Rhiya’s Routes – Ba

The release of Rhiya Pau’s upcoming poetry collection, Routes marks fifty years since her family arrived in the U.K. Routes began as an attempt to chronicle the history of Rhiya’s family, and her community, and much of the collection draws on the experience of Rhiya’s grandparents – her Ba and Bapuji.

We asked Rhiya about her favourite poem in Routes, and she chose ‘Enough’, which paints a portrait of her grandmother, through her well-stocked kitchen cabinets:

My grandmother houses gods in her closet
among tower blocks of cereal boxes and canned
chickpeas so we may always know enough.

“Enough paints a portrait of my grandmother and her ability to be in two places at once. How she can know about the miners, the tower blocks, the Post Office – live in this country for fifty years and still not feel British enough. It’s about longing and belonging, the sacrifice of the mother tongue, and how even in the absence of language we find ways to love.

Over the past two years, I have been on my own migratory journey, trying to obtain a visa to live and work in the USA. This poem is a favourite of mine because it articulates an enduring sense of displacement that has only been amplified for me as I move back and forth between places.”

Watch Rhiya Pau reading Enough:

Routes will be published on 24 November 2022. You can pre-order your copy now. 

Join us for a free event with Rhiya Pau and author Anna Fodorova at Forest Hill Library on Wednesday 23 November. Details and tickets.

Rhiya’s Routes – Bapuji

This month we are delighted to be launching Rhiya Pau’s debut poetry collection, Routes, almost exactly a year since we published Rhiya’s first poem ‘Departure Lounge’ in our Where We Find Ourselves anthology.

Routes chronicles the migratory histories of Rhiya’s ancestors and explores the conflicts of identity that arise from being a member of the South Asian diaspora. Ahead of publication, we asked Rhiya about the inspiration behind the collection:

“In many ways, my grandfather has been the inspiration behind Routes. Bapuji was born in Kenya but moved to India in the 1940s to become a freedom fighter in the Independence movement. He participated in marches and sit-ins, and was laathi-charged several times by British soldiers for his disobedience. In one instance he was even shot in the leg. Later in life, after moving to the UK he was awarded Membership of the British Empire by the Queen for his community work, an accolade he was incredibly proud of. I created Routes as a space in which to document the migratory history of my family and community and explore the conflicts of identity that emerge. The release of this collection reflects on the fifty years since much of our community moved to the UK, following the expulsion of the Asians from Uganda.

My grandfather was a salt-march pilgrim
in a fleeting incarnation of this nation.
Now how do I wash the blood from his flag?

Bapuji is remembered as a bold and principled man, who was unafraid to stand by his convictions in the face of disapproval. He believed this to be a necessary act in service of societal progress. In Routes I hope to pay tribute to his legacy. It is only by examining our history that we can begin to answer – what is worth holding on to? What memories, what stories, what truths? When we piece these together, what is the narrative we choose to tell? And how are we going to address the silences that remain?

Routes will be published on 24 November 2022. You can pre-order your copy now. 

Join us for the in-person launch of Routes at Keats’ House on 24 November, from 6.30pm. Details and free tickets.

Discovering ourselves in soil and sky on National Poetry Day

It’s National Poetry Day and the theme this year is The Environment. To celebrate, we asked poet Claire Booker about her relationship with the natural world, and the way she represents it in her new collection, A Pocketful of Chalk:

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t in awe of the natural world: its endlessly creative
hutzpah; the refreshing disinterest it has in our little human concerns.

A Pocketful of Chalk came together from what I could see was a build-up of poems
connected to natural phenomena. By nature I also include the dream world, which arises
from our inner natures. Dreams are forces inside us which we ignore at our peril, just
like the forces outside us.

Five years ago I moved to the village of Rottingdean just outside Brighton in East
Sussex. I’d spent three decades living and working in south London, which is
particularly blessed with woodland and open spaces. Urban nature is a force for change,
because it offers millions of people a relationship with the wild which they wouldn’t
otherwise have. By virtue of its fragile hold within the city, urban nature is also a potent
symbol of what we’re losing.


Moving to a rural, farming area, placed me right in the middle of wildness (it can get
pretty wooly up there on the Downs if a storm’s coming!). But even this wildness is
under threat. During this year’s drought, the wheat fields were scorched, newly planted
woodland saplings dropped their leaves, there were tiny, misshapen black berries. Then
the rains came in biblical proportions, and top soil was lost.

As humans, we’re in a unique position. We’re part of nature, but also the enemy outside
its gates.

So what, as a poet, can I do about this? Very little, in reality, but even that little is worth
going for. Poetry can take you to the heart-beat of emotion. It can remind people of
what they’ve lost, or fear losing, or want to fight for. Above all, poetry offers quiet
contemplation, an enrichment of understanding – questions that could do with answers,
answers that need questioning.

The environment is us, it’s our relationship with each other, made manifest. We live in a
rushed, frenetic, some might say, frantic world. Poetry can help us draw breath, stop,
consider, appreciate. I find that by simply walking along the sea front, or up on the
Downs, the world starts to unravel a little. I get to see the same places over and over
again. But of course, they’ve never the same place more than once. And when I feel a
poem start to pupate, I pick up my pen. Learning about the planet, is learning about
myself.

So in A Pocketful of Chalk, there are poems about evening shadows on the Downs, and
how we can be stretched by light. There’s a poem about drought and how the loss of
plants is like losing children. There’s a young child who is impatient with her little
radish patch, but then flings herself onto the soil to listen to the seedlings grow. There
are poems that are fantastical, apocalyptic, about a drowned world, and others that look
at rain as a flow of emotions. Some of the poems are persona poems where I imagine
what it’s like to be a wild creature. I find it fascinating to try and enter a world without human parameters. After all, the best poetry leaves ego behind, and that’s always worth
striving for.

At times, in the face of the night sky, or mesmerised by a murmuration of starlings,
even the idea of writing can seems absurd. The very first poem in the collection,
ironically, is about just that. When you’ve seen the “the impossible exactness” of a
Marbled White butterfly, words can seem a pointless add-on. As Ted Hughes wrote in
Poetry in the Making: “It is not enough to say the crow flies purposefully, or heavily, or
rowingly, or whatever. There are no words to capture the infinite depth of crowiness in
the crow’s flight.”

So that’s the challenge. To be part of nature, yet at the same time its observer and
protector. Poems live as much between the lines as in them – surely an ideal medium for
expressing such a paradox?

Not crows, but herons… watch Claire Booker reading Grey Heron at the launch of A Pocketful of Chalk:


#NationalPoetryDay is the annual mass celebration on the first Thursday of October that encourages everyone to make, experience and share poetry with family and friends. www.nationalpoetryday.co.uk

Happy Birthday, A Voice Coming From Then!

Today is exactly one year since we published A Voice Coming From Then by Jeremy Dixon. Largely written and edited during lockdown, A Voice Coming From Then recently won the English-language Poetry award at the Wales Book of the Year 2022 and this has given us another chance to celebrate Jeremy and his extraordinary collection in real life.

We’re building an A Voice Coming From Then tour of Wales this Autumn, with events already planned at several libraries, independent bookshops and Waterstones stores across Wales this October and November.

If you run a bookshop, library, arts venue or poetry night, then please get in touch with us on outreach@arachnepress.com and let us know if you’d be interested in hosting an event with Jeremy Dixon as a part of this tour.

If you’re in Wales (or close by) and would like to see Jeremy reading from A Voice Coming From Then, please keep an eye on our blog and social media channels for the event dates and locations – coming soon!

For now, we are celebrating A Voice Coming From Then‘s book birthday with an online offer: buy a copy of the print book from our webshop and we’ll send you a code for 50% off the ebook or audiobook, which is beautifully narrated by Nigel Pilkington.

A Voice Coming From Then starts with Jeremy Dixon’s teenage suicide attempt and expands to encompass themes of bullying, queerphobia, acceptance and support.

As well as exploring identity, the tragic effects of bullying and the impact of suicide, this collection also includes unexpected typography, collage, humour, magic, discotheques and frequent appearances from the Victorian demon, Spring-heeled Jack.

One of the Wales Book of the Year judges commented: “I really admire Jeremy’s ability to be so vulnerable. I felt like he just really put his heart and his whole self into the collection.” Congratulations to Jeremy on having this immensely personal and moving collection out in the world for a whole year. 

Exclusive first chapter extract of In the Blood

As the end of summer approaches we’re looking forward to the autumn publication of In the Blood – an unforgettable twentieth century family saga that explores the impact of historical events on the lives of three generations – a mother, a daughter and a grandmother.


In the Blood
 is set in 1980s London, Prague and Munich, against the backdrop of the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, and the novel opens on this day, 21st August, 1988; twenty years after the Warsaw Pact invasion of then Czechoslovakia.

Exactly to this day, twenty years ago Russian tanks rolled under our Prague balcony, Mama reminded Agata only this morning. Imagine! Military invasion in central Europe! ‘Now we’ll never see our daughter again, she’ll stay in England,’ your father said – no, he sobbed. Soft. That’s what Pavel was, but here – here they are not interested in what happened to us in 1968, here the radio is interested in some actress from some Corporation Street and her stupid breasts!

Author Anna Fodorova opens the book on this day to emphasise the intertwining nature of personal and political histories:

“In the Blood begins on the 21st August 1988, twenty years after the Russian tanks rolled into Prague, the brutal invasion that shocked the world and altered the fate of my main character, Agata.

When I wrote the story, I couldn’t know that history would repeat itself this year with another catastrophic Russian invasion – I was interested in how the past shapes our private lives.

Agata’s story culminates a year later with the fall of the Berlin Wall, another world-changing event which is paralleled by Agata’s crumbling relationship with her family, particularly her mother, who has built her life from half-truths and secrets.” 

Read the first chapter of In the Blood now.

Pre-order your copy of In the Blood.

A Voice Coming From Then shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year!

We couldn’t be more excited to share the news that A Voice Coming From Then by Jeremy Dixon is on the shortlist (of three!) for the 2022 English-language Wales Book of the Year, in the Poetry category.

We are celebrating by holding an online event with the other shortlisted poets, Angela Gardner and Abeer Ameer, on 20th July at 7pm. Get your free ticket here.

A Voice Coming From Then, which we published in August 2021, starts with poet Jeremy Dixon’s teenage suicide attempt and expands to encompass themes of bullying, queerphobia, acceptance and support.

As well as exploring identity, the tragic effects of bullying and the impact of suicide, this collection also includes unexpected typography, collage, humour, magic, discotheques and frequent appearances from the Victorian demon, Spring-heeled Jack.

 

Jeremy Dixon said: “I am beyond delighted that my collection of poems dealing with bullying, queerphobia and attempted suicide has made the shortlist of Wales Book of the Year 2022. My greatest hope throughout the difficult writing process was that the book would be understood and resonate with an audience beyond myself. For the book to have been selected by the judges is the most unexpected and welcome compliment!”

‘beyond delighted…’

The Wales Book of the Year Award is an annual prize celebrating outstanding literary talent from Wales across many genres and in both English and Welsh. Today, Friday 1 July, Literature Wales announced which books have reached the English-language Wales Book of the Year Short List 2022.

YOU can VOTE for the people’s choice from the shortlist via Wales Art Review

The winners will be announced on BBC Radio Wales on 29 July.

Congratulations Jeremy!  We are so pleased A Voice Coming From Then is getting the attention it deserves.

You can order a copy of A Voice Coming From Then from our webshop. To celebrate Jeremy’s place on the shortlist, we’ll send you a code for 50% off either the ebook or audiobook, when you order a print copy.

Any press enquiries, please email Saira Aspinall on outreach@arachnepress.com.

Independent Bookshop Week 2022

It’s Independent Bookshop Week! The annual Bookseller’s Association celebration of indy bookshops and all they do to keep the UK book trade diverse, eclectic and engaged with local communities.

One of our favourite bookshops – The Edge of the World in Cornwall

As an Independent Publisher we LOVE indy bookshops and spend a lot of our time getting to know booksellers and planning events, but because most of our titles are ordered through a central distributor, we often don’t know exactly which books end up in which bookshops.

So, this Independent Bookshop week, we’d love to see your pictures of Arachne Press titles on the shelves of independent bookshops!

Tweet them to us at @ArachnePress and we’ll share them, giving the books, authors and bookshops all a moment in the spotlight.

Photos are very welcome from booksellers too and bonus points for anyone who tweets us with a new Arachne purchase, supporting a local, independent bookshop.

We’ve got lots to celebrate in the next seven days; as well as Independent Bookshop week, it’s also publication week for Paper Crusade – Michelle Penn’s startling re-imagining of The Tempest, which is something quite special.

If you’re an independent bookseller who has just received stock of this title (or would like to!) then please let us know.

Independent Bookshop Week is a celebration of independent bookshops in the UK highlighting the vital role independent bookshops play in their communities. Find out more.

Routes by Rhiya Pau wins Eric Gregory Award

We are delighted to share the news that Rhiya Pau has been named as a winner of this year’s Eric Gregory Award for her forthcoming poetry collection, Routes.

Routes explores the journeys taken by Rhiya Pau’s parents and grandparents across multiple countries to arrive in the UK. We are publishing the collection in November 2022, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the arrival of Ugandan Asians in the UK.

Rhiya Pau is one of seven winners of this year’s Eric Gregory Award, given annually by the Society of Authors. Judged by Raymond Antrobus, Wayne Holloway-Smith, Sarah Howe, Gwyneth Lewis, Roger Robinson, and Joelle Taylor, the award is presented to a collection or collections of poems by poets under 30.

young asian woman with long hair smiling up at camera

The judges said of Routes‘This is a collection in which routes and roots tug against one another: a family is scattered in the wake of India’s Partition; its children and grandchildren make new homes for themselves within a kaleidoscope of tongues. This is a work of humane intelligence, formal experiment and linguistic verve that promises much.’

Congratulations Rhiya – this is a daring collection that exhibits vast formal range and wrestles with language, narrative and memory. We’re excited to be publishing Routes.

Routes will be published on 24 November 2022. You can pre-order a copy now.

Read the Society of Authors award announcement.

Any press enquiries, please email Saira Aspinall on outreach@arachnepress.com.

Poetry Road Trip – Join us on the A470

This spring and summer we’re taking A470: Poems for the Road / Cerddi’r Ffordd on the road! Join us at one of the bilingual events below, as we visit libraries and bookshops up and down the A470 (and surrounding areas…).

Past

  •  28th May: Cardiff Central Library Hub
    Readings from Kevin Mills, Tracey Rhys, Mike Jenkins, Nicholas McGaughey, Morgan Owen, Christina Thatcher, Jeremy Dixon, Sian Northey, Sîon Aled, Lowri Williams and Des Mannay. watch the video


  •  30th May: Storyville Books, Pontypridd
    Nicholas McGaughey, Jeremy Dixon, Stephen Payne and Sîon Aled read from A470 in an evening of poetry, with music and nibbles too! watch the videos

  • 31st May: Siop Lyfrau’r Hen Bost, Blaenau Ffestiniog
    Simon Chandler, Sara Louise Wheeler, Haf Llewelyn, Lowri Williams and Sian Northey read from A470  in Blaenau Ffestiniog. watch the videos

  • 1st June: Owain Glyndŵr’s Parliament House, Heol Maengwyn, Machynlleth, SY20 8EE
    Pulling up outside Senedd-Dy to stretch their legs and catch their breath, editors Sian Northey and Ness Owen talked with Poet Sara Louise Wheeler about how A470 came about, the process of creating a bilingual book and the translation decisions they had to make, reading some of their favourite poems from the book on the way. Watch the video
  • 30 June: The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth
    An evening of bilingual poetry readings and conversation with Ness Owen, Sian Northey, Pat Edwards, Diana Powell, Sara Louise Wheeler, Siôn Aled, Jeremy Dixon, Rhys Owain Williams, Rae Howells, Lowri Haf Williams, Sandra Evans, Gareth Writer-Davies.
  • 10th July  Gŵyl Arall Festival, Caernafon
  • Editor  Sian Northey was joined by Sion Aled, Sara Louise Wheeler, and Lowri Williams to read and talk about the book.
  • Thursday 21st July: The Hours Cafe & Bookshop, Brecon, VIDEO
    Readings and conversation with Gareth Writer-Davies, Clare E Potter, Diana Powell, Sian Northey and Stephen Payne.
  • 24th July: The Poetry Pharmacy, Bishop’s Castle,
    Nipping over the border into Shropshire for Readings from Sian Northey, Gareth Writer-Davies, Jeremy Dixon, Ness Owen, Pat Edwards and Stephen Payne at the world’s first walk-in Poetry Pharmacy.

You can track all our events on our interactive A470 map too.

If you’d like more information about any of these events, please email outreach@arachnepress.com

 

 

Arachne Press at Lambeth Readers and Writers Festival

We’re pleased to announce that we will be at Lambeth Readers and Writers Festival on Tuesday 17 May with a panel event based on Where We Find Ourselves: Poems and Stories of Maps and Mapping from UK Writers of the Global Majority.

Join us at Clapham Library for readings and a Q & A discussion with:

Ngoma Bishop

Marina Sánchez

Nikita Chadha

Farhana Khalique

Rick Dove

Emily Abdeni-Holman

L Kiew

The event is free, but ticketed.  Book your tickets here.

You will be able to buy a copy of Where We Find Ourselves at the event, or you can buy one from our webshop now.