Last day on the road A470 Bishops Castle

A quick nip across the border into England for our final booked event on the A470 tour, at the wonderful Poetry Pharmacy in Bishop’s Castle.

Hosted by Daborah Alma and Pat Edwards, and introduced and translated by editor Ness Owen.

With readings from Ness Owen, Pat Edwards, Jeremy Dixon, Gareth Writer-Davies and Stephen Payne.

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A470 On the Road:Day 4 – Machynlleth – VIDEOS

Videos for day four of our A470 Tour, at Sennedd-dy Owain Glyndŵr in Machynlleth, hosted by galeri a siop lyfrau pen’rallt.

Poet Lowri Williams and editors Sian Northey and Ness Owen read their own and other poems  talk 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 in English and Cymraeg, on the way.

Our next date is this coming Thursday 30th June at 7pm, at The National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth details and free tickets

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A470 on the Road – Pontypridd Videos

Videos from our stop at Pontypridd, at Storyville Books.

Thanks to Jeff for hosting (and excellent cakes…)

Captioned versions ( in English) will be shared on social media as we finish them, but here’s the whole thing in the raw, featuring Siôn Aled, Des Mannay, Jeremy Dixon, Nicholas McGaughey, Stephen Payne, clare e potter and the work of Sian Northey and Ness Owen read by Cherry Potts and Siôn Aled

Penrhos poem on Radio 4


Just heard from Ness Owen, author of Mamiaith, and co-editor of A470, that her Penrhos poem is featured in United Kingdoms on Radio 4 Monday 31st January at 2.15. There’s not much info on their website yet, but set your alarms or catch it later on Sounds!


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

Arachne recommends books for International Women’s Day

Authors and Editors of upcoming titles choose three books  each that they would recommend for International Women’s Day

(Links mainly to our Bookshop affiliate page, except where the book is out of print, where the link will take you to abebooks, or not yet available where the link will take you to the publishers site)

Clare Owen, author of Zed and the Cormorants (April 2021)

The Good Women of China – Xinran

True – often harrowing and heartbreaking – stories of women living during the Cultural Revolution, collected by the host of a Chinese radio call-in show.

Love Among the Butterflies: The Travels and Adventures of a Victorian Lady – Margaret Fountaine (out of print)

The private diaries of a vicar’s daughter who defied her family’s expectations to travel the world collecting butterflies and lovers along the way.

What I Loved – Siri Hustvedt

A beautifully written, intense and intelligent book about art, love and loss from a writer who invariably gets less attention than her husband (novelist Paul Auster)!

Cherry Potts, Arachne Editor in Chief (who gets to choose more than three)

The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula le Guin

A powerful and wildly original Science Fiction novel that tackles gender fluidity decades before anyone else, in passionate and often witty observations of human, and alien frailty.

The White Darkness, Geraldine McCaughrean

I could have picked any of McCaughrean’s young adult novels, but this is the one I read first and adored. A tautly written adventure that doesn’t sidestep difficulties, and is truly shocking at times.

Persepolis Marjane Satrapi

A graphic novel/autobiography about growing up as a stroppy teenager in Iran. Funny, distressing and beautiful.

Second Class Citizen Buchi Emecheta

As a bright young thing in the 70’s and early 80’s, I sought out and read acres of books by black women, many of them American, and some no longer in print. This book bucked the trend, being both British and with sufficient enduring appeal to still be available. There are whole passages in this book I remember pretty much verbatim nearly 50 years later.

The Stone Age Jen Hadfield

Not actually out yet, (18th March) this is my first ‘choice’ selection from the Poetry Book Society. I’d been resisting signing up on the grounds that I like to choose my own books, and poverty, but I finally cracked and I’m really glad I did. This is one of those ‘I wish I’d published that’ books, and taps into all sorts of things that I love, in particular the standing stones of Shetland. Hadfield gives them voice in an entirely convincing way. A total delight that made me want to visit Shetland again.

Ness Owen, co-editor A470 (March 2022)

Inhale/Exile Abeer Ameer  (Seren). The poems I’ve heard so far are a fascinating mix of the personal and political, of language and place. Between Iraq and Britain, the poems move from tender family histories to shocking atrocities.

Flashbacks and Flowers Rufus Mufasa (Indigo Dreams forthcoming, can’t find any information though!) I really enjoyed the journey in this collection deeply rooted in time, place and lives lived with a wonderful interweaving of languages.

Aubade After a French Movie Zoe Brigley (Broken Sleep Books)  This pamphlet includes some of the wonderful Gwerful Mechain’s poetry, bringing it into the 21st century (including an interpretation of the infamous Ode to a C*** in a brave modern voice). The poems are a spoken celebration for what it is to be a women without shame.

Laura Besley, Author of 100nehundred (May 2021)

Mrs Narwhal’s Diary by S.J. Norbury (publisher Louise Walters Books). I heard the author read an exert of Mrs Narwhal’s Diary at an LWB event and completely fell in love with the style of the book and the main character’s unique voice.

The Thin Line Between Everything and Nothing by Hannah Storm (Reflex Press). Hannah Storm’s flash fiction is searing in its honesty, attention to detail and emotional resonance. This collection will, without a doubt, be fantastic.

The Yet Unknowing World by Fiona J. Mackintosh (Adhoc Fiction). Fiona J. Mackintosh’s writing is a sublime combination of lyrical and startling. I’m very much looking forward to reading her full collection.

Lily Peters, author of Accidental Flowers

The Hazelnut Grove, by Paula Read: [Disclosure: Paula is Lily’s mum, and we’ve published her in the past.] I might be slightly biased, so don’t just take my reviews for it. If you want to escape for a while into the European dream and in turn, discover the harsh reality of how much work it takes to make such a dream come true, this is a satisfying and comforting read.

The Bass Rock, by Evie Wyld: This is the story of three women, in some way related, across three time periods. It is set by the wild North Sea in the Scottish borders and the landscape is a character in its own right. It is unsettlingly written, and it has everything you need: scandal, spooky empty houses and a hint of witchcraft.

Weather, by Jenny Offill: The way Offill writes is gripping and quick. It is the closest thing you can get to instant gratification in literature. This book is all about the relatively unknown under-world of ‘preppers’ – those who are preparing for a potential world-ending apocalypse. Right up my ever-darkening street!

Ness Owen: Beach Clean

Poet Ness Owen introduces her poem Beach Clean written especially for Solstice Shorts Festival, Tymes goe by Turnes.The festival is online this year, 21st December 2020 8pm BST Tickets are on sale now (donation: suggestion £5) on eventbrite

you can preorder the book direct from our webshop and get a free ticket, or ticket holders paying at least £5, get the book half price if ordered by 8am the morning after the festival.

Arachneversary – Mamiaith Ness Owen

Almost exactly a year ago we published Mamiaith, by Ness Owen our first bilingual poetry book, in English and Welsh.

To celebrate our Arachneversary and Mamiaith’s Bookversary, Cherry Potts and Ness discuss the origins of the book and the misread email that almost derailed it before it got started!

Lockdown Interviews: no21 Ness Owen interviewed by Joy Howard

Ness Owen (Mamiaith, Shortest Day, Longest Night, Dusk, An Outbreak of Peace, Noon, Time and Tide) interviewed by fellow poet Joy Howard, (Foraging, Dusk,Time and Tide)

Joy Howard

Joy:     As someone who has never been rooted in any particular location, I am especially interested in how the opposite of that – in your case Wales and Ynys Môn – makes your poetry particular and different. What would you like to say about that?

Ness:   I never really thought consciously about how much I write about place until more of my work was published and people started commenting. I’ve always felt deeply rooted to Ynys Môn and to Cymru- to the landscape, history, language and stories. I grew up living with one set of grandparents in the North but also frequently visiting my other grandparents in Swansea in the South. They were all great storytellers and they (together with my primary school and Sunday school teachers) instilled me with a great sense of my roots and of stories bursting to be told.
School holidays were often spent making the long, (up to 7-hour journey because of travel sickness) across the length of the country. I was fascinated by the changing landscapes and the place names, often knowing their order off by heart. On these journeys, I learnt so much of a history that wasn’t taught in schools from the meaning of names, folklore to story behind graffiti on walls.
As you can imagine, living on a small wind-blown island, the sea can’t help but show up in my writing too. I’ve never lived more than a couple of minutes from the shore. I was brought up in a village with the Irish Sea in front of me and the Inland Sea behind me and I now live on my husband’s family farm where the spring tides come into the fields not far from the house.
Also, growing up in a bilingual community has had a great influence on my writing and I’ve always been fascinated by words and languages in general. In school, I also studied German, French and Latin. One of my neighbours was German so we often played German games in her garden and at Christmas we sang ‘Silent Night’ in Welsh, English and German. I love the different sounds of languages and the weaving between more than one language.

Joy:     I am a lifelong fan of R S Thomas – has he been an influence in your writing? Anyone else in particular?

Ness:   I’m a great fan too and his poetry collections are always at hand to return to. Although I was aware of him for his activism when I was growing up, I was very much a later comer to his poetry. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I realised that he was brought up a few miles from me and I’d attended the same secondary school as him. Even though I studied literature up to a degree, we didn’t study any Welsh writers writing in English, so I do feel cheated that he wasn’t celebrated at that time. Thankfully that has changed.
I read a lot of poetry, so I probably have been influenced by many and I enjoy a great variety of styles. Names that spring to mind today would be Mary Oliver, Menna Elfyn, Seamus Heaney, Tony Harrison but that list leaves many others out!

Joy:     Do you feel that gender/sexuality/age also have a bearing on what you write?

Ness:   I sure they must. I was very aware when I began studying literature that we weren’t studying many women writers or poets. In the first few years of secondary school, we were given a poetry anthology to read called ‘Reach Out’ (which I confess, I still have). It has 100 poems in it, and at the time I counted that there were only 3 poems by women. This stayed with me, so I suppose I always felt a sense of how easy it is not to be heard.

Joy:     And following on from that, do you also write ‘outside your skin’ so to speak?

Ness:   I hope that some of my work gives voices to others too. I attended a workshop many years ago where we asked to rewrite a piece that we had written from other person’s point of view, either from another gender, age group, opposing side etc. I use this exercise on my work sometimes to try and see if another angle adds a new dimension and, in an effort to make sure I’m not being too blinkered.

Joy:     I see that you have also written a number of plays – which is your preferred medium?

Ness:   I enjoy writing both and often a play will start as or turn into poem or a vice versa. As I get older, I seem to be writing more poetry, but I do have ideas on the back burner that will hopefully turn into plays.
I like the anonymity of writing plays in the sense that you can hand it over and can sit with the audience (even if you heart is racing). On the other hand, poetry is something that I can work on while I’m doing other things whereas plays tie me to the desk.

Joy:     How was it working with a translator?

Ness:   I was lucky to have met Sian Northey in a playwriting workshop the year before my collection was published and she encouraged me to write more in Welsh. Afterwards, I also attended a workshop of Sian’s and learnt so much about sitting with the meaning of the poem before starting to translate.
When Cherry asked if I would translate a few of the poems into Welsh I asked Sian if she would proof-read and make any suggestions and thankfully, she agreed. From my side it was a free and easy conversation and we emailed back and forth. She was very gracious at pointing out any grammatical errors or ‘camdrieglo’ (incorrect mutations) and it was a joy to see the finished poems.

Joy:     I’m devastated that all Grey Hen Press readings have been cancelled for the foreseeable. Do you enjoy performing your work?

Ness:   It must be such a difficult time as readings are such a lifeline and disappointing that events are being understandably cancelled.
Although I still get nervous, I do enjoy performing. I think it’s a catalyst to improve your craft and to find out when things don’t work. I also love meeting and listening to other writers. I enjoy going to open mics and I’m a member of a few local groups that organise events. I’ve got so much out of these chances to perform.

Joy:     What projects are you currently working on?

Ness:   As part of the multi creative exhibition ‘Unus Multorom’ in Plas Bodfa on Ynys Môn, I’ve been working on a set of micro poems in Welsh and English about 3 female saints Gwenfaen, Ffraid and Dwynwen who were all ‘brought by the sea’. It’s been fascinating to research them and, to realise how much their stories hold true to what we need more of today: kindness, a soothing of the mind and unconditional love. I’ve been working in collaboration with the artist Rita Ann Jones who has produced an amazing sculpture out of recycled plastic which is based on the chains and ropes holding ships in the quay. The poems will be displayed within the sculpture together with salvaged pieces found on the beaches where the saints were said to had arrived at. Due to the lockdown, the exhibition has had to change medium to digital and it will eventually all be found at .
I hope to put together a pamphlet of micro poems, a form I’ve been enjoying working with after the call outs from the Black Bough community on Twitter.
I’m also very excited to be reading for a journal later this year.

Joy:     Please add anything you want to say that I have left out – and I must order a copy of Mamiaith from Cherry forthwith!

Ness:   Thank you for selecting such thought provoking questions.

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, now VAT free! We recommend Hive for ePub.

Lockdown Interviews: no20 Anne Macaulay interviewed by Ness Owen

Anne family tales

Anne Macaulay

Anne Macaulay (Vindication, The Other Side of Sleep) interviewed by fellow Poet, Ness Owen (Shortest Day, Longest Night, Dusk,  An Outbreak of Peace,  Noon, Time and Tide, Mamiaith)

Ness_Owen (4)

Ness:  I very much enjoyed reading all your poems in the Vindication anthology. They have a ‘travelled’ feel to them. Are you an avid traveller? Where is ‘home’ for you?

Anne:           That’s very kind of you. I love travelling. It is not just the pleasure and relaxation part of it though of course that is important. It is part of my passion for learning and enjoying difference – food, architecture and other cultural aspects that add to my joy at broadening my experience. My flamenco poems are an example of this. I love the colours, the drama, the music in all its forms – guitar, voice, percussion, particularly the power of the clapping and how these rhythms are manifest in the dance. It is a very different culture from my original home in rural north Scotland, but the power and passion of music and dance have always drawn me in. My current home is in the east of London and has been since the 70s. I love the mixture of peoples and cultures making every day like a travel experience.

Ness:  Identification in Vindication is a hauntingly powerful poem. What was the inspiration for it?

Anne:           The opening lines refer to my ‘Greek foot’. My long middle toes were often the subject of teasing by my sisters and embarrassment for me as a teenager. It was a revelation to see my feet in some old statues in museums and it became a bit of a joke. I must have been thinking of this subconsciously while I washed myself as the first lines popped into my head one day as I stepped out of the shower. I probably watch and read too many crime stories as somehow it suddenly seemed easy to imagine myself lying on a mortuary slab with a clinical discussion going on about my dead body. As I did this, it didn’t feel maudlin, rather it felt interesting to compare the factual details of a body with the human being who once occupied that space. It gave me a vehicle to self-reflect.

Ness:  Are there common themes in your poems that you return to?

Anne:           Like a lot of people the themes of childhood and family and who I am often recur. I had a very old-fashioned, strict, but loving, upbringing as the fifth of seven children. My father was a Church of Scotland minister from the Outer Hebrides and my mother was a teacher and also hailed from the Highlands. Fathers and Daughters in Vindication brings in my father and my husband when we reconciled over not having a religious wedding by having a blessing in my parents’ living room. I have written, too, about my children and as a new grandmother I suspect I may soon expand these family poems to include my beautiful new granddaughter. However, as is shown in Vindication, I also go beyond my immediate world. For example, the theme of feminism is close to my heart as well as concerns for treatment of all groups who are oppressed for example, the poems Vindication, Here Lived and A Man Once Said to Me. However I rarely write overtly political poetry and sometimes my poetry stems from a sudden random thought – this has happened several times after stepping out of the shower. The poem, I Went to the Market and I Bought, which appears in the Arachne Press anthology, The Other Side of Sleep, was one such.

Ness:  You have had a long career in education. Would you say this has had an impact on your writing?

Anne:           I loved my years in education – working to give young people the best of chances to become their best as human beings contributing to society was always my goal. I suppose that made me very aware of human nature dealing with it, shaping it, in all its forms, in the classroom, the corridor and the playground. So perhaps I gained insights that find their way out in poetry. I actually didn’t really do much creative writing, poetry or prose, until the end of my career. Work occupied so much of my time that I didn’t have time for much else. However, I am so grateful that I started poetry classes as a diversion from not working and found that after all these years of considering myself very uncreative, that I get great satisfaction from writing, particularly poetry.

Ness:   What’s the most read poetry book on your shelves?

Anne:           I came to poetry late and so when I was young and, as a teacher of English for some of my career, I would have read mainly the school canon. Writers such as Gerard Manley Hopkins, Wilfrid Owen, Robert Burns, Sylvia Plath would have been some of the ones I read most and enjoyed. Sometimes it was just individual poems stuck in my mind like Stevie Smith’s Not Waving but Drowning or Frances Cornford’s Childhood rather than collections. Since going to classes at City Lit and The Poetry School it has been fantastic being introduced to contemporary poetry. I have enjoyed so many new works in the last few years it is hard to choose. I have also had the added enjoyment of reading pamphlets and books written by people I now consider friends as well as poets I admire. All the poets I have had as tutors are great poets whose work I enjoy and have been generous in sharing their appreciation of other peoples’ poetry: Clare Pollard, Roddy Lumsden, Chris McCabe, Matthew Caley, Sophie Herxheimer, Sasha Dugdale and Mark Waldron – but if you’re going to pin me down on this, I would have to say that Roddy Lumsden’s So Glad I’m Me is probably the most read, recently. This is for a number of reasons. I love Roddy’s poetry and it would probably take me too long to define why. Like most of his students, Roddy’s class and his writing had a huge influence on me, and I used to say to him that I could feel him looking over my shoulder – telling me I needed to do a lot of rethinking and redrafting! This particular collection, sadly his last before his death in January, has many poems written to or inspired by different people he knew and one of those (Small Calamities) was written for me after I’d had a bit of a crisis. This of course makes it more personal for me but also, I love all the poems in it.

Ness:  What’s the best and worst advice about writing poetry that you’ve been given?

Anne:           Writing is so personal that different things apply to different people and their varied writing styles. I think being advised to read work aloud has been very helpful and re-reading with an ear not just to sound and rhythm but to flabbiness! So cutting is often very helpful. However I think it is important to hold onto one’s own belief in work. I remember once I brought a poem back to an early workshop where I had tried to take on board everything my classmates had said. One of the class said to me at the end quietly, ‘You can sometimes over-workshop a poem’. I was really grateful for that, and now only take on board advice that fits totally with my own thinking.

Ness:  Following on from that, if you could give your younger self advice what would it be?

Anne:           That is quite difficult as I never considered myself a poet until in recent years. I certainly wish I had considered myself as having a creative side when I was younger, and that I had started writing in my youth. Perhaps I would say to myself – there is work and there is family but set aside something for yourself whatever it is to do even if it is only now and then.
Ness:  What are your future writing plans?

Anne:           I am not great at planning and looking forward. I think my writing plans would be helped if I did more reading of other poets’ work. I have had poetry published in anthologies but would love to have a pamphlet or collection out of my work as an individual poet. I think this interview has made me think I perhaps need to be more organised and disciplined as a poet if I am ever to come close to achieving that goal. Maybe that should also be a bit of advice to my younger self too.

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, now VAT free! We recommend Hive for ePub.