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.

 

Lockdown Interviews: no15 Jenny Mitchell, Interviewed by Emma Lee

pic for distribution Jenny Mitchell

Poet Jenny Mitchell (Time and Tide) interviewed by Emma Lee, (The Significance of a Dress, The Other Side of Sleep, Story Cities, Time and Tide, No Spider Harmed in the Making of this Book)

25 Emma Lee

Emma:         How did you start writing and what drew you to poetry?

Jenny:          I’ve been writing since I was a child, drawn to telling as many stories as I could in as short an amount of time as possible. Luckily, the English teachers at my secondary school were extremely encouraging when they saw how much I liked to read. The deputy head, Ann Taylor, was an outstanding teacher who allowed me to show her my poems whenever I liked. It was really encouraging and wonderful.
Another teacher, Gaynor Macdonald, was also very good. Her husband, George Hartley, published The Less Deceived by Philip Larkin (this will be my only name drop – promise!). Gaynor and George helped me to develop my love of writing.

Emma:         At the Time and Tide festival in Greenwich, your poem, Church Mary Sounds the Sea, was read by Grace Cookey-Gam. How did it feel to hear your poem read by someone else?

Jenny:          I found Grace’s reading extremely moving, and I’d love to work with more actors to bring my poems alive.
I was also really moved when Grace asked me if Church Mary was based on a real person. I love that the poem seemed so alive to her, and it inspired me to write another poem which includes a grave for Church Mary. Despite this, I continue to write about her because she seems like a powerful character with a lot of wisdom.

Emma:         Your poem, Church Mary Sounds the Sea in the ‘Time and Tide’ anthology explores how important it is to bear witness. How important is it to keep the memory of slavery and injustices alive? Do you think the history of slavery should be part of the National Curriculum?

Jenny:          I don’t know whether it is or not. There was a lot of work being done to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in 2007. However, I think the history, as told in museums etc, often creates a picture of poor, downtrodden black people who were freed by noble white men like Wilberforce. This distortion denies the agency and power of black people and their/our role in fighting for freedom.
I felt so starved of nuanced information about the history that I spent five years doing my own research, reading lots of books and examining archives. One of the most influential books for me was Natural Rebels by Sir Hilary Beckles.
Once I’d done this research, my main aim as a writer became to transform the history and ‘give voice’ to those who were silenced but not destroyed.

Emma:         Towards the end of Church Mary Sounds the Sea, you use the image of ‘real strength lies beneath our surface’, implying that, despite the attempts of ‘slave owners’ to dehumanise the enslaved, the image suggests they have not lost their humanity. Do you think it’s important to re-humanise those who were made slaves?

Jenny:          I don’t think enslaved people were ever not human. I think white ‘slave owners’ attempted to take away their humanity using unspeakable violence and oppression. This attempt to dehumanise is at the heart of any narrative that suggests white abolitionists were the ones who freed black people. It denies agency and the natural desire to be free.
It might also be the foundation on which racism is built, the idea that white people are the human beings with power and everyone else is somehow ‘other’, powerless and beneath them.
I’d like to reiterate that in writing about what I perceive to be the legacies of British transatlantic enslavement, I’m not just talking about black people. I think the entire structure of white ‘patriarchy’ is a legacy, including its continued economic, physical and psychic violence towards black people.

Emma:         Your poem Her Lost Language begins: “English mouths are made of cloth/ stitched, pulled apart with every word”. How important is the imagery of clothes to your work?

Jenny:          I seem to use clothes as a way to talk about identity, history and emotions. I think that for women, and black women in particular, clothes were and are used to signify so much – status, worth etc.

Emma:         The metaphors in Eve’s Lost Daughter suggest the damage of a woman’s clothes is a reflection of her alleged madness, but the advice at the end of the poem is for her to take her damaged clothes and escape. You’ve mentioned elsewhere the intergenerational traumas that arise for descendants of slaves, and a reading of Eve’s Lost Daughter could be that she takes her inherited damage with her even as she escapes captivity. Is this an important theme in your work?

Jenny:          Thank you for your interpretation. Firstly, to clarify, I think intergenerational trauma regarding enslavement is something that impacts white people as much as it does black people, for obvious reasons but in very different ways.
I’m sure you know that sometimes you just write ‘instinctively’ without going into deep thought about what it means to you or to others. But your interpretations of my poems definitely get to the heart of my beliefs. Yes, I think we carry all of our past within us until we do the work to heal/transform it. I believe that poetry or any creative endeavour can be a form of personal alchemy.

Emma:         In Song for a Former Slave you use the metaphor, ‘her dress is made of music’ and in this poem the subject’s clothes represent freedom, yet women’s clothes are more usually described in terms of their restrictions. What inspired you to subvert this norm or surprise readers in going against convention?

Jenny:          Perhaps clothes mean different things to us depending on our histories/cultures. Also, I think poems should subvert and surprise, if only because that reminds us of how restrictive the norms can be.

Emma:         These poems are in direct contrast to Black Men Should Wear Colour which has a distinctly celebratory note throughout in a list of flamboyance. How free do you think people should be to choose their own clothes, or it is too easy for people to go with a default suit for work, jeans/sweats for casual wear and not really think about what they are wearing?

Jenny:          I wonder if being really free to choose the way we dress would lead to more freedom and a surer sense of identity?
In the case of Black Men Should Wear Colour, I wrote it after looking out of my window and seeing a black man in really bright clothes. It reminded me of my short time living in Senegal where I saw men in the most amazing colours. They looked so alive, in contrast to the way so many black men dress in the UK. I believe it might be a sort of camouflage, not wanting to stand out in a country where there might be hostility/envy from so many quarters.
In Samuel Selvon’s seminal book, ‘The Lonely Londoners’, he describes black men in the ‘50s who are dressed in bright colours as being not quite ‘respectable’. I’ve also heard that this was one of the things that was said to denigrate people coming from the Caribbean after the 2nd World War. They were mocked for dressing in banana-coloured clothes etc. It’s obviously meant to be a racist slur but I think it’s interesting that (the vibrancy of) clothes should be singled out.

Emma:         What projects are you working on right now?

Jenny:          I’m drafting my second collection called Map of a Plantation. The poems are challenging because of the subject matter, not necessarily the form. But it feels like something I have to do.
Later in the year, I’ll be working with Floe Press as Guest Editor of their poetry blog.

Emma:         What are you currently reading?

Jenny:          I tend to read lots of individual poems during the day, but I think of it as part of my ‘education’.
In order to relax I’ve started reading massive biographies again, currently Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh by John Lahr, about Tennessee Williams.

Emma:         Are there any writing advice or tips you’d like to pass on?

Jenny:          Perhaps if you’re a member of a writing group practise writing down any feedback about your poems instead of answering it verbally. I find this is a helpful way not to get trapped into justifying or defending work. It also means I can go away and look at what’s been said and winkle out anything that might be useful.

Emma:         What question would you have liked to answer?

Jenny:           think I’d have liked to be asked: when are you next performing in Rome? And for me to be able to give you a concrete date. Soon, I hope…

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

If you would prefer eBooks, all these books are available from your usual retailer. we recommend Hive for ePub.

Preorder No Spider Harmed… – out 8th August 2020 for our eighth anniversary!