#ReadIndies: Poetry Presses

One area where the independent publishers really excel is poetry. Probably because there is little money to be made from it on the whole (presidential inauguration ceremony effect excepted – hurrah for Amanda Gorman!), and so most big publishing conglomerates won’t touch it with a bargepole.

Many of these poetry publishers are tiny, often one-person outfits, operating on a shoestring, often run by other poets. And all of us who love (or write) poetry are all the richer for having them: they are worth every penny of arts funding that they can get (although many don’t get any). I have written about discovering and splurging on poetry books back in 2018, so I won’t mention Ignition, Sad Press, V Press, Tapsalteerie, Bad Betty Press, Midsummer Night’s Press, Stranger Press or Burning Eye Books again here, other than to encourage you to seek out their beautifully produced volumes of poetry (occasionally flash fiction) and explore the boundaries of both English language and translated poetry written today.

In this post, I will wax lyrical about the slightly better-known poetry publishers that appear most frequently on my bookshelves and show some of their most beautiful covers.

The cover to the bilingual edition of the epic poem by Adnan Al-Sayegh.

Seren Books is the book imprint of Poetry Wales, but does not publish poetry exclusively. It does, however, focus on English language writing from Wales, although its range has expanded more recently, for example this fine dual language (English-Arabic) edition of the epic poem Uruk’s Anthem or recent poetry from Latin America. I also admire their beautiful anthologies about Women’s Work or Motherhood, and the way many of their ‘classic’ books reflect the enormous changes in Wales over the past hundred years.

Out-Spoken Press arose from the Out-Spoken monthly poetry and music events which were started in London in 2012 by Anthony Anaxagorou and other poet friends. The press was established in 2015 to give voice to writers that had been under-represented by mainstream poetry magazines and publishers, and it has demonstrated a real knack for finding talent. I’ve been following them since their creation and have had the opportunity to read poets such as Raymond Antrobus, Sabrina Mahfouz, Wayne Holloway-Smith, Hannah Lowe before they became prize-winning household names.

An example of a beautiful Peepal Tree Press cover.

Peepal Tree Press is the Leeds-based home of Caribbean and Black British writing and literary or social studies. They always punch well above their weight and, most recently, have won the Costa Book of the Year Award with Monique Roffey’s The Mermaid of Black Conch. However, I encountered them through poetry, and one particular favourite is Tiphanie Yanique’s moving, by turns tender and broken, combative and submissive, Wife.

The Emma Press is the brainchild and labour of love of Emma Dai’an Wright and publishes lovely poetry chapbooks, anthologies and children’s books, including some in translation. I’ve attended a couple of their launch events and they are brilliant at creating a wonderful sense of community. I would recommend their anthologies on love, aunts and the sea (to just name a few), as well as Poems the Wind Blew In – an anthology of children’s poems translated from Spanish by Lawrence Schimel, with amusing illustrations by Riya Chowdhury. It’s never too soon to expose children to poetry from all over the world!

Carcanet Press barely needs any introduction – it is one of the leading publishers of both classical and modern poetry (and literary criticism). Most recently, I’ve been smitten with Caroline Bird’s The Air Year and Eavan Boland’s The Historian, both shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards for Poetry (Boland’s posthumous work went on to win the prize). One of my favourite poetry collections, that I keep returning to again and again, is Her Birth by Rebecca Goss, which might explain why I was so delighted that Rebecca agreed to work with me as a mentor back in 2019.

Last and possibly the best-known of these poetry publishers is Bloodaxe Books, which, in its 40 years of existence, has really redefined poetry for the English-speaking world, always one step ahead in terms of discovering new voices, both in English and in translation. Best known perhaps for their thick, diverse anthologies such as Being Alive, Staying Alive, Being Human, I love them especially for their translations of Romanian poets (naturally!). They have introduced me to far too many poets to mention here, but let me just call out a few on my shelves: Pascale Petit’s Mama Amazonica, Gillian Allnutt’s Wake, Denise Levertov and Anna Akhmatova (translated by Richard McKane).

14 thoughts on “#ReadIndies: Poetry Presses”

  1. A lovely selection of poetry presses, Marina. Co-incidentally, I posted today about some verse collections from Salt, and I’m very fond of theur poetry books. I think Bloodaxe and Carcanet are brilliant, but the other presses are new to me – off to explore!!

    1. I know, I smiled when I saw that you posted about poetry as well today! I don’t see to have any poetry from Salt on my shelves, although I do have a couple of prose works.

  2. I am so happy that you’ve devoted this post to poetry publishing, Marina Sofia! I don’t write poetry, but I am in awe of those who do, and do it well (and yes, hurrah for Amanda Gorman!). It’s a unique art form that we need to preserve, and I admire the work of those who ensure that we do. Thanks for sharing these publishiers.

    1. Nothing can reach our heart quite so quickly as music and poetry and art, but I understand far too little of two out the three, so can only publicise poetry. And I should review more poetry collections.

  3. Beautiful post, Marina! I have heard of Carcanet Press, but the one I am really excited about is Bloodaxe Books because I got one of their poetry collections recently 😊 Hoping to read that one soon. So nice to see Denise Levertov mentioned in your post.

    This sentence from your review – “I have written about discovering and splurging on poetry books back in 2018, so I won’t mention Ignition, Sad Press, V Press, Tapsalteerie, Bad Betty Press, Midsummer Night’s Press, Stranger Press or Burning Eye Books again here” – I loved it 😁 Thank you 😊

    1. Well, hopefully if people are interested in those presses, they can go via link to the earlier blog post and see some of the beautiful examples of their books.

  4. I have seen some of the Emma press books, they are local to me and have attended some bookish events I was involved with a few years ago. They are such lovely little volumes.

  5. What a wonderful post! Thanks for celebrating all these indie poetry presses. I recently read the Emma Press Anthology of Love, and enjoyed it so much that I ordered three more of their anthologies from their website! I’ve also enjoyed poetry from Comma Press, Faber, Penned in the Margins, and Two Rivers Press (based in Reading — fairly local to both of us). Nine Arches Press, new to me, is sending out a poetry collection published next week.

    1. I have something on order actually from Two Rivers Press – yes, our local, so am keen to support them. And I should have mentioned Nine Arches Press – I am currently doing a poetry course with them! But, apparently, I don’t have that many of their books on my shelves. To be remedied, I think!

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