Monday 25 November 2019

Invitation to New Walk Editions Launch

Free and All Welcome!

Please join us 6.00-7.30pm on Friday 29 November in the Courtyard Room of the Leicester Creative Business Depot, 31 Rutland St, Leicester LE1 1RE, for the launch of two provocative new collections of poetry from New Walk Editions

Steve Ely will be reading from I Beheld Satan as Lightning Fall from Heaven, a sequence about love and betrayal; and John Greening from Europa’s Flight, a crown of sonnets about Cretan myth, borders, the refugee crisis and yes, Brexit …

And congratulations are due to New Walk Editions, which has recently been shortlisted for the Michael Marks Publisher's Award 2019. One of the pamphlets published by New Walk Editions, Declan Ryan's Fighters, Losers, has also been shortlisted for an award. You can see further details here

Hope to see you at the launch event. Admission is free, and there is street food and a bar!

Saturday 23 November 2019

Lydia Towsey, "The English Disease"

Lydia Towsey is a poet, performer, cat keeper, mother and ukulele strummer – with an MA in Creative Writing and a primary school certificate in "tap dancing." Previously shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize, she’s spoken and performed everywhere from London’s 100 Club, Roundhouse and the House of Lords, to "On the Buses," with Literary Leicester and Arriva (bus company).

Commissioned by the Guardian, Royal Albert Hall, Kew Gardens, Apples and Snakes, Poet in the City and more, Lydia has UK toured three shows, funded by Arts Council England. In 2018 she was one of the artists listed for the Outspoken London Prize for Poetry in Film and in the UK Saboteur Awards for Best Show (The Venus Papers) and for Best Spoken Word Performer.

In addition to her practice as a writer and performer, Lydia works for Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust and is the Artistic Director of WORD! – a poetry organisation delivering one of the longest running poetry nights in the UK.

Widely published in journals and anthologies (with Bloodaxe Books, Candlestick Press, Five Leaves and others) her debut collection, The Venus Papers, was published by Burning Eye Books in 2015. The English Disease is her second collection. 

The English Disease (Burning Eye, 2019)

"The English Disease" has been coined as a term to describe everything from missed penalties and vitamin D deficiency, to no sex please, tea and rickets. Exploring contemporary world events, including the international migration crisis and the British EU Referendum, alongside the lived experience of becoming a mother in a year of celebrity death and continental fracture, this collection examines the condition afresh.

With zombies, cats, Bowie, break-ups and the weather; eating disorders, buses, Beatrix Potter, queueing, nature, war and nursery rhymes, The English Disease draws upon class, colonialism and other undead matters to explore identity at a time of now … apocalypse?

“This book is a new national anthem. Visual, vivid, curious and kind” (Joelle Taylor).

You can see a trailer about the book here

And below is a poem from the collection: 

Love Poem to a Zombie Government

You – are my sugar lump,
my spark in the dark, prairie flower,
swamp duck, blue cheese,
break-in-the-clouds, apocalypse breeze. 

You’re my Sunday, Monday, Tuesday week
at the knees and in the feet.
Last night I dreamt you tried to kill me.

You’re my chickadee,
sweet pea, sweetheart, honey,
baby, darling, kick 
the bucket.

My sun, my moon, my stars, my rain,
baby; last night I dreamt you tried to kill me, again.

Tuesday 19 November 2019

Martin Stannard, "The Moon is About 238,855 Miles Away"

Martin Stannard is a poet and critic, and lives in Nottingham. He was the founding editor of joe soap’s canoe (1978-1993), a poetry magazine some people regard as legendary. It can be found archived here. He was also poetry editor of the online art and poetry magazine Decals of Desire. His most recent full-length collection is Poems for the Young at Heart (Leafe Press, 2016). A chapbook, Items, was published by The Red Ceilings Press in 2018. Forthcoming in 2020 are a pamphlet, The Review, from Knives Forks and Spoons, and a full-length collection from Leafe Press that currently has a working title of Reading Moby-Dick and Various Other Matters

In 2007-8 he was the Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at Nottingham Trent University but, that year aside, he taught English, Literature and Culture at a university in China from 2005 until 2018. In spite of having failed to learn to speak Chinese apart from some very basic everyday stuff, such as talking about the weather with cab drivers, translating classic poetry from the Tang dynasty period has occupied him alongside his own poetry for the last five or six years. Shoestring Press have just published The Moon is About 238,855 Miles Away, a collection of these translations / versions. You can see more details about it on the publisher's website here.  

The following is the book’s introductory note that explains the versions / translations:  

From The Moon is About 238,855 Miles Away, by Martin Stannard
The originals of the poems here are from the Tang dynasty (618-907), a time generally regarded as the great period of classical Chinese poetry. The versions here are just that: versions, and not direct translations, hence the “after….” at the beginning of their attributions.

My process has been to create a direct translation, and then rework the poem to some degree, a degree that varies depending upon the individual poem. In some cases I have removed names and/or places, or Chinese idioms or cultural references that either do not usefully translate or that would be meaningless to a reader without the necessary knowledge of Chinese culture. In some cases I have moved things around quite a lot, and in most cases I have also slipped in a phrase or line of my own. Sometimes titles have been changed. In every case I have attempted to create a poem that is able to stand alone, rendered in the English I use in my everyday life and in my own poetry, but which stays as faithful as I know how to the meaning, tone and mood of the original. I am no Sinologist, and purists may object, but so it goes. 

It is worth noting too, I think, that from living and working in China for twelve years I came to learn that many (if not most) of today’s Chinese readers do not fully understand all the subtle references and allusions in China’s classical poems, a fact that has given me the confidence to leave some things out. My ultimate aim has been to make poems that give pleasure and food for thought. One can only try. 

Reading at Sunrise

after 辰诣超师院读禅经 by Liǔ Zōngyuán 

At sunrise the pines are bathed in fog and drip with dew
Bamboo in the courtyard has taken on the colour of moss 

I draw water from the well
Clean my teeth and dust myself down 
I read from scripture as I walk

I’ve been too long in darkness and want to rewrite what I think I am
But it’s all I can do to read quietly to myself

Looking at the Moon

after月夜 by Dù Fǔ 

I imagine you shivering alone in your room
Looking out the window at the moon

You are far away in the capital 
But distance does not separate us

I imagine the fragrance of your hair
And remember the jade bracelet upon your arm

You know I will look at the same moon 
Until I come to clear your tears away with my kisses

Thursday 14 November 2019

Cathy Galvin, "Walking the Coventry Ring Road with Lady Godiva"

Walking the Coventry Ring Road with Lady Godiva is Cathy Galvin’s third sequence of poetry, following Black & Blue (2014) and Rough Translation (2016). Her poetry has appeared in anthologies and journals including Agenda, Visual Verse, Morning Star and the  Leicester magazine, New Walk. She is the recipient of a Hawthornden Fellowship and residency at the Heinrich Boll Cottage, Achill Island. She is currently completing a collection and poetry practice PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is also a journalist and editor, founder of the Sunday Times Short Story Award and of the short story organisation, Word Factory. Her website is

Below, Cathy talks about her new collection, and you can also read a sample from it. 

Walking the Coventry Ring Road with Lady Godiva
By Cathy Galvin 

Walking the Coventry Ring Road With Lady Godiva has been a long, colourful journey. I used to walk under the ring road from home into the city centre; as a teenager to catch buses to and from school, or to sneak into pubs underage or to the Locarno to watch ska and punk bands including The Specials and Sex Pistols; for nights out with first boyfriends or for geeky moments in the library a short walk away from where Philip Larkin also drank as a teenager. 

The road is modernist, brutal and mysterious: it follows the outline of the ruined walls of this former great medieval city; it was built by postwar workers like my parents who had come to live in a city that represented progress, economic stability and an egalitarian education for their children. Research at the city's Herbert Gallery revealed the road had been built the year I was born by George Wimpey And Co for the Coventry Corporation for the grand sum of £73,000. Today, sadly, my walks in the shadow of the ring road often take me to the London Road Cemetery where my parents are buried a short distance from the mass grave for those Coventry residents killed in the Blitz. 

The place is in my soul. This sequence attempts to reach into the spirit of the place and its psycho-geography. The inspiration for this sequence came from Dante's circular walks through purgatory with the poet Virgil: what better companion than the legendary Lady Godiva? She was a thoughtful guide and offered a wisdom relevant to today. 

Luke Thompson, the inspirational editor and founder of the Guillemot Press, who published this poem, writes: "In this sequence Godgifu (Lady Godiva) guides the poet and reader along the titular road, circling the medieval city boundaries through demolition and bomb sites, past graveyards and Epstein’s angel, over rivers and monasteries, in a personal, poetic, spiritual and psychogeographic exploration of the city in which the poet was born."

David Morley writes: "Ring Road is a wonderful realisation of the poetry that is Coventry's past, present, and future: an archaeology and rediscovering of what it means to be a citizen of this fabled city."

Walking the Coventry Ring Road with Lady Godiva has been beautifully illustrated by 
Kristy Campbell, and printed on Mohawk Superfine papers and section sewn, with end papers from Fedrigoni. It is dedicated to the workers of Coventry. You can find more details about the collection here.

The sequence is divided into cantos - here's a flavour of the first: 

Beside me in the Cheylesmore underpass, 
she took my hand and said: Abandon fear
Sky Blues in red Doc Martens threw their cans

and punks in two-tone sang their ghost town near. 
We walked ahead to where an island framed 
walls friars had rescued from a king. 

Looking within to workhouse grounds 
Godgifu bent to lift a plate, broken in the dust, 
that once touched lips made Holy by the flesh 

and blood of Christ. Told me, 
beside a cloister door, to taste the food 
of lives that went before on Pancheon Blue, 

Chinoiserie Porcelain, English Stone, 
Cistercian Underglaze, Staffordshire Slip; 
liturgy of clinker, glassy tap slag, bottles. Brick. 

Tuesday 12 November 2019

The Dream I Held in My Hands

By Karen Argent

In October 2017 The Letterpress Project, a not-for-profit initiative that promotes the importance of the printed book, lost one of its founder members, the wonderful Jane Slowey. She died from a disease that she had fought off once but couldn’t keep at bay a second time, and she died far too young. 

As she had always brought her keen enthusiasm and skills to the project, we wanted to publish a tribute to Jane’s ability to inspire those she met. We asked people to honour her memory by thinking about which books had inspired their imaginations – and the response was exceptional. The result was an anthology of short pieces about reading called The Dream I Held in My Hands: Dedicated to the Memory of Jane Slowey.

The beautifully illustrated book is available as a free pdf from The Letterpress Project website here, and is also available as a limited printed publication by request. Please contact karen [dot] argent [at] btinternet [dot] com for further details.

Below you can read one of the essays from the book. 

An Enchantment: The Book That Made Me a Reader
By Leila Rasheed

I still have the book. I hold it in my forty-year-old hand, and the ghost of my seven-year-old hand holds it too: an enchantment, like those padlocks on bridges that mean two lovers clasp each other, hand in hand, forever. In 1980s Benghazi, where I grew up, there were no shops, or very few – a baker, a butcher, the souk, and one vast, concrete department store that had nothing inside it but a sack of flour, leaking and weevil-ridden on a pallet. Libya had its own enchantments, curses and hauntings, but for books we had to migrate. I would guess we bought this particular book at Galt or Early Learning, during one of our summer journeys back to England.

I’ll put it down here, so you can see it properly. The first thing you’ll note is the fragility. The pages are weathered yellow, and it comes in chunks, this book; sections splitting off from an osteoporotic spine from which the glue has long ago perished. The spine has been Sellotaped and re-Sellotaped until the tape shatters at the touch. Love spells sometimes look like this: like a padlock on a bridge, or an unskilled repair. Spells to keep things, like people, from coming apart. 

With a title like The Puffin Book of Magic Verse, you would expect a dark cover. But the cover is nothing as obvious as black. It’s deep purple, the colour of a Libyan-grown aubergine, burnished by a diet of sun. And now the other magic flickers into life, the magic fire of illustrations. This book may have made me a reader, but it was never just the words that did that. Look at the head on the cover. It must belong to a child, but what a child! The offspring of the Medusa and the Green Man - hair bristling thick with leaves, owls, cats, witches. Genderless, the face doesn’t look directly at the reader, but off to one side. The child’s eyes and mouth are a little open, not in glee or rage, but in wonder. As if it has just seen something astonishing - and this, mark you, when it, itself, is the strangest thing that any reader could ever have seen. From the very cover, the book isn’t inviting you to read it. It isn’t daring you to read it. Like the master magician’s spell book, it is just there, and you reading it or not is a matter of indifference to it. What child wouldn’t open a book on these tempting terms? What are you looking at? Can I come with you? 

Open the book, then, and step in. Immediately you are falling into poems, like Alice down the rabbit hole, woozy, twisting, slow and dreamlike. When you find your feet, the floor staggers, tilts you forward. The whole book is on the slant. It leads you onwards, draws you in, down long galleries of verse, past images that shine like stained glass windows. Through section after section; doors in a house haunted by poetry: Charms, Ghosts and Hauntings, Curses, and Changelings. Poem after poem enchants, provokes, intrigues, just like the shy, uncanny creatures on the cover that crept for protection into the accepting, warm and non-judgemental wild mind of a child.

Poetry, like lightning, isn’t meant to be grounded, but an anthology like this can act as a conductor. A stroll through the index of first lines demonstrates the range of poems included, from rattling, runaway comic verse - The Resident Djinn" and Colonel Fazackerly Butterworth Toast are two characters that will stay with me forever - to this tiny, unforgettable gem (translated from a Native American language, and presented, as was sadly common at the time of publication, without context) in the voice of a ghost:

          My friend
          this is a wide world we are travelling over
          walking on the moonlight

What all these poems, regardless of form or origin, have in common is that they describe, evoke or embody the mysterious and wonderful. This is a collection that honours the strange, that is wide and unwavering of gaze. Perhaps it could only have been produced in the 1970s, and by a poet of genius – Charles Causley - who was unafraid of childhood.

When we finally closed the wardrobe door on Libya, we gave away most of our toys and packed all our favourite books in our two suitcases. At that time, due to the political situation, there were no direct flights from Libya to the UK. We landed in Malta and changed to another airline. When we took off from Malta, most of our suitcases stayed where they were, with the books inside them. I arrived in Birmingham scattered; trailing words, like feathers, across the wide blue Mediterranean. My books, gone: my world, gone. I would spend a lifetime trying to find that lost world again, seeking pieces of my childhood like Isis looking for her love, through second-hand bookshops and later, online. The Puffin Book of Magic Verse was in the one suitcase that survived the journey.

It’s hard to know, if the rest of my books had made it through, whether The Puffin Book of Magic Verse would have been so important to me. Perhaps I would have taken the presence of books for granted. As it stands, it is one of the very few things – books or otherwise - I have from my childhood. It haunts me.

When I was young, I used to like to imagine that I would be buried with my books, so we’d biodegrade together, and archaeologists of the future wouldn’t be able to tell the ink from the flesh. Now I’m older, I think that’s a bit morbid, and I know how much burial plots cost. All the same, those pages are yellow with my handling. I have put myself into that book just as it has put itself into me. Bridges and love spells may rust and crumble, but a book can go all the way with you, holding your hand. 

Friday 8 November 2019

Congratulations to Talia Hibbert!

Massive congratulations to Talia Hibbert, whose novel, Get a Life, Chloe Brown, has just been published by major publishers Little Brown. Talia took a degree in English with Creative Writing at the University of Leicester, and graduated in 2018. We are, of course, hugely proud of her amazing success!

Below is some information about her book, which has already received great reviews from critics and readers. You can see more information here, and you can read more about Talia's work on her website here

About Get a Life, Chloe Brown

Talia Hibbert delivers a witty, hilarious romantic comedy about a woman who's tired of being 'boring' and recruits her mysterious, sexy neighbour to help her get a life!

Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan and a list. After almost - but not quite - dying, she's come up with a list of directives to help her 'Get a Life':

- Enjoy a drunken night out
- Ride a motorbike
- Go camping
- Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex
- Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage
- And ... do something bad

But it's not easy being bad, even when you've written out step-by-step guidelines. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job: Redford 'Red' Morgan.

With tattoos and a motorbike, Red is the perfect helper in her mission to rebel, but as they spend more time together, Chloe realises there's much more to him than his tough exterior implies. Soon she's left wanting more from him than she ever expected ... maybe there's more to life than her list ever imagined?