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The Background To Shtum: The Stutter Poems David Bateman

Posted on October 22, 2016 by Rebecca Robinson | 0 comments

Stuttering And Writing 

I stuttered since soon after starting school.  It began as a simple repeat-stutter, where you’re saying the same syllable over and over, but by the time I was in my teens it had developed all the extras that stutters do.  So it became a block-stutter too, where you just get completely stuck, unable to say anything for a while except for the odd ‘Uh’ noise, and where you’re also grimacing badly as you try to force the word out.  Most children who stutter leave it behind at some point in their later childhood or teenage years; but as happens sometimes, mine just carried on with me.

     I started writing poetry properly when I was 16.  Cycling home from my Saturday job as a hospital cleaner, I’d often stop off at the bookshop for a browse.  This particular sunny June weekend, I noticed the names Henri, McGough and Patten on the spine of a book, and I recognized them as the names of the three poets on Grimms, a live album of music, poetry and comedy I’d heard at my friend Rob’s.  The poets were funny and serious at the same time; and, reading the book that evening, one of the poems reminded me of a dream I’d had, that I’d already written down as diary.  I thought maybe I could make a poem out of that, and I tried it.  Next day, at risk of being thought airy-fairy, I showed the poem to a couple of friends; and I think I was always going to be a writer from then on.  Admittedly I stuttered so badly I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to talk properly; but at least I could write.


Writing Shtum

Jump forward a few years.  The poems in Shtum were written over a long spread of time: mostly 2009 to 2015, but the earliest ones are from 1980.  I’m half-surprised that I hadn’t thought of writing a collection about stuttering earlier, and that it took someone else’s project to kick me into action.

     It was in May 2009 that I was contacted by Gary Hastie via my author’s page at the Write Out Loud website, asking if I’d take part in a BBC Radio Merseyside documentary about stuttering that he was making.  At that stage, he was particularly interested in stutterers who perform in public; and the fact that the focus would be on my poetry and performing prompted me to look back at what poetry I’d written to do with stuttering itself.

     I felt that I hadn’t really written much about stuttering apart from a couple of pieces, but what I discovered was that I’d actually written quite a lot – except that most of it was in the form of diary, and the rest was mostly rough-drafted half-ideas for poems that had never really been finished.

     The main early stutter-poem I had finished, ‘Spoken Poem By Stuttering Poet’, had been written pretty much in isolation, soon after I’d started individual speech therapy, though before going to group therapy.  It was a long piece that didn’t really work as a whole; but when I came back to it all these years later, selecting and reworking parts of it, it directly spawned nine of the poems that went into Shtum.  Beyond just that, though, looking at other fragments and at past diary from a distance, there was a sense of suddenly knowing what to do with them as poetry in a way that I sometimes hadn’t known at all at the time, back when its intimidating subject matter had been staring me so closely in the face.  Anyway, the reworking of those pieces now mostly came easier, and that reworking in turn led to an outpouring of new poetry – from the inward-looking free verse of ‘The Stutter The Symbol’ to the much lighter (but I’d say just as truthful) approach of rhyming poems like ‘It’s Hard To Be Suave With A Stutter’.

     Why hadn’t I written more about stuttering earlier?  I think partly it was precisely that closeness, that not always knowing how to pitch a piece so that it will work for other people.  And part of this is that stuttering was such an angst-laden thing; and that as a poet something you learn – painfully sometimes – is that it’s very easy to give other people an overdose of your personal angst if you’re not careful.

     But I think there’s something else as well, connected but not the same, which is this.  As someone who stutters, you want to see your stutter as less damaging or significant than it is.  For a lot of the time you’ll be implicitly telling yourself that your stutter doesn’t really affect you a lot, that it’s not a big or important part of your life.  It’s only at other times it’s crystal clear to you that the stutter has profoundly affected pretty much everything in your life, and has made a challenge of not just classrooms and job interviews, but pretty much every other social situation too, big and small.  When even the smallest interaction can suddenly become fraught with difficulty, no wonder so many of the poems mention catching the bus or buying a train ticket.

You can buy Shtum on our website here.

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The Guardian's Not the Booker Prize - Reader Reviews

Posted on August 16, 2016 by Liam Owens | 0 comments

You may remember that a couple of weeks ago we mentioned that four of our publishers’ books had been nominated for The Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize:

Well unfortunately we didn’t make the shortlist, but that doesn’t mean our authors didn’t do amazingly well!

All four titles scored highly, but The Shapes of Dogs’ Eyes deserves a special mention, tallying up an impressive 35 votes. And while our authors may not have won the prize, they did receive some pretty rave reviews and that is worth far more than any trophy.

Here’s what some of the voters had to say about our nominations:


The Shapes of Dogs’ Eyes by Harry Gallon (Dead Ink)

“This book was pretty mind-blowing to me just in its craft: the sentence construction, word choice, pacing of paragraphs and the irregular, fractured structure are all so deftly done, and, then, when that's laid on top of a swirling, blurry half-plot that's told in the first-person, the whole thing becomes like trying to remember a drunken night that lasted for a year. For a first novella this is some next level s**t.”

“Gallon provides a fantastical Hackney which, due to the author's skill, feels terrifyingly real. Deft dialogue, slick characters and a keen eye leads the writer into a universe of wonder, joy and farce. All over a journey any self-respecting literary type should be jumping on. The kind of detail which Gallon delves into shows his commitment to subject and lantern like ability to absorb his surroundings, quite a skill. Hackney comes to life and it's very clear that the author has both lived, and worked, as a barman here, he captures it in technicolour. Hopefully we will see more from Gallon in the future."


The Dowry Blade by Cherry Potts (Arachne Press)

“This is a fantasy novel that bucks convention by presenting an almost exclusively female world without labels or impediments for sexual relationships. Plot tight, good pace, rich in conflict, well drawn story world and characters, taut prose. There are interesting ideas about the place (or not) of violence within the genre and fascinating use of singing as the basis for powerful magic.”


The Wave by Lochlan Bloom (Dead Ink)

“It is not a light read you take on your holiday to relax; instead it will do what a good literature is supposed to do: it will ask questions that will leave you uncomfortable. You have to stay focused to follow three different narratives, at first glance not related but actually interweaved with each other, except you never get to find out all the details. As you go through the narratives, you slowly realise it is yourself who needs to answer the questions about life and fiction, truth and lies, and the sense of the world, especially the one that is not here yet but one that we’re making right now. The Wave mixes clever writing with hard hitting questioning of oneself and the world we’re making for ourselves. Excellent.”

The Wave was one of the treats of the spring, and represented one of those instances where a new writer makes you wake up and take notice. Bloom has clearly done a lot of research into his interwoven tale but the learning is worn lightly. And this isn’t a book just packed to the rafters with research, it’s also hypnotically written, with innovative choices and brave dedication to certain story strands that delay their pay-off, but once they do pay, you know you’re in good hands.


The Bastard Wonderland by Lee Harrison (Wrecking Ball Press)

“This was a really original fantasy novel that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. As well as building a convincing fantasy world, it has a really nice, authentic father and son relationship running through the book which I really enjoyed. There were lots of twists and turns and the plot was always surprising with lots of unexpected developments. The world of the book is really well described and brought to life. I’d recommend this to anyone who likes a good fantasy novel and I’m looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next after this great debut.

“In usual terms, I am not really a fantasy fan but then The Bastard Wonderland is not your usual fantasy novel: richly descriptive, funny, moving, imaginative and resolutely northern, it takes you on an epic adventure that defies convention. An amazing debut novel that is a thoroughly thrilling read.”

“If you want a fantasy novel that eschews the standard elves and goblin fantasy world and instead offers something far richer (and often far darker) then this could be the book for you. In a similar fashion to the way that the first Star Wars film sees great the changes in the galaxy from the perspective of a pair of robots, The Bastard Wonderland shows a rapidly changing world from the viewpoint of a directionless nobody, a man stuck in a rut who has his life changed by a chance encounter with a foreigner who has nothing in his life other than a seemingly unshakeable purpose. With a wealth of interesting characters and story arcs this really is worth picking up.”


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Not the Booker Prize - We've been nominated!

Posted on August 05, 2016 by Liam Owens | 0 comments

It's an exciting time here at the Inpress office as we have not one, not two, but FOUR BOOKS nominated for The Guardian's Not the Booker Prize. The Wave by Lochlan Bloom (Dead Ink), The Bastard Wonderland by Lee Harrison (Wrecking Ball Press), The Dowry Blade by Cherry Potts (Arachne Press) and The Shapes of Dogs' Eyes by Harry Gallon (Dead Ink) have all made it onto the longlist and we couldn't be prouder!

And what a mixed bag it is! From canine conspiracies to fantasy epics, steampunk flying machines to quantum physics - it's safe to say there's something here for everyone!



The Wave by Lochlan Boom

Three intertwined narratives play out as the stories of μ, an isolated loner, DOWN, a depressed publisher, and David Bohm, a real-life quantum theoretician in post-war São Paulo, become entangled.The closer each of these trails leads to the dark centre of the world, the more reality disintegrates. Dualities of certainty and doubt, hope and fear,   and reason and nonsense drag each of the characters struggling into an absurd, labyrinthine world of seemingly infinite regress.


The Bastard Wonderland by Lee Harrison

In a land not too far away and a time yet to be decided, one man and   his Dad embark on an epic journey of war, peace, love, religion, magnificent flying machines and mushy peas. The Bastard Wonderland is the astonishing debut fantasy novel from Hull writer Lee Harrison.

“Alternately familiar and fantastical, homely and harrowing, The Bastard Wonderland‘s mix of industrial imperialism and magic makes   it a truly unique, compelling debut.” - Mike Brooks


The Dowry Blade by Cherry Potts

Nine years after the loss of her sister, and near obliteration of her clan in an ill conceived raid, Brede, a plains' nomad, is living unwillingly in the marshes. The sudden ending of a decade long drought brings with it many changes; rumour has it that the rain was bought at the price of a King's head, and the sword needed for such a sacrifice is missing. Change comes for Brede in the arrival of Tegan, a wounded mercenary. Brede's discovery, first of the Dowry Blade and a stolen horse, and then of Tegan's history, sets in train a journey to the capital in search of her missing sister and leads to an unexpected role in the Queen's household, and a powerful lover.


The Shapes of Dogs' Eyes by Harry Gallon

Convinced that London's young professionals are being controlled by their dogs, a homeless bartender embarks on a drunken campaign to rescue his peers from domesticity. Sofa-hopping across a Hackney overrun with hungover musicians, craft brewers and their canine masters, he slips further into fantasy the more obsessed he becomes with setting himself, and everyone else, free. But after falling in love with a young actress, the thing he's fighting against may have become what he wants most of all.

The Shapes of Dogs Eyes explores the philosophies of love, homelessness, and a restless sense of uncertainty in a modern London as brittle and unmoored, as familiar and as chimerical, as the characters that move through it.


So now it's down to you to make sure one of these brilliant books is crowned the winner! To vote, choose two books from The Guardian's longlist (found here) and write a short review of 100 words or more. And remember to include the word 'VOTE' in your review to make sure it is counted. 

Thanks for your help, and best of look to all our fantastic authors!

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