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 are delighted to let you know that we have a grant confirmed from Arts Council England, which will allow us to hold our 10th Anniversary online festival, of workshops and readings, and an exhibition of cover art at Stephen Lawrence Gallery in Greenwich, both in January 2023, and to publish the following poetry titles:
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:
Today is Suicide Prevention Day. You might think, What’s that got to do with Poetry?
Quite a bit it turns out, for poet Jeremy Dixon, who recently won the Wales Book of the Year Poetry award.
We have a flash sale today only 50% off with the code PREVENT50 on print book from our webshop and audio or ebook from our e-store
Jeremy’s collection A Voice Coming from Then charts the homophobic bullying he experienced as a teenager and his subsequent suicide attempt, and recovery forging an identity for himself that rejected the negative image he had forced on him by the bullies. Along the way it is heartbreaking and hilarious and joyful.
Reading the poems in manuscript when Jeremy first submitted the collection I was sobbing uncontrollably within pages.
This is the precise response I sent to Jeremy whilst still mopping my tears.
Content warning notwithstanding, you may have to wait a while for a coherent answer, I’m already in tears and I’ve only got to Anne Sexton. Not feeling strong enough for this right now, but if they are all like this, it’s going to be an emphatic YES.
and not much later the same day
And then I had to go back and finish, and of COURSE it’s YES.
I don’t often weep over a MS, but as I know Jeremy a bit from publishing him before and meeting at events, it was probably tougher than reading these from a stranger. Which brings me to the vexed question of Content Warnings.
Jeremy has this to say on the subject in the introduction:
// a note on content warnings
For me content warnings really work. If I am not prepared then sometimes just seeing the word ‘suicide’ has an emotional effect.
And I get it, I really do, I have had a complete melt down from authors sending me (sometimes unsolicited, grrr) graphic distressing material without warning. Some of that is outrage that they think they can do that, at least in a bookshop you’ve chosen to pick the book up, in a MS there’s nothing to indicate what’s there until it’s too late. And I don’t voluntarily read things that are going to upset me, real life is quite sufficient, thanks. BUT it means I probably won’t pick up a book with a content warning on the cover. And other people may think twice too.
When we were recording the audiobook (voiced by the MAGNIFICENT Nigel Pilkington) we cautioned both Nigel and our sound engineer, Jess, that it was potentially an emotional listen, and Jess in particular just shrugged, and said ‘powerful, isn’t it,’ because we had warned her.
The book is peppered with statistics and there are resources at the end.
just one accepting adult
in a LGBTQ+ young person’s life
can reduce the risk
of suicide by 40%
The Trevor Project, 2019
I wanted to be make the book as safe as possible. So as part of that I decided on this, the structure of the poems as couplets so that there would be nothing about the structure or the forms of the poems that would throw people, and then tied to that was the use of statistics to give a kind of grounding to give an overview, to give it a different voice, a research voice, but they were still formatted in the same way as poems so that they’re like tiny, tiny little poems themselves.
Homophobia, bullying, cruelty, suicide attempts… hard, hard things to experience, hard to write about, but in Jeremy’s careful, compassionate hands, emotional, but rewarding, cathartic and inspiring.
As Andy Welch one of the judges of the Wales Book of the Year said during the announcement on Radio Wales,
It just took me aback completely. It was so shocking, but something so beautiful to come out of it.
And Jeremy at the launch of the book said this:
I wonder if [writng the book] is another form of potential protection… in some ways, it’s been a very healing process… once the poem’s written, and especially when it’s in a book, there’s another distancing. I think for me this relates to the book as an object. It’s like everything is contained in that book now, so I don’t need to carry it around with me anymore.
So if, like me, you shy away from a content warning, be encouraged, this is a generous kindly book that doesn’t want to steep you in trauma, it wants to share recovery and particular joy of looking back at a tough time and realising it really is the past, and that by writing about that past we can change our future.
This Autumn we’re taking A Voice Coming from Then on tour in Wales, to celebrate the collection winning the English Language Poetry Category in the 2022 Wales Book of the Year Awards. Join us at one of the events below for readings and conversation with poet Jeremy Dixon (and occasional guests).
Links to tickets for all the events will be updated as they become available.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…).
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.
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.