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.

Arachne Press at Gloucester Poetry Festival – 30th October

Following hot on the heels of National Poetry Day, Arachne Press is delighted to announce we will be at Gloucester Poetry Festival later this month with a number of the poets we have published over the last 9 years.  Join us for our showcase online to hear these poets read from their work, and a brief Q&A afterwards.  Readings from (in order of appearance):

Jennifer A McGowan

Jane Aldous

Rob Walton

Kate Foley

Math Jones

Ness Owen

Emma Lee

Jeremy Dixon

The event is free, but ticketed.  You can register here.  If you can only use a voice line to dial in, please see the Gloucester Poetry Festival page for this event (scroll to the bottom of the page), here.

to celebrate we have bundles of 3 books by the authors available until just after the event – take a look

Independent Bookshop Week: Emma Lee

To celebrate Independent Bookshop Week, Arachne Press authors and editors are sharing their stories about the bookshops that are closest to their hearts. Emma Lee spoke to us about Five Leaves Bookshop in the heart of Nottingham’s City Centre.

Two poems from my book, The Significance of a Dress, were featured in Five Leaves Bookshop’s “Over Land Over Sea, poems for those seeking refuge” which I co-edited and helped launch. The bookshop was packed and, despite Ross Bradshaw’s grumpy exterior, the atmosphere friendly. There’s a standing joke that the anthology was Five Leaves’ quickest earning book, but the press didn’t see a penny (profits went to refugee charities).

The two poems I read that night, expanded to a collection of eight submitted to Arachne Press for an anthology and form the heart of The Significance of a Dress, which Five Leaves now stocks.

Five Leaves bookshop won the national final for the British Book Awards Independent Bookshop of the Year. It also won a Nottingham Rainbow Heritage Award for its support for LGBT+ communities in the city in 2019. A radical bookshop, it’s hosted Feminist Book Fortnight and other writers’ events. Five Leaves have also supported Lowdham Book Festival and States of Independence in conjunction with De Montfort University in Leicester.

Emma Lee

Independent Bookshop Week is part of the Books Are My Bag campaign and run by the Booksellers Association. It seeks to celebrate independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland. Your local bookshop will have their own way of celebrating this week, and we enthusiastically encourage you to visit, celebrate with them and buy a book! Look at #IndieBookshopWeek to keep up with the campaign and follow @ArachnePress to see all our content throughout the week.

Review of Tymes goe by Turnes on Blue Nib

This is probably the last review we will get from Blue Nib, as it is closing – due to an unsustainable funding gap.

I don’t know whether it’s yet another unforseen outcome of C-19, but a number of poetry and other literary magazines are on hiatus or have folded since I last checked for people to send books to for review.

As well as Blue Nib; Arete, Compass, Iota, and Antiphon have the shutters down on their website or have disappeared completely.

Many magazines, like small publishers, rely on volunteers to survive at all. I’m as at fault as the next person, I can’t afford the subcription (or the time) to read more than a couple of magazines, and yet we rely on them to spread the word about our books, and as discoverors and nursery grounds for writers who aren’t ready to offer a collection.

So maybe now is the time for an extra resolution for this year – to read a literary magazine, and support the work done by its editors, writers and reviewers.

In the meantime, a big thank you to prodigeous reviewer Emma Lee, for her review of Tymes goe by Turnes on Blue Nib.

‘Tymes Goe By Turnes’ is a timely anthology. Some pieces could be interpreted as being about the current pandemic, but all have a sense of timelessness. A sense that they could be picked up in several centuries in the future and, although the language would look archaic, they would still be understood.

Arachneversary Emma Lee The Significance of a Dress

As part of our Eighth anniversary celebrations, Poet Emma Lee talks about her collection The Significance of a Dress, and the impact of Covid-19 on the launch.

You can buy a copy of the book from our webshop. To get a discount throughout August, use the code ARACHNEVERSARY at the checkout.

 

Book Launch Part 2 No Spider Harmed…

The second half of our Eighth Anniversary extravaganza, so big we had to load it in two parts! (if you missed part one it is here)

You can buy the book from our website, (or a bookshop, but we see more of the money if you buy direct, and if I’m feeling generous, you might get a random badge too)
We are also having a sale (this book not included) Add ARACHNEVERSARY at checkout to get your discount and check out the special offers button too.
If you want an ebook your usual supplier will have it, We recommend Hive for ePub.

This half features

Emma Lee – Moonlight is Web Coloured (Poem)
Carolyn Robertson – Sicarius (story)
Stella Wulf – Femmes Fatales (poem)
David Mathews – Stowaway (Story)
Joanne L M Williams – Gifted (poem)
Marcel Hirshman performing Natalie Rowe‘s ‘If You Kill a Spider the Rain Will Come’, in BSL (Poem)
Math Jones as Robert the Bruce (Monologue)
Phoebe Demeger – Clearing Out the Shed (Story, followed by BSL translation by Marcel Hirshman.)
Chukwudi Onwere as Anansi (monologue)
Seth Crook – The Matter of the Metta (Poem followed by BSL Translation by Marcel Hirshman)
Hugh Findlay – Spider Haiku (poem)
Elizabeth Hopkinson – Web of Life (story)
with introductions by head Arachnid, Cherry Potts

cover design by Karen Boissonneault-Gauthier used repeatedly!

dancing spider gif created from photo by Martha Nance

Get ready for Book Launch for No Spider Harmed in the Making of this Book

It’s nearly here – weeks of planning, recording, editing, uploading … You may not be able to hear it but thousands of spiders are twanging their webs and stamping their feet in celebration. Join us on this Saturday, 8/8/2020 8pm….

You can buy the book from our website, (or a bookshop, but we see more of the money if you buy direct, and if I’m feeling generous, you might get a random badge too)
We are also having a sale (this book not included).
Add ARACHNEVERSARY at checkout to get your discount and check out the special offers button too.
If you want an ebook your usual supplier will have it, We recommend Hive for ePub.

The file for the launch ended up being so HUGE I had to split it, so there is a brief interval and the other half is at 9.02pm* BST. Just time for a comfort break or to refill your glass.

Where and when to find Part 1

You Tube https://youtu.be/40BHRD1GID0 (8pm)

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ArachnePress/videos/983508885447541/ (8pm)

Website https://wp.me/p2dpP2-5vK (8.02 to give YouTube a chance to get going – the files are too big to load directly)

Introduction by Cherry with BSL translation by Marcel Hirshman.

Kate Foley- Spin (Poem)
A. Katherine Black – Even People who’d been Accidentally Turned into Giant Murderous Mutant Spiders (story extract)
Greg Page as Incy Wincy (Monologue)
Daniel Olivieri Revenge. One JSTOR article at a time (Story)
Jackie Taylor – Goodbye Spider (Story)
Carrie Cohen as Ms Muffet (monologue)
KT Wagner – Across the Void (story)
Marcel Hirshman performing Jennifer Rood’s Spider Queen, in BSL (poem)

Where and When to find Part 2:

You Tube https://youtu.be/9uV5wjgY5SE (9pm)

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ArachnePress/videos/303396004197939/ (8.50)

Website https://wp.me/p2dpP2-5vV (9.02)

Emma Lee – Moonlight is Web Coloured (Poem)
Carolyn Robertson – Sicarius (story)
Stella Wulf – Femmes Fatales (poem)
David Mathews – Stowaway (Story)
Joanne LM Williams – Gifted (poem)
Marcel Hirshman performing Natalie Rowe’s ‘If You Kill a Spider the Rain Will Come’, in BSL (Poem)
Math Jones as Robert the Bruce (Monologue)
Phoebe Demeger – Clearing Out the Shed (Story, followed by BSL translation by Marcel Hirshman
Chukwudi Onwere as Anansi (monologue)
Seth Crook – The Matter of the Metta (Poem followed by BSL Translation by Marcel Hirshman)
Hugh Findlay – Spider Haiku (poem)
Elizabeth Hopkinson – Web of Life (story)

cover design by Karen Boissonneault-Gauthier used repeatedly! Dancing spider gif created from photo by Martha Nance

 

Launching No Spider Harmed in the Making of This Book

Yes, we are launching the book!

Join us at 8pm on the 8th of August, to celebrate the launch of our 8th anniversary anthology, No Spider Harmed in the Making of This Book.

Being eight is significant for us as we are named for a spider, so we are making a big deal of this!

Our writers have given the nod to Anansi, Robert the Bruce, Miss Muffet, and of course, Arachne herself, as well as discovering whole new worlds of spider influence and metaphor, with many stories dipping into Fantasy and Science Fiction.
A joy for any arachnid fancier, and anyone who can’t stand small lives being trampled, in prejudice or phobia.

Download the recipe for our ‘curds and whey’ cake in advance, so you can sample it at the right moment.

Watch readings from authors, interruptions from celebrities of the spider world, and BSL translations from Marcel Hirshman.

Readings of Poems from
Emma Lee
Hugh Findlay
Jennifer Rood (BSL only)
Joanne L M Williams
Kate Foley
Natalie Rowe (BSL only)
Seth Crook (+BSL)
Stella Wulf

Readings of Stories from
A. Katherine Black
Carolyn Robertson
Daniel Olivieri
David Mathews
Elizabeth Hopkinson
Jackie Taylor
KT Wagner
Phoebe Demeger (+BSL)

We aren’t going to let a global pandemic stop us celebrating our spidery anniversary.

Pull up a web and join us on our website, our YouTube Channel or our Facebook Page

Norwich Radical, Review of The Significance of a Dress

A new review of Emma Lee‘s The Significance of a Dress from Carmina Masoliver on Norwich Radical

Lee’s strength is in the moments of clear imagery and engagement of the senses

read more here:

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF A DRESS BY EMMA LEE – REVIEW

Author Guest Blog: Emma Lee – Significant Dresses

The title poem from my Arachne Press collection, The Significance of a Dress, is set in a wedding hire shop in a refugee camp in Iraq. People can be left in limbo, unable to return to the country they’ve left, and not yet able to integrate into the country they’ve applied for asylum in. Processing applications is rarely a priority and people can find themselves in camps for years, decades even. The camps’ residents are mostly young men. One reason is that they don’t have caring responsibilities so it’s easier for them to travel alone and they’re often sent on ahead, with other relatives planning to join them once they’ve settled. Another reason is that they are at risk of being conscripted either into the armed forces or into rebel militia. While girls don’t generally have that concern, girls do have to find ways of coping with sexual harassment and finding protection. In the camps, refugees are still expected to pay for food and utilities. Women can find themselves thrust into finding ways of becoming a family’s main breadwinner. No doubt some marriages are love matches, but others are about buying protection or settling dowries. Whatever the motivation behind the marriage, “a bride still wants to feel special, at least for one day.” When “The future is tomorrow. Next year is a question./ A wedding is a party, a sign of hope.”

In most cultures, a bride-to-be is made to feel that a wedding dress is the most significant choice she has. It may be an heirloom dress, worn by a mother or grandmother. It may be a dress of her choosing that incorporates memories of family members who can no longer attend the wedding, whether a sash in a late relative’s favourite colour, a borrowed pair of shoes, or a favourite flower in the bride’s bouquet. Some women have been planning their dress long before there was a groom. Whether the bride is looking for an extravagant ballgown or a slinky sheath for a beach wedding, or a trouser suit, it’s also likely to be the most expensive dress she’ll buy. Most brides will plan to shop with close friends or relatives, with the expectation of being put centre stage with a wide choice to try on. Where do you find a wedding dress if you’re stuck in a camp, possibly with restrictions on where you can travel and shop, and still under cultural pressure to make your day significant?

In one camp a woman, who’d worked in the fashion industry, set up a wedding hire shop to earn for her family. The title poem is based on an interview with her. The dresses were original brought in via her former fashion industry contacts, but she also uses seamstresses based in the camp to repair and alter gowns. A team of beauticians offer hair and make-up styling that won’t melt in the desert heat and will stay in place in the humid evenings so that the bride can have her big day. There is a risk some of the brides are underage, and the staff in the shop never ask the bride-to-be how old she is. A small group of women can’t police a camp, and they understand the desperation of a family.

My poem Casting a Daughter Adrift (from Time and Tide), looks at a wedding from a mother’s viewpoint. This mother has turned to needlework to earn money to feed the family, but it aware she can’t offer much protection against the harassment in the camps, “This man I have agreed to/ in her father’s absence/ I hope will protect her.” The journey from what was hope to the camp has aged her, “The shop’s cracked, foxed mirror/ tells me I’m decades older than my bones.” Neither of them can go back, “The house she was born in is rubble”. Yet she still wants this day to be special for her daughter, “The final payment is the last of my savings/ but I have one less mouth to feed.” Despite her desperation, she is proud of her daughter, “I’m going to let her go,/ my desert flower will bloom.”

Whatever your feelings on marriage, whether you want to get married or not, it’s hard to resist the idea of a wedding as a celebration and a note of hope amongst people whose lives have been devastated by war.

Emma Lee is a regular contributor to our anthologies, and her collection The Significance of a Dress, really fell foul of the Corona virus, with multiple events cancelled, and one of the launches delayed and venue moved. Instead of moping (which must have been tempting) Emma has been very generous with her time, writing this blog and contributing interviews to the website.

You can buy all the books mentioned from our webshop, we will post them out to you.

Preorder No Spider Harmed…  (Another anthology with a poem by Emma in it) out 8th August for our eighth anniversary.

If you would prefer eBooks, all these books are available from your usual retailer, now VAT free! We recommend Hive for ePub.