I’ve just been to the Post Office and seen that the latest posting days have changed to (a lot) earlier. It’s already too late for international parcels.
This may be down to the industrial action occuring 9th, 11th, 14th, 15th. If you are planning to order some books for yourself or friends or family (we hope you are!) bear all this in mind. We can send direct to your recipient if it helps, just drop us a line, if you have multiple recipients at different addresses, the autocalculated postage may not cover it, and we may need to ask you to top up. Please place your order the DAY BEFORE last posting date, to be sure it goes in the post in time.
The release of Rhiya Pau’s upcoming poetry collection, Routesmarks 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.”
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?“
We’ve counted the votes, disqualified the people voting for their own work (tsk, tsk, did you think we wouldn’t check??) and can now announce that (subject to contract) the folowing poems and stories that will join this year’s winners, in the Solstice Shorts 2022 ‘best of’ ebook Hiatus, are:
After Before by Mandy Macdonald After Sun, Before the Stars by Jane Aldous Against Daylight Saving by Gabriel Noel (This year’s competition winner) At the Hotel de la Lune by Sarah James Beach Clean by Ness Owen Fire at Midday by Susan Cartwright-Smith Fisherman’s Daughter by Claire Booker In Between Dog by Pippa Gladhill Jackdaw by Elaine Hughes Mock Posh & Tatters by Moira Quinn Pause by Karen Pierce (This year’s competition winner) Rewilding by Jackie Taylor Sir Thomas Wyatt’s Catby Elinor Brooks Stone Baby by Sarah Evans The Surgeon’s Mate by Maria Kyle Volunteer by Jane McLaughlin Wednesday Afternoon by David Mathews What He Doesn’t Know by Frances Gapper Yes, Twilight by Math Jones
Where there was a dead heat (which happened several times) I’ve included both. We’ll announce the winner of the prize draw shortly – going to experiment with the cat doing the draw…
We’ve teamed up with Lewisham Libraries to run a couple of In Person workshops for writers as part of our 10th Anniversary celebrations. Both are linked to upcoming anthologies, and we are hoping that participants will be inspired to submit (deadline 31st December 2022).
Saturday 12 Nov 3-4.3pm Catford Library 23-24 Winslade Way, Catford Centre, SE6 4JU Off the beaten track with Cherry Potts
In preparation for an anthology of poems and short fiction Byways – which will be published in Spring 2024, Arachne Press editor Cherry Potts is running a writing workshop for anyone who is interested in the ideas behind the book.
A byway is a right of way that you can’t take a vehicle on – so think alleys, snickets, ginnels, bridlepaths, greenways, the highwater line on a beach, mountain passes, desire paths, tow paths… shortcuts or the scenic route, the path to somewhere else, the familiar and the uncertain.
Are there local paths you always take, or avoid? Come and write with us, and perhaps start something that could end up published! We’ll bring examples and writing prompts, you bring pen/paper or laptop, and… maybe a map? free tickets
In preparation for an anthology of poems and short fiction inspired by the menopause, which will be published in October 2023, Arachne Press owner Cherry Potts and co-editor Catherine Pestano are running a writing workshop for anyone who would like to get involved. Our anthology call out is aimed firmly at older women, lesbians and women from the global majority. Our theme is the menopause, and we are looking for stories, flash and poems that go waaay beyond the empty nest and feelings of sexual redundancy, so come along and explore. We will provide playful writing prompts, examples and discussion including some useful facts about the menopause, you provide the imagination. Bring pen/paper or laptop. Free Tickets
Catherine Pestano is a menopause activist, social worker and community musician based in Croydon, South London and offers services through her community interest company Creative Croydon. Key areas of interest include and the use of music and arts for wellbeing & social justice, Mental health and LGBTQ support. She is lead adviser for the national Song Therapy training and is a long-term member of the natural voice network.
Cherry Potts is a writer and creative writing tutor who runs and edits for Arachne Press.
In the 1980s, faced with a rebellious body, I stole my mother’s tarot deck and asked it about my health prognosis. Three times in a row, the outcome card was the tower, which is the second-worst card in the deck. Throughout my 20s and from then on I struggled with disability. On 16 March 2020 I contracted Covid, and I’ve had daily symptoms since then.
Twice I nearly died. I couldn’t breathe. Just standing up left me doubled over, gasping for air. I’m an expert patient and there are 6 doctors in my family, and I am no medical layperson, and I thought, at best, I had a 50/50 chance of getting through April 2020 and 2021.
I chose to write, obsessively. That and bloody-mindedness got me through. Somehow. The result is this book. I don’t really remember last April, except that I wrote over 55 poems. If I were a pop psychoanalyst I’d say that hovering on the threshold of death rendered me liminal, and made mythic themes easier to access. But I’m not.
These poems are based on the 22 major arcana in the tarot deck, an extra or trump suit, which starts with the fool: number zero, generally portrayed as carefree, their possessions in a small bag, stepping off a cliff. They journey through the themes of the other 21 arcana. The magician, trump 1, is the occult guide, wielding four elements. In French the magician is called the juggler, Le Bateleur—I took that word and wrote about a bateleur eagle, a bird of prey that constantly adjusts its wings in flight, like a juggler.
Arcanum 2 is the high priestess. She’s on the cover of the book, twinned on a playing card with the teenager. The high priestess symbolises, among other things, maidenhood. She progresses to the empress, full womanhood or motherhood. Some decks change the hermit to the crone, the third moon phase, post-menopausal, of women. The crone shows up in this book as the lamplighter, and also as a really quite delightful, feminist snake. The high priestess has long been the card used to stand in for me in tarot readings, too. (As a teen, readers used the empress. I grew into the priestess. Yes, this is the wrong way around.)
Other poems are taken more literally from tarot pictures. Strength is often portrayed as a woman besting a lion—and I used lion as metaphor in “There May Have Been Lions” and “Life in Captivity”. “The Girl in the Raven Mask”, a Petrarchan sonnet which was published in Acumen, is ekphrasis on the temperance trump in the Hush tarot. “Broken Tower” was also inspired by that deck.
Still other poems riff on the meaning of the cards. There are three poems about hope, which is what the star connotes. Two of the hope poems were written for Turtle Mountain Animal Rescue, the only animal shelter in a 2000 square mile area so far north in North Dakota it’s nearly Canada. There is a semi-feral dog at the shelter named Hope, who runs wild in the summer, but always returns when faced with bitter northern winters. She simultaneously herself and a metaphor in “Hope”.
I’m at my best as a poet when I’m storytelling, as in “Why Snakes are Always Female” and “A Little Space” or, more mischievously, in “Devilskin”. Modern tarot decks, whether they’re standard Rider-Waite-Smith decks; something themed, like the dragon tarot; or based on pop culture, like the Disney villains tarot, are tools to tell stories, whether personal or universal. Many of these poems, like “Hagged”, which is about my Long Covid, and “Dr. Wick”, about the struggle to get a diagnosis for my disability, are very personal for me. Of course, a deck of 78 playing cards isn’t responsible for anything in my life, apart from this book and a few medieval card games I play, but, still, the odds of the same card in the same spot three times in a row is pretty slender…
and Anna Fodorova’s In the Bloodat the Czech Embassy on Tuesday, with Jude Cook chairing and Lisa Rose reading the excerpts, but it is actual publication day TODAY – Congratulations both!
Thanks to Phoebe and team at the Oxford Poetry Library.
Thanks to Jude and Lisa, and the Janas at BCSA, the Czech Centre and Czech Embassy for hosting, and Lutyens and Rubinstein bookshop for handling the sales, and to Erik Weisenpacher for video and photo and audio recordings; it was a novel experience to just turn up, introduce and sit in the audience!
Anna & Jude swapping books copyright Erik Weisenpacher
copyright Erik Weisenpacher
copyright Erik Weisenpacher
copyright Erik Weisenpacher
copyright Jana Nahodilova
If you missed either or both, do not despair, as there is a joint launch 6.30 next Tuesday, 1st November, at Keats house, with readings by Carrie Cohen. You can get your free tickets from Eventbrite – there will be cake and soft drinks
Here’s a couple of photos and recordings to give a flavour of the evening.
Oxford Poetry Library Launch
Jennifer A McGowan
How to be a Tarot Card (or a Teenager)
Jennifer is launching again in London on 1st November at Keats House with Anna Fodorova, our other October author, with her novel, In the Blood. Free, cake, soft drink etc as usual! Get your tickets
And will be taking part in an online event with our friends In Words on 29th November. To register for this one you need to contact irena(at)in-words(dot)co(dot)uk and she will send you the link in good time.
All kinds of loveliness and laughter experienced so far on the A Voice Coming From Then Tour. Here’s a quick snapshot from Brecon Carmarthen and Cardiff
Join Jeremy next Thursday 5.45 at Cardiff Library for more…
[There’s an annoying flicker on the Brecon video, I’ve cleaned it up as best I can, and set that part to B&W as it’s less trying, but it’s the sound that’s the joy in this so… you could always shut your eyes…]
Thanks to our lovely audiences, and our hosts, The Hours, Brecon; Waterstones, Carmarthen; and Waterstones, Cardiff.
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
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
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
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: