Hello, Guillemot Press. Could you say a little about who you are and where you are?
Guillemot Press is a very small new press with a preference for the quiet and beautiful. We want to make books and pamphlets that are attractive objects to handle as well as to read, and we’re interested in playing with materials and formats. We’re based in Cornwall, on the edge of Bodmin Moor, and the editor is me, Luke Thompson.
As well as publishing, I’m a writer of poetry and prose, with my debut pamphlet just out on Atlantic Press, and my biography of the poet Jack Clemo published in May. I’m also a lecturer at Falmouth University and co-editor of the online magazine for new writing about landscape, nature and place, The Clearing.
Your first poetry publication is a sequence by Sister Mary Agnes. What brought you to her?
Yes, she might seem quite an obscure figure at first glance. I discovered her while working in an archival collection of South West writers at the University of Exeter. At first, I found these very kind, measured letters from a Poor Clare nun in a Devon monastery, and they referred to her recent successes as a poet, and the media attention that followed. These were all from the early 1970s, and as well as the poetry, these letters suggested a narrative that also began to intrigue me, so I went off to research her, picking up copies of her three lovely little books, published by Norman Hidden’s Workshop Press, and Thornhill. Daffodils in Ice, her debut, had some stunning moments, I thought, and there was a physicality to Agnes’s faith that was really powerful, as well as an intimacy with the natural world – the birds, the flowers, the seasons, all observed daily out of the window of her cell.
But then I noticed that after these three books in the 1970s, she disappeared. I contacted the monastery in Lynton and wrote an article about what I’d found, focusing on those poems. It turned out that my piece about Agnes was published just a few days before she died, and as a result I was put in touch with her family and was soon on my way up to Hertfordshire to visit them.
This is where the story of Agnes and the book came together. Agnes’s nieces were extraordinarily generous, bringing out piles of manuscripts and typescripts, attempts at biography, heaps of poetry, an introduction by Kathleen Raine to an apparently unfinished work. It was astonishing how much had been collected and kept, and it was from this material that I put together Harvest.
We’re also just about to publish our second and third poetry titles, Karl O’Hanlon’s And Now They Range, with artwork by Kate Walters, and Melanie Challenger’s The Tender Map, which has been illustrated by Rose Ferraby.