all about poetry pamphlets

Spineless, short-lived and easily overlooked, poetry pamphlets are thriving against the odds.”   Paul Batchelor, in The Guardian

Mike Barlow set up Wayleave Press for poetry pamphlets in 2014. Here he answers some searching questions:

Mike, as a poet-publisher you’re a poacher turned game-keeper! ‘Wayleave’: permission granted to cross or enter territory from which one has been previously excluded (explained on your website). Is publishing the territory you’ve given yourself permission to enter? Or does Wayleave let in poets who might otherwise be shut out?

A bit of both, really. It all started with self-publishing. I had a collection of poems of a particular nature, cryptic and slightly elusive, which I thought went well together. I doubted, however, that many editors would be interested and anyway didn’t want to have to submit and wait endlessly for rejections. I believed in the poems and decided to use our local printer to produce a pamphlet with an illustration of mine on the cover. It was well-received by those I sent it out to, and the whole process felt relatively straightforward and satisfying.

The next step was to try and do the same for others. I had in mind one or two fellow poets with a good body of work who hadn’t had any success in the major pamphlet competitions but whose work I admired. The title ‘Wayleave’ seemed apt for them. I liked the idea of giving permission for work to be out there despite competitive arbitrariness.

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Robin Houghton of Telltale Press explains some of the background

Telltale Press is a new poetry publishing imprint, and it’s a collective. For people who don’t know, could you explain what that means in practical terms?

As it says on the website: We publish primarily short, first poetry pamphlets and help develop and support one another to move forward with our poetry careers. The aim is for all members to be involved in the press, for collective benefit, rather like a co-operative, if that makes more sense.

What was the spur to starting the enterprise? What tipped you into action?

A few things. I was on a masterclass at Ty Newydd with Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke, and the question everyone wanted answering was ‘how does one get published in this day and age?’ Carol Ann suggested we formed a self-publishing collective, citing a number of successful poets who had started by doing something similar, or self-publishing a small ‘calling card’ pamphlet. Personally, I really needed to be proactive rather than passively waiting for a press to publish my first pamphlet, which was draining my confidence, creativity and energy. I wanted to get those first few poems out and done with, in order to move on, write more, and have more time and enthusiasm for poetry projects. I also knew it would help get my name and work known, bring more reading opportunities and so on. There are huge numbers of poets getting published in the good magazines and winning the odd prize but struggling to get a first pamphlet published. It made sense to get together with them and do something collectively. I met Peter Kenny through Brighton Poetry Stanza and was delighted when he agreed to come in on the project, so that’s how it started.


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Emma WrightIt seems incredible to me that you only started The Emma Press in 2012. You’ve done so much in that time! I know from your interview with the Poetry School that you used to work for Orion, and you left to make brooches and poetry books. Also I know your design and illustration for the Emma Press publications (and hence its distinctive look) is all created by you. You can draw! So why did you leave Orion? Was it because you needed to be more creative? And what did you learn from your Orion job about publishing that helped you in starting up on your own? (I know that’s three questions).

I left Orion because I was frustrated with my role, which was to manage the production of 500 backlist ebooks per year. I loved working the Production and Design department, but there wasn't any scope for creativity or promotion in my job and I couldn't handle the thought of doing it for a third year. I wasn't earning much money and I didn't want to be one of those people who bitches tediously about the job they've been in for far too long, so I resigned. I think it was more of an assertion of my freewill than anything else – I felt like I was expected to stay in the job because I wasn’t rich and I’d been lucky to get a job at all in the post-recession wasteland of 2010.

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TAPSALTEERIE POSTERQuestions for Tapsalteerie

You’re new. But not that new. It will be 2015 soon and you began in 2013. So who is ‘Tapsalteerie’ – the people behind the imprint name? And who does what?

Well the person behind it is me, Duncan Lockerbie. I act as a sort-of one-man publishing band really. I have had a lot of help and support from my wife Hayley though, who is invaluable when it comes to things like book fairs, or when some neat handwriting is called for. I also have the input of my silent partner, Jess the publishing cat, so I'm not entirely on my own.

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