To celebrate forthcoming publication of Unmothered by A.J Akoto, we caught up with A.J to talk about every aspect of her debut collection, from the inspiration behind it, to her use of myth, and the complexities and challenges of writing about your own life.
We’ll be releasing chunks of this conversation every Monday lunchtime for the next few weeks. First up, A.J speaks to Cherry Potts about the initial inspiration for Unmothered, and how it was born from a need to speak into the silence that surrounds difficult mother-daughter relationships.
Publishing on 13th July, Unmothered is an intimate and unflinching collection that tracks the complex bind of mother-daughter relationships. Through separations and attempts to mend, longing and the fluidity of myth/story-telling in defining histories and identities, she collapses the elision between womanhood and mother/daughterhood.
“Every word in this stunning debut collection deserves its place on the page. Akoto skilfully stitches fragments of love, along with forgiveness, compassion, and insight, into the fabric of her life.” Louisa Adoja Parker
We launched three audiobooks last night, and over the next couple of days we are going to share some of the recordings. To celebrate we have a 20% off special offer voucher for these three audiobooks if you buy them via our audio and eBook store, this isn’t valid for any other site. Just use the code AudioLaunch before the end of May!
We’re really pleased to be joining forces with Brixton bookshop, Round Table Books, for a week of events in celebration of Independent Bookshop Week 2023, and of the brilliant community of independent publishers, booksellers, readers and writers in South London.
Independent Bookshop Week, which takes places from 17 – 24th June, is a Bookseller’s Association campaign, designed to celebrate and promote indy bookshops and all they do to keep the UK book trade diverse, eclectic and engaged with local communities.
We love getting know our local independent bookshops (as well as those further afield!) so we’re delighted to be hosting four events at Round Table Books during Independent Bookshop Week, showcasing recent and forthcoming Arachne Press titles. All the events are free to attend:
Monday 19th June, 6.30pm: Writing LGBTQ+ Joy with poet Jeremy Dixon. Ahead of the submission deadline for Arachne Press’ LGBTQ+ poetry anthology, Joy//Us, (October 11th) join poet and co-editor Jeremy Dixon for a workshop on writing queer joy. Suitable for all levels of poetry experience, this is an opportunity to explore the theme of queer joy, and perhaps produce a poem to submit for the anthology. Jeremy Dixon’s latest collection, A Voice Coming From Thenwon the Wales Book of the Year English language poetry category in 2022. Pre-booking essential, book now.
Tuesday 20th June, 6.30pm:Poetry reading with AJ Akoto. Debut poet AJ Akoto gives a pre-publication reading from her forthcoming poetry collection UnMothered (13 July 2023), followed by a Q and A session with Round Table Books Co-Director, Meera Ghanshamdas.Inspired by a desire to break the silence surrounding difficulties in mother-daughter relationships, UnMothered uses storytelling and myth to capture the complexity, and contradictions, that define the mother-daughter bond. Book now.
Thursday 22nd June, 8pm:poetRhiya Pau reads from her award-winning debut collection, Routes. Exploring the routes taken by Rhiya Pau’s parents and grandparents across multiple countries to arrive in the UK, Routes lays bare the conflicts of identity that arise from being a member of the East African-Indian diaspora. Book now.
‘We are delighted to be partnering with Arachne Press for Independent bookshop week, not only are they really local to us, but we are on very much the same page (pun deliberate) on the importance of inclusive publishing. Arachne’s focus on LGBTQ+ and disabled writers, as well as their championing of Global Majority writers, sits really well with the aims and ethos of our organisation. I’m really looking forward to meeting all the authors who will be reading or running workshops with us.’
We are really looking forward to being involved in #IndieBookshopWeek and hope to see you at one of the above events. And remember, a bookshop is for life not just Independent Bookshop Week!
Continuing our series of commentary from older women writers, here is Kate Foley on the huge gap between first experience of making poetry poet and actually getting published 45 years later. Also, video interview from when we first published Kate, in October 2016, with her collection The Don’t Touch Garden (also available as an audio book)
The Don’t Touch Garden
‘Up on the wild and lonely moors/ a keen wind is blowing./ The heather and the yellow gorse/ are in profusion growing….’ I wrote, aged 11 in my first convent grammar school year. ‘That’s poetry’ said my lion-headed English teacher. So I knew that I was destined to become a poet.
My second stroke of luck happened when I was 56 at a bookshop ‘do’ when I’d thrust a few poems on Lilian Mohin, publisher of Onlywomen press, who raised her eyebrows wearily. Next day the phone rang and a voice said ‘I want to do a book!’ Now nearly 30 years and 11 publications later I still don’t knowwhere the difference between being a poet and making poetry lies. Is it because I’m a woman in a world largely occupied by men in the being a poet bit? Nah! True but too easy! Time left only to savour that moment when one word fits another creating a nest for the rare and magical egg of poetry.
As publication of The Arctic Diaries approaches, we spoke to poet Melissa Davies to ask about the inspiration for her debut collection and her experiences on Sørvær – a tiny island in a remote Norwegian archipelago.
Here we are, The Arctic Dairies is about to go out into the world and what am I feeling?
In this moment, I find myself thinking often about the people living on Fleinvær. The handful of residents, the weekenders and friends I’ve spent another winter with. I picture them reading it and try to imagine what they will feel. After all, every poem sits in their landscape, not mine.
Listen to Melissa Davies read ‘Bird Wife’, on location in Norway
The Arctic Diaries truly started in the spring of 2017 with a Facebook post asking ‘Do you want to live and work in the Arctic?’ to which I replied yes! Months later a Skype call with the jazz musician who founded an artist retreat on Sørvær (one island in the archipelago of Fleinvær) and in November 2018 I was on a plane to the north of Norway to run The Arctic Hideaway for two months….which turned into six. My husband and I landed in the middle of an arctic storm to quickly learn the way of life here: weather rules winter and it is futile to resist that fact.
Sørvær is one of two year-round inhabited islands in the archipelago and during that first winter we spent many of the cold afternoons of polar night with the only other couple overwintering there. It was over kaffe, lefse and boknafisk (semi-dried cod) that I heard the tales that eventually became The Arctic Diaries. The book really began to form when I realised that many of these stories—eroded through family retelling—would disappear with the passing of the people we came to call friends. Not just traditional or folk tales but vocabulary unique to the landscape, ways of living and happenings that continue to tell us how it is to be here.
However, I don’t see The Arctic Diaries as an archive. The characters I’ve written are fictional, they are not two dimensional drawings of the people I met, I could never do them justice. Instead, I hope that readers will take from each poem what they need, along with a raised awareness or reminder of what we are losing as industrial fishing and fish farming continue to devour Norway’s coastline.
Having said that, the book is also a diary of my first winter on Fleinvær. An exploration of being ‘other’ and the personal demons I was facing at the time so I kept the diary title, structure and dates.
As someone from rural Cumbria, it was interesting to see so many of the difficulties facing Fleinvær and wider Nordland county reflected in the issues facing my own home. I write about the coastal Arctic because it’s the landscape that speaks to me but many of the poems sing a mourning song familiar to the fells too. So as you dive into sea orms, crab pots and eider nests please remember, The Arctic Diaries is only the first chapter in a project that has more to give, especially as art cements a place in the forward momentum of climate activism and Europe swirls with questions of borders and migration.
And for International Women’s Day on Wednesday 8th March at 4.30pm, we have a prepublication event for More Patina than Gleam by Jane Aldous at St Colomba’s-by-the-Castle Church Hall in Edinburgh.
In her 70th year, Jane decided to write a novella in seventy poems, exploring a fictionalised version of a life she almost lived.
This series of poems, based in post war Edinburgh, tell linked love stories, including the story of Linda, fleeing with her eleven-year-old daughter from England and an abusive relationship. In hiding as a lady’s companion in one of the city’s suburbs, mother and daughter settle into their new life in Elsie’s rackety house, and encounter a variety of characters who will change their lives forever.
As part of the exhibition, we have two LIVE IN PERSON events at the gallery
Tuesday 7th February 6.30 BSL interpreted curator tour with Cherry Potts and Deaf artist, Nina Thomas.
Recently, we have been choosing cover artists who share the experience of our authors, and for our Deaf anthology, What Meets the Eye, we asked Nina Thomas to provide the cover. Her complex, multi-layered photographic creations perfectly captured the theme of Movement that we chose for the book.
Join us for a BSL interpreted wander around the exhibition and find out about books, book covers, art, and putting on an exhibition.
Tuesday 9th February 6pm Routes, Imagining the Diaspora with artist, Suman Gujral and poet, Rhiya Pau:
Suman and Rhiya met when we chose Suman’s Story Plate for the cover of Rhiya’s poetry collection Routes. Both are inspired by their families’ journeys and the diaspora more generally.
Join them for a poetry reading, art sharing, discussion of where their work intersects, and a short hands-on workshop making poetry boats, which you can take home, or leave to be displayed in the gallery.
You might want to bring a favourite pen, relevant newspaper articles or family photos printed onto (both sides of) paper that will easily fold. Free tickets
NOTE!! Stephen Lawrence Gallery is in STOCKWELL STREET, not to be confused with Stephen Lawrence Centre or Building also in Greenwich.
Arachne Press has long been a champion of LGBTQ+ writers, but we’ve never before published an anthology of LGBTQ+ poetry. That is all about to change. The title of our forthcoming book is Joy//Us, because we want to publish your joyful poems, ones that celebrate all that is best about our community/ies and lives. This is not an ‘explain it to the straights’ book, this is for us. We want LGBTQ+ readers to be able to open the book at random and find a moment of poetic queer joy for themselves, however big or small.
This is a call for poetry by LGBTQ+ poets, for LGBTQ+ readers. If you don’t identify as being part of the LGBTQ+ community, then please do not submit. We are not looking for sexually explicit or derogatory poetry. Nor are we looking for poems about trauma or distress (we recognise it is out there and needs writing about, but this is not that book).
Send us your unpublished poems, in English (or Welsh, with a translation*). This is a UK/Republic of Ireland only call, but within that, we want to see as many submissions from poets from the global majority as want to be published by us. Send us up to 5 poems – we will consider a maximum of 3 for publication. Poems can be any length, but think first, do you really need all those words? Send us your best!
Submissions are open from 1 February 2023 (for the start of LGBT History Month) until 11 October 2023 (National Coming Out Day) and will only be accepted through Submittable.
The book will be published to coincide with IDAHOBIT on 17 May 2024.
*The poet must submit their work, not the translator, so if you have not translated your own work, the translator must give permission, and must be credited.
We are celebrating our 10th Anniversary by exploring our back catalogue and inviting you to do likewise with special offers on books celebrating their anniversaries in each month.
So for FEBRUARY we have a voucher, ARA10FEB, to get 50% off the following books
With Paper for Feet
The Dowry Blade
the first few books are poetry, the last is an epic lesbian fantasy novel.
The Significance of a Dress by Emma Lee – a book that didn’t really get its moment in the sun, being published just as we went into lockdown, explores feminism and the refugee experience in sharp, effective poems.
In Retail by Jeremy Dixon tiny poems originally written on the back of till receipts behind the counter of a high street pharmacy.
Foraging by Joy Howard poems of natures and bereavement
With Paper for Feet by Jennifer A McGowan takes on Shakespeare’s women, witches, and folk tales from around the world, served up in witty pithy angy poems.
The Dowry Blade by Cherry Potts described by another Arachne author as Game of Thrones with lesbians and without dragons.
All you need to do is use the code ARA10FEB at the checkout when you buy any or all of these books – you can only use the code once, so we encourage you to buy in bulk!