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.
On your ‘about’ page, you talk about ‘we’. Who is ‘we’? And how many poets do you hope to involve in the collective in the next couple of years?
At the moment it’s myself and Peter Kenny, and we’re about to sign up our third member. It would be great to increase the total to four or five, but beyond that who knows. We’re not afraid to say we’re learning what works as we go along. A lot of what we do will depend on the make-up of the collective, what members want to get out of it and what they bring to the table.
You say ‘new poets are recruited by invitation’. How does one get an invitation? (I know this is an unfair question but it’s like ‘unsolicited submissions’ – how does one get solicited?)
We’ve asked experienced poet friends and editors to keep an eye out for us. So it’s by recommendation. We also read the magazines and are always on the look out for new voices that stand out for us, and researching them online to see if they might be a fit.