have been picked up by S/D at an early stage of my writing life.”

Michael Laskey:

“It was a wonderful boost of confidence for me, winning the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition. It felt like a justification of the time I spent writing and an encouragement to keep going. It was the original and only pamphlet competition back then, and so it felt particularly significant — that being judged anonymously on a group of poems, not just a single one.”

Read more from the previous winners here.

*This year’s Book & Pamphlet was launched very late, and we know that many people were struggling to get their manuscripts together on time as a result. As a result, we decided to extend the deadline.