What Meets the Eye? – The Writers’ Perspective

We talked to poets Colly Metcalfe and Emma Lee about what it means to be published in What Meets the Eye? and how both their works tackle perceptions of D/deafness and disability.

What Meets the Eye? The Deaf Perspective

– What does having your work included in What Meets the Eye mean to you?

Emma: Firstly, I’m delighted to be alongside an impressive list of names. I’ve known Josephine Dickinson’s poems for a long time and I know Liam O’Dell’s work as a journalist but haven’t encountered his poems before. Raymond Antrobus’s preface is a generous consideration of identity and bias around being D/deaf and hard of hearing. Secondly, I’m really pleased at being included. I was nervous about submitting because I wasn’t sure if I was “deaf enough” to qualify – I can pass as hearing although was deaf as a young child and am hard of hearing now – and I’m unsure of where the boundary lies. In the event, I decided to submit because if I didn’t submit, there was no chance of acceptance. I shifted the responsibility for the decision to the editors and thought it was better to submit and get a rejection than find out afterwards my poem might have been accepted…but I still left it until the deadline.

Colly: I almost didn’t submit my poem!  I saw the call-out but I scrolled past, thinking it wasn’t for me.  I’ve only been writing for 3 years and I had no thoughts that my work would be even a smidge good enough to be published by Arachne Press, in a proper book!

I accidentally joined a (hearing) writing circle, but that too wasn’t easy to follow, but something ignited in me.  I read some of the women’s writings in the group and thought they were fabulous!  I was invited to some poetry reading events, but being deaf, they were completely inaccessible, and my confidence was shaken.  I had no ‘baseline’ to draw from; no peers to learn from about what works, what doesn’t and how to actually write.   

I was (still am!) pretty clueless when it comes to ‘proper writing’.  One of the local poets called my writing ‘childish and immature’, which could have really turned me off writing, but I’m not easily broken.  Maybe that comes from being deaf – thick skin and all that.  Then I took part in a fully accessible writing course for deaf, disabled and neurodivergent writers run by Spread The Word; the first time I’d been able to do something where I felt equal… and I did.  I didn’t know any of the people on the course, but it was led by the marvellous Jamie Hale and had people like DL Williams and Raymond Antrobous amongst so many others.  I wasn’t intimidated, because I didn’t know them, never having been in the writing arena. 

I think this is the reason I pressed the ‘submit’ button. Because other people believed in me, so I thought – why not? Nothing to lose! To have my poem Coffee Shop published in this anthology with such incredible people – and edited by Sophie Stone – is just inspiring!  I’m so proud that my words are in print!  For a new writer who is deaf and pretty much winging it, this is a huge buzz!  I mostly write for performance and I know what ‘looks good’ on a stage; I’m bold and fearless and happy to try things out, so seeing that my piece occupies a valid space in a book amongst other authors, is wonderful.

Colly Metcalfe

– Both of your poems address issues around the social definitions of deafness and disability. Why did you want to explore this in your work?

Colly: Because it comes easy to me.  It’s my lived experience and I could spend all day – all week – telling you sob stories and horror stories about how life is inaccessible (eg the poetry events I don’t go to, or the theatre performances I miss out on), but I don’t want to feel angry and frustrated all the time.  I spent years feeling like that, and hearing people stop caring after a while.  Writing poetry from a personal experience with some humour, gets the point across more effectively for me.  I use my voice a lot when performing live, and I inject BSL as a visual ‘accent’ and often with voice off, which really makes an audience see my point.  I’m told that because I use humour, it can ‘disarm’ an audience into thinking it’s fluffy and funny – but the honest twists of experience can make hearing people think about what it means to be deaf, and with deaf audiences, the shared experience makes us nod and agree because we’ve all been there.  I don’t always write about deafness, but there is often an element of ‘silence’ in my poetry, which alludes to the inability to hear.  I think with Coffee Shop, the references are very relatable for lots of deaf people.  I’ve written several pieces on ‘movement’, but this fit the brief and being an anthology of deaf writers, seemed appropriate.

Emma: My poem is about my journey into deafness, crossing the deaf/hard of hearing boundary and the difficulties created by having a largely invisible disability. At home alone, I don’t have to worry about how loud or quiet my voice is. I am in control of what background noise there is and my being hard of hearing doesn’t stop me doing anything that I want to do. However, in social circumstances, barriers are erected. Hearing people don’t think about background noise, someone knocking a glass on a hard floor is an annoyance rather than something that disrupts a conversation, why you might want to text rather than call, why it mattered that subtitles recently disappeared from TV channels, why it’s important that they are accurate, or why I ask how I sound after a poetry reading (and no one answers that question, except to say “you read well” or “you sounded OK” even though “well” and “OK” are not actual sounds).

don’t want all venues to be library-quiet, but I would like people to think about how noise travels and echoes in spaces and what might be done to accommodate those who can’t or struggle to hear. During the pandemic, when events moved online, it brought accessibility to event organisers’ attention and more effort was made to accommodate those with accessibility needs. I hope that continues as festivals and events open up again. There’s one venue in Leicester that gets it so wrong. When I have to go there, I go straight to the event without stopping for a coffee first, during the interval I do not leave to get a snack or drink and afterwards, I leave and walk to a nearby cafe bar for a drink because I cannot hear a conversation in the venue’s cafe and bar areas and the frequent interruptions from their tannoy (which I only hear as a muffled noise and have no idea what the attempted communication is about) make it difficult to focus to lip-read.

When it comes to equalities monitoring forms and the question “Do you have/consider yourself to have a disability?” I tend to tick “Prefer Not to Say” or “No” if that’s not an option. Especially if it’s part of an audience survey at an event which made zero accommodations for anyone hard of hearing. I don’t want to be responsible for the organisers thinking their event was accessible because they had a tick in their ‘disabled’ box. It’s not about every event having a BSL interpreter (although, in an ideal world, that would be good), but to encourage people to think about their audience and how organisers can meet the audience half-way, instead of expecting the audience to fit a venue that isn’t as accessible as it could be.

Emma Lee

– What do you think of each other’s approaches to these issues?

Emma: I love Colly’s humour and am jealous of people who can write humorously. I think it helps that the surly barrista is someone we’ve all met and we welcome the idea of her getting her comeuppance. A few finely-judged details not only set the scene but build characters so they’re not just cyphers. It’s a good way of holding up a mirror and asking: which character do you identify with? How would you handle the situation? Would you have intervened and forced the barrista to serve people in the queued order? Coffee Shop manages to be both light-hearted in tone and thought-provoking.

Colly: I related 100% to Emma’s piece. Her reference to the teacher saw me immediately sitting in the 1970s Maths classroom, and Mister Taylor who talked to the blackboard and threw chalk at me.  I never heard anything he said, and I didn’t know I was deaf then; I thought I was stupid…  Emma’s words brought all those feelings back, and I completely empathise with her experience.  I, too, struggled for a very long time with the ‘border between hard of hearing and deaf’.  ‘…hear in monotone’ – oh goodness yes.  I read Emma’s dialogue in this conversation too, about feeling that she’s not deaf enough and again, it hit me on a very personal level.  And that feeling of being in almost no-mans-land; neither hearing nor deaf.  I absolutely felt that.  For me, this is all in my past tense; I decided that I would not use the label ‘hard of hearing’ as I grew deafer, I became more comfortable with the word ‘deaf’.  It wasn’t easy; I speak well, I too can pass (bluff?) as a hearing person so the word ‘deaf’ took a long time to associate with, but it is right for me now.

– Is there anything that you would like to say to each other, after reading one another’s work?

Colly: I like your piece, Emma.  I’m glad (if that’s the right word?) that you felt deaf enough to submit your piece, because it’s certainly how younger me felt about becoming deafer.  I’d forgotten how difficult it was, and how far I’ve come in confidence as a deaf person. Your piece describes it perfectly, and I wish you well on your journey.  Your writing is clear and powerful and I’d really love to read more.  Thank you.

Emma: Please continue to write and share your writing. I think Colly’s background in theatre and performance is a good foundation and her ability to create characters from a clutch of telling details and capture conversation in print will take her far.

– How do you think your own poem sits within the wider collection of work in What Meets the Eye?

Emma: The strength in What Meets the Eye is its diversity of experiences, it touches on the barriers D/deaf and hard of hearing people face, on politics, emotions, prejudice, navigating a hearing world, being part of a family, and it also that there is no one definitive definition of deafness. The voices are various because they belong to people who still have a desire to communicate and be more than just a label. My poem is, rightly so, just my experience.

Colly: I think Coffee Shop sits well as a ‘diary-style-funny-we’ve-all-been-here-and-felt-that-moment’ poem, amongst the incredibly personal and touching words.  I write in a relatable way, and Coffee Shop reads like a good ‘lift’ amongst the beautiful, thoughtful and rich pieces.  I don’t know what I expected, and I don’t know how I thought I’d feel seeing Coffee Shop with other works, but I’m very proud and happy with the placing of it in the pages, and how the very different styles gel as an anthology – because of their very diverse approaches.  A huge success, I feel – and I’m very humbled to be there with these talented deaf writers.  

What Meets the Eye? The Deaf Perspective is available now. Order your copy from our online shop.

Where We Find Ourselves Blog Tour

We are really excited to announce the blog tour for Where We Find Ourselves edited by Laila Sumpton and Sandra A. Agard.

Published on 28 October, Where We Find Ourselves is an anthology of poems and short stories by nearly 40 writers of the Global Majority, from African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Carribean, South American, Chinese and Malay communities, writing about maps and mapping. In this book you will find stories and poems of finding oneself and getting lost, colonialism and diaspora, childhood exploration and adult homecoming.

Where We Find Ourselves is a book that is intended to start conversations and we can’t wait to hear what our reviewers and guest bloggers have to say.

You can find all the content from the blog tour here:

Day 1) “When Laila Sumpton suggested ‘Maps and Mapping’ as the focus for our global majority anthology, Where We Find Ourselves, I said yes almost by reflex.” Arachne Press publishing director, Cherry Potts, explores the Where We Find Ourselves theme of maps and mapping – and how the idea has morphed into an almost-series of linked titles.

Day 2) “This anthology is a great example of literary citizenship… It’s lovely to be part of something that’s actively trying to show the breath of experiences and writing styles across some many communities.” Read an interview with Where We Find Ourselves contributor Anita Goveas on Desi Books.

Day 3) Editor, Laila Sumpton introduces Where We Find Ourselves on the Platforma blog.

Day 4) “I found the stories and poems to be so enlightening and equally heartbreaking at the same time… Its beauty is beyond anything I have read in recent times.” @kristinas_shelves gives Where We Find Ourselves 4.5 stars in her instagram review.

Day 5) “I would definitely recommend this, as I found the texts were powerful, emotional and also provided an opportunity to learn.” @reflections_of_a_reader 

Day 6) “It goes without saying that I’m extremely excited about getting my story published in Where We Find Ourselves! There’s something very special about seeing my story in print, on actual paper, in an actual book, alongside some incredible poetry and short fiction by a very talented group of writers. I’m looking forward to seeing what readers make of the anthology!” Contributing writer Dipika Mummery describes her experience of being included in Where We Find Ourselves. Plus, read an extract from Dipika’s story, ‘A Walk in the Countryside’.

Day 7) Read an exclusive extract from Where We Find Ourselves: ‘Cocoon Lucky’ – a short story by Kavita A. Jindal.

Day 8) “This is a beautifully diverse collection by a host of talented writers” – bookstagrammer @LibraryLooter highlights some of the new authors she discovered in Where We Find Ourselves.

Day 9) Listen to a podcast with Arachne Director Cherry Potts, Where We Find Ourselves writer Marina Sánchez and Jessica Stone from Listening Books – our audiobook partners. 

Day 10) “Where We Find Ourselves is a diverse and innovative collection that showcases the wealth of talent that we have in our desi and wider communities when it comes to telling our own stories.” Desi Books highly recommends Where We Find Ourselves.

New titles and open calls

We’ve just started looking at the submissions for our anthologies and have decided on titles, for books which were just anthology shaped holes in the schedule – which somehow makes them feel so much more real!

You can now look forward to:

What Meets the Eye? The Deaf Perspective (September 2021) edited by Lisa Kelly and Sophie Stone
and
Where We Find Ourselves (October 2021) edited by Laila Sumpton and Sandra A Agard
and (without looking at submissions, as the call is still open)
Words From the Brink: Stories and Poems from Solstice Shorts Festival 2021 (December 2021)

Now we can think about cover design.

I’ve just noticed how many of our titles start with W!

Spiders Galore – feedback on the 8th Anniversary submissions

Well that was a suprise. When we cranked open the vault at Submittable to see what you’d sent us, there were hundreds of stories and poems in there! Like a spider nest full of baby spiderlings. We thought spiderlit was a niche of minute proportions, but it turns out lots of you share our passion for creatives with eight legs and a talent for weaving.

This does mean a lot of reading. We will do it as fast as we can! Definite ‘No’s will be out fairly quickly, but then we’ll have to compare the ‘maybe’s and the ‘yes’es and see what’s what. There already some themes and similarities rising from the mass, so we’ll need to decide if some pieces are too similar, and so on.

Please be patient!

Inspired by Lady Hale – a Spider anthology for our eighth anniversary

Inspired by Lady Hale I’ve been buying spider brooches (and that T-shirt that’s also supporting Shelter), like a mad thing, and then I thought…

Next August (8th Month) is Arachne Press’s 8th anniversary. What about an eight-legged arachnid inspired anthology?

Get writing, I’ll put a proper call out later in the week but maybe 2000 words-ish, deadline January-ish.

I’m going to make it difficult for you – NO Horror, NO spiders to be killed.

Think Charlotte’s Web for adults, not Arachnophobia. Some sort of homeless connection too? More when I’ve had time to consider properly.

I’ve resisted the temptation to use a close-up photo of a spider here. Imagine one.

 

An Outbreak of Peace contributors announced

Subject to confirmation from the writers, issuing of contracts and so on, we have the line-up for An Outbreak of Peace, our anthology responding to the centenary of the ending of WWI, which will be published in November.

They are:

Ellery Akers
Karen Ankers
Annelise Balsamo
Valerie Bence
Anne Bevan
Elinor Brooks
Katy Darby
Peter DeVille
Sarah Deckro
CB Droege
Ken Farrell
Corie Feiner
Norman Franke
David Guy
Chantal Heaven
Anwar jaber
Steven Jackson
Peter Kenny
Peter Shaver
Julie Laing
Katy Lee
Gerald McCarthy
Nicholas McGaughey
Nina Murray
Ness Owen
Clare Owen
Lily Peters
Nick Rawlinson
Rebecca Skipwith
Lucy Smith
Sarah Tait
James Toupin
Rob Walton
Nick Westerman
Martin Willitts, Jr
Mantz Yorke

We have an eclectic mix of poems and short stories some of which deal with WWI, some with the ending of other wars, and some not about war at all, as such, which is as it should be.

Poetry Call Out

This call out is FINISHED. We’ll be in touch with everyone who has submitted (thanks by the way!) by the end of April, other priorities permitting.

Calling all poets who like to write long complex things that take several pages and tell some kind of story. (I don’t mean the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, or Hiawatha, just some thread of coherent narrative!).

It may be swimming against the tide, but we are looking for poems for our first poetry anthologylong poems. So if you are ever frustrated by 40 line limits, this is your chance. We want AT LEAST 40 lines of narrative poetry. Send your PREVIOUSLY UNPUBLISHED IN BOOK FORM offering in before the end of February 2014 for consideration, using the contact form below.

We pay royalties (once production costs have been recovered) but no advances.

This call out is FINISHED. We’ll be in touch with everyone who has submitted (thanks by the way!) by the end of April, other priorities permitting.

 

 

Cherry Potts & Emily Cleaver talk about London Lies inspirations

Stations Reading at Brick Lane Bookshop

Thursday 6th December 7pm

Join us to celebrate the East London section of our book, Stations, with readings for Hoxton, Shoreditch High Street, Whitechapel, Dalston and Shadwell.

Brick Lane Bookshop
166 Brick Lane
E1 6RU
(Closest Overground station: Shoreditch High Street)
Owing to geographical impossibility and prior bookings we will have two of the stories read by actors, so those who are unfamiliar with the Liars’ League way of doing things can explore the different texture to be had from an actor and an author reading their work in public.

Reading on behalf of Katy Darby (Shoreditch High Street) Gloria Sanders
Reading on behalf of Rob Walton (Whitechapel) Tony Bell
Reading on their own behalf
Bartle Sawbridge (Shadwell)
Caroline Hardman (Hoxton)
and Wendy Gill (Dalston)

Discover what the well dressed vampire gets up to on a day up from the coast, what sharks have to do with WWI, how to entice the one you love with art, how not to sell property, and how to trust your offspring to make their own decisions.

Stations reading at Clapham Books

Stations is settling into a rhythm of readings with the latest booking at
Clapham Books
120 Clapham High Street
London, SW4 7UH
on Wednesday 21st November 2012. 7.30

Featured writers

Peter Cooper (Highbury & Islington)
Anna Fodorova (Canada Water) read by Cherry Potts
Rosalind Stopps  (Norwood Junction)
Wendy Gill (Dalston)
Jacqueline Downs (Crystal Palace)

Stories from many writers linked by the Overground line. Retired Policemen investigate train based crime, mothers cut the apron-strings, Students play hookey, oppressed workers fight back against bullying, and your local museum holds more than meets the eye…