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Some tips for putting your pamphlet together from smith|doorstop poet Suzannah Evans

Posted on February 14, 2017 by Rebecca Robinson | 0 comments



Read some tips on putting together your entry for the International Book & Pamphlet Competition from smith|doorstop poet Suzannah Evans, who was one of the four winners in the 2011/12 Competition with her collection, Confusion Species.


1. Read aloud


Reading aloud is something I’d advise at every stage of the writing and drafting process, but also at the editing stage. If you’re unsure that one poem belongs with the others, then read them aloud. Read aloud to spot dodgy line breaks and rhythms. Read aloud as you order poems.


2. Get Feedback


If you’ve got a willing friend who might read your manuscript, or even give you their opinion on a couple of poems you’re less sure of, then do lean on them!


3. Get The Poems On The Floor


The first time I ever entered the PB pamphlet competition (which, I must disclose, was some time before I won it) I approached the task of ordering the poems by laying them all out on the living room floor of the shared house I lived in in Leeds, reading the beginnings and ends of them as I went along to see how one poem flowed into the next.


Although it struck me as an odd thing to do (and it certainly didn’t go down too well with my housemates at the time), all the poets I’ve talked to since do the same thing.


4. Less is more


According to our rules, a pamphlet manuscript is 20-24 poems. But don’t feel like you’ve got to cram in everything you’ve got. Your pamphlet is only as strong as its weakest link, so trust your guts and if some poems don’t seem as strong as the rest, leave them out.


5. Be clear


It’s in your interests not to make the judge’s work any harder. Make sure you include a contents and give each of your poems enough space on the page (one poem per page, unless they’re very short, is what I’d recommend). Steer clear of mad fonts and clipart.


6. Think of a hilarious pseudonym. 


OK, so this alone won't win you the competition...but you've got to remain anonymous and it'll keep us in the office amused. Go wild. An honourable mention to recent favourites Rat Von Trapp, Hamilton Bravado, Nempnett Thrubwell and The Irish Goat. 


7. Last Minute Faffy Checks


​Being a slapdash individual at best, I'd do well to read my own advice here. But do have a last check through the rules, ensure your anonymity is preserved and your pages are in order, and that you've included all the necessary information. You can always get in touch with us for any queries too – office@poetrybusiness.co.uk 


8. Be brave and let it go!


It is a scary thing sending your work out into the world, and I know most poets will readily spend hours perfecting and fine-tuning before doing so, but I firmly believe that there comes a point when perfectionism is just another word for fear.  I often tell myself that if I ever write the perfect poem, I will have mastered writing and will have to find something else to occupy my time. Try that one.


Remember that if your pamphlet is picked as a winner you will be working on it with an experienced editor, whose job it is to tell you (among other things) whether you’re making any fatal mistakes.


We wish you all the very best of luck!


You can find more information about the competition here.

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Read all about it: 'Trouble' by Alison Winch

Posted on July 26, 2016 by Rebecca Robinson | 0 comments


Arses play a crucial role in Chaucer’s ‘The Miller’s Tale’. Or, to be more precise, the arse of Alisoun who is the tale’s unruly wench. Married to the ‘dotard’ carpenter but also having sex with the scholar Nicholas, Alisoun takes revenge upon the clerk Absolon’s amorous harassment by promising him a kiss out of her bedroom window. However, rather than puckering her lips, ‘she put her hole’ and Absolon snogs her ‘naked ers/ With great relish’. When he realises her prank he returns to her window with a poker, and after a kafuffle – including a very loud fart – Absolon smites Nicholas’s arse.


When I wrote the sequence ‘Alisoun’s’, which is at the centre of my new pamphlet, I had relentless morning sickness. I felt like I was bobbing up and down in one of the tale's tubs (the tubs are a ruse thought up by Nicholas to get Alisoun into bed). My body and its various hormonal goings-on had also usurped my mind and I felt in pretty abject state. I set myself the task of crafting a long poem, beginning and ending with the word arse, and starting each stanza with a letter from the title ‘Alisoun’s’ like a kind of acrostic. It was the only constraint which forced me get something on the page – that and chips.


I took Alisoun out of her love triangle and put her on the Via Francigena which is a medieval pilgrimage from Canterbury to Rome. She is still bawdy and visceral and rude (she is impregnated by a coquillard or pseudo-pilgrim) but she also ruminates about god, nature and ‘the newte that plip plops in the pond of my uterus’.


I was simultaneously reading some bonkers stuff about women and reproduction by medieval male writers, as well as by the philosophers who had influenced them. I say bonkers but their understandings of fertility, sex and the female body resonate today across literature, popular culture and the mainstream media. We can see them in the figures of the 'yummy mummy' or 'pramface', or in the many many acts of slut-shaming. The seeds of these popular narratives are sown in the writings of St Aquinas and Galen, and I’ve put excerpts of their work in the margins of the poem.


Alisoun speaks back to the misogyny of the present and the past. Not by being disciplined and good and therefore proving their caricature of women wrong, but by being wild and uncontained. Her fucking unruly body is at the centre of the poem and it rampages through any scrutiny or moral judgement.


Alison Winch, author of Trouble, available now from The Emma Press.

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Poetry Out Loud: 'You' by Anthony Anaxagorou

Posted on June 17, 2016 by Yen-Yen Lu | 0 comments

 A powerful and personal poem from Out-Spoken Press publisher Anthony Anaxagorou. Each line is heartfelt and carefully constructed to resonate with the reader, listener, viewer, and the 'you' addressed in the poem. 

Anthony is a writer and performer based in London. His work has been featured on BBC Radio 6 and at the British Urban Film Awards. He founded Out-Spoken in 2012 and won the Groucho Maverick Award in 2015.

Anthony and Out-Spoken are well-established in the spoken word poetry scene in London, hosting live poetry events each month known as Out-Spoken Live where past performers have included Rob Auton, whose collections Petrol Honey and In Heaven the Onions Make You Laugh published by Burning Eye Books, Malika Booker, an international writer and Inpress board member, currently chairing the judging panel for the Forward Prize for Poetry, and Sarah Howe, winner of the TS Eliot Prize for her debut collection Loop of Jade. Out-Spoken also run poetry and creative writing masterclasses, which have been equally popular. More information on their events can be found on their website and Facebook.


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IRON Press editor Peter Mortimer muses on the strange rituals of live poetry readings.

Posted on May 12, 2016 by Rebecca Robinson | 0 comments

Those of you out there who regularly attend live poetry readings will recognise a certain sound when I describe it.

The sound comes from some audience members at the end of certain poems whose nature is – how shall we put it? – slightly enigmatic. The poet reads the final line – let’s for sake of argument say it goes, ‘so the black absence was folded into the crease of destiny’. There follows a short silence, which in turn is followed by a barely audible ‘mmmm’ noise.

This ‘mmm’ noise implies is that the listener fully appreciates that the poem is full of  deep significance without quite yet knowing what that significance is.

I have uttered this same ‘mmmm’ noise myself.  I utter it almost involuntarily. If I’m honest I must confess it means I don’t know what the poem is on about, but dare not admit to same and sense at least some response is called for. So the ‘mmmm’ noise seems a safe bet. When several audience members emit the ‘mmmm’ noise , it can sound like a  short Buddhist mantra.

Unlike with songs, at a poetry reading, the audience rarely claps each individual piece, which is considered bad form. Or maybe the reason’s because the total audience at most poetry readings could fit into a phone box (anyone remember phone boxes?), which would leave the applause sounding somewhat hollow.

I’ve organised many readings over the years. The poets themselves, much as I love ‘em, can drive me mad. You ask them (plead with them?) to limit their slot  to 25 minutes and two hours later with many of the audience either in a catatonic state, dead, or already propping up the bar in the Dog & Duck next door, the poet is still ploughing on.

‘I’ll make this my last poem’ is often the most heartening sentence I hear at a live reading. Unfortunately that final offering is often the length of Paradise Lost.

Poets are normally thought of as sensitive flowers, their antennae responsive to every aspect of the world around them.,  So how can they be so curiously self-absorbed? Witness the upsurge of Open Mic poetry nights when aspirants are invited to read their latest magnum opus.

Often a published poet is also on the bill, but the aspirants have no interest in this person.

The Barnsley poet Ian McMillan tells the tale of when he was the guest poet at an Open Mic slot event and read to an audience of minus two. There were only two people in the audience both of whom read their own work in the Open Mic first half.

By the time Ian McMillan got up to read in the second half the two had gone home.

People who bemoan the fact that the general public can no longer remember poems by heart should realise that neither can poets – not even their own work.

In maybe only five per cent of readings do the poets perform without the text in front of them. Normally their nose is glued into the book, often to the detriment of their voice projection. Imagine the uproar if singers did the same thing at a live performance.

The opaque nature of much modern poetry explains the often lengthy introductions by the authors at live readings. “Let me give you some background to this poem……” they begin, pointing out various vital references which the poem in isolation is unable to put into context. Pity the poor soul reading the poem in the book thus denied such background and facing possibly only obfuscation.

Some readings have been heady intoxicating affairs indelibly etched on the memory.  I’m unlikely to forget Allen Ginsberg, Ted Hughes, Basil Bunting or Hugh MacDiarmid, all at Newcastle’s famous Morden Tower poetry venue, built into the old city wall and hosting the world’s best poets since the 1960s (alas, now sadly in decline).

Poetry slams have become the modern vogue and this has seen the line between stand-up comedians and poets often blurred. Inject enough energy into your slam performance and even doggerel can sound appealing. Though as much modern  poetry is still po-faced the arrival of slam is welcome.

Some poets are so excruciating in live performance that they should never be allowed out of the garret. They could take a leaf out of amateur football’s book, where players turn out on windy Sunday morning park pitches with no expectation there will be any spectators, but enjoying it anyway. The activity, they realise, if for their own enjoyment.

It is so, alas, just so for some poets.

Despite claims for it to be ‘the new rock ‘n’ roll’ poetry is very much a minority activity. Most people at a live reading write poetry themselves. Imagine a barber where 90 per cent of his customers were other barbers. I often awake and wonder why after 42 years of publishing  the stuff, organising live readings and – probably worst of all! – even writing it but I continue, but it’s unlikely I’ll stop now. And that which we love, we also most readily mock.

Though I will attempt from hereon in to cut back on the number of times after a live poem’s final line, I am heard to utter the ‘mmm’ noise.

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Star Wars, Miley Cyrus, and Scottish independence: 'Strange Keys' by Ash Dickinson

Posted on April 01, 2016 by Yen-Yen Lu | 0 comments

The latest collection by multiple slam champion Ash Dickinson, titled Strange Keys, will be published next month by Burning Eye Books. In it, he discusses an eclectic selection of topics, including Scottish independence, Miley Cyrus, and a three-minute summary of Star Wars which he also reads in the video below. He also tackles issues of misogyny and sexism in contemporary Western culture with a voice that combines rap, poetry, and stand-up. 

Ash Dickinson has performed across the UK with his poetry, including at festivals such as Edinburgh Fringe, Bristol Poetry Festival and The Camden Crawl. He has also performed in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the US, and had a six-day feature tour in Canada. 

This collection follows his debut, Slinky Espadrilleswas also published by Burning Eye Books.

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