CORE BUNDLE IN FOCUS
These ten titles form the core bundle of this introductory phase, with a wider offering of more indie press poetry titles from our participating publishers to explore here
The Actual by Inua Ellams
(Penned in the Margins)
The Actual is a symphony of personal and political fury — sometimes probing delicately, sometimes burning with raw energy. In 55 poems that swerve and crackle with a rare music, Inua Ellams unleashes a full-throated assault on empire and its legacies of racism, injustice and toxic masculinity. Written on the author’s phone, in transit, between meetings, before falling asleep and just after waking, this is poetry as polemic, as an act of resistance, but also as dream-vision. At its heart, this book confronts the absolutism and ‘foolish machismo’ of hero culture-from Perseus to Trump, from Batman to Boko Haram. Through the thick gauze of history, these breathtaking poems look the world square in the face and ask,'What the actual—?'
A collection which symphonically orbits popular culture, history, injustice, and protest. Written in large on Ellams’ phone, these poems are at once unafraid and bold, fortified with a genuine conviction while being able to resist sanctimony.
of sirens, body & faultlines by Nat Raha
(Boiler House Press)
of sirens, body & faultlines is a book of prophecy against this Brexit era, rising from a post-2008 London, where crisis and austerity meet the vanity projects of the super-rich. Committed to the immediacy of a present that is precarious and under surveillance, of sirens... attends to queer, transfeminist and people of colour counter-memories and histories. It seeks new expressions of desire and modes of breath, pushing against the gravities that would rather these lives and worlds disappear.
Themed around a nation hellbent on division Nat Raha explores the ways Brexit, the body and the state of nation all collide and congeal into unforgiving bedlam. Experimental, irreverent and fused with poignant lyrics, of sirens, body & faultlines is a masterful panorama of a society desperately in need of an existential reckoning.
Thinking With Trees by Jason Allen-Paisant
Thinking with Trees is Jason Allen-Paisant’s debut collection. The book considers Blackness and nature from the perspectives of time, race and class, while interrogating the cultural and geographical meanings of landscape. These poems evoke the environmental conditions underpinning Black identity, while urging us to imagine alternative futures. The book follows a Caribbean tradition of weaponising language through irony, and does so as a means of challenging social, racial, and spatial boundaries. It engages a Jamaican lens on the British landscape and British ways of life, while reflecting on the author's changing ‘identity’ as he negotiates the shared and constructed space of landscape.
Allen-Paisant has penned a debut that may be years ahead of its time. Exploring Blackness and colonialism through the critical lens of nature, landscape and the environment. The poet can be seen wrestling with the major subjects of race and class using the perspective of time to imagine a future informed by a past.
Ripe by Isabelle Baafi
Poetry Book Society Spring Pamphlet Choice, 2021 ‘Hunger made me’, reveals one speaker in Ripe, and the desire to be satiated fills these poems. Desperate women hide grains of rice in their hair, baked beans evoke a strained father-daughter relationship, plantains endure the fire. Yet hunger takes many forms, as the risks and rewards of its satisfaction are weighed, and cravings for intimacy are charged with danger. ‘When we’re born, we’re someone else’s’, but in this daring exploration of identity and survival, we hear a thrilling new voice come into its own.
Baafi’s poems read as daring and inventive signifiers, interrogating a myriad of complex subjects, and immersing readers in a world fortified with wit, curiosity, and unapologetic beauty. Throughout the pamphlet, her poetry tussles with the paradoxes, uncertainties, and anxieties of our current social climate; employing new and arresting forms, and infusing originality into her lines. Her writing invokes a sharp hybrid register, working to ensure an impressive display of ideas at both the word and sentence level.
Please Do Not Touch by Casey Bailey
(Burning Eye Books)
'With Casey, we get to meet a storyteller as well as a poet, because he is honing a kind of cinematic and musical language. I'm so happy to see voices like his emerging from Birmingham'
Walk around any stately home, museum or National Trust property and you are likely to see the words please do not touch more than a few times. The irony is in most cases the sign is telling you not to touch something that was stolen from another land, something that should have never been touched in the first place. Please Do Not Touch asks important questions about these things, these places and this society - Where would these things be if they were never taken from their rightful place? How have the ill gotten gains of colonialism shaped our society today? What does it mean to appreciate and enjoy spaces that were never meant for you?
A collection loaded with criticisms of the British empire and its pilfering over the centuries. The title taking its lead from museum signs which order visitors ‘not to touch’. But what happens when the objects on display are stolen, taken as war bounty? These are very much the book’s central questions, explored and handled with great care and innovation.
Fetch Your Mother's Heart by lisa luxx
lisa luxx’s debut poetry collection is an examination of the tender violence that pools in all our states of wanting; from our intimacies to our uprisings. It searches the grief of our longing, from the eyes of displacement; carrying her experience in foster care, adoption, and as a mixed-heritage daughter of the Arab diaspora.
The poems in this collection follow a lesbian love affair as revolution erupts around and within. Drawing on old Arabic folk tales such as Majnun Layla, luxx re-imagines them through a queer lens. The poet tries to understand her gendered capacity to love, as she takes a feminist gaze to the role of sons and mothers, inspired by a brutal attack she witnessed where she found herself asking ‘what does it mean to recognise yourself in the beast?’
This powerful debut from poet and activist lisa luxx talks truth to power in a series of extraordinary brave and necessary poems, loaded with conviction, heart and a belief in a more just and better world. The poet draws on global political movements, systemic oppression and gender based violence to comment on some of our century's most affecting nadirs. A book to learn and seek solace from, then carry through into the future.
Aunty Uncle Poems by Gboyega Odubanjo
(The Poetry Business)
This is a documentation of all the aunties, uncles, cousins (by blood or by choice) for whom London has become home. Here we have arrived, or found ourselves – here we try to belong.
'Deep, funny, thought-provoking – a powerful evocation of culture and family with the most assured phrasing and imagery and confident formal innovation. ‘Blessed Princess Lady’ is as beautifully strange as it is genuinely moving. ‘Drake Equations’ is fantastic. I could go on at length about every poem here. This was so exciting to read and I’d expect a major full collection from Odubanjo in the near future.' — Luke Kennard
The second pamphlet from one of the UK’s most exciting young poets. African familial life meets class struggles, inner turmoil and a longed-for desire to move out from the poems’ locales. Odubanjo is a master stylist on the page, offering line after line of straight-faced wit, sharp observations while subtly dispensing with perceived orthodoxy. I can’t wait to see what this brilliant young man brings to the table in future years.
Inhale/Exile by Abeer Ameer
Inhale/Exile is the debut poetry collection by Abeer Ameer, a rising poet of Iraqi heritage, who lives in Cardiff, Wales. Inspired by the many stories she heard as a child and visiting family in Iraq as an adult, Ameer has written a book that celebrates the resilience of her forebears and extended family in Baghdad and around the world. The book presents a range of characters in a mixture of political and personal poems; ordinary people living in extraordinary circumstances. Formally diverse, using both traditional and experimental methods, these poems are also full of empathy and suffused with a quietly persistent faith.
A debut comprised of 50 stories which fuse the personal and the public life with the quotidian and political. A riveting sequence of complex poems which deftly weave a series of mesmerising journeys back and forth between Iraq and the UK.
What Fire by Alice Miller
What Fire is about how to continue as catastrophe crawls in, when the climate crisis has its grip on us all, the internet has been shut down, and the buildings are burning up.
What happens when the philosophers never arrive? What songs are still worth singing? In her third collection, Alice Miller takes a fierce, unflinching look at the world we live in, at what we have made, and whether it is possible to change.
‘Miller is a poet of concept as much as rhythm and sound, who is unafraid to stand in the naked light of artistic insufficiency, and ask her questions, and leave behind her declarations of love and goodness.’ Juliano Zaffino
Alice Miller takes a critical lens to our current malaise, tackling the current decline of our climate and planet to the way technology has both advanced and stunted human civilizations. A collection which feels as if it’s somehow speaking to us all.
Afterlife As Trash by Rushika Wick
(Verve Poetry Press)
Rushika Wick’s poems are works of great imaginative power, both formally and in terms of their contents. In the exuberant opening poem of this collection, ‘Diaries Of An Artist In Hiding’, she is by turns the president, Matisse, a love letter, the weather, a badger; ‘the experiment is boundless / like the imagination of a new subspecies /of giant squid / immeasurable and brilliant, / its owner perceived as a delicacy.’ It is a poem that seems to stand as a sort of manifesto for the whole book, which feels like poetry that contains such energy it has started to wriggle free from the usual constraints of subject and form. But unlike so much experimental poetry, the reader is brought along for the ride and encouraged to feel the wind in their hair. Characters appear - Camille Claudel, Michael Knight, Lady Chatterley - only to vanish again in a single line once their work is done. Poetic forms are introduced only to be blown apart, words scattering across the page like paint-spatter, letters vanishing to reveal deeper truths. These poems are so full of life even as they acknowledge the stark realities that are a risk to life - also the very real presence of death. And everything is here. And trash is everywhere. And the wind is blowing it and us. It is exhilarating!
An immersive highly charged experience of the mind, casting the net out wide to gather up themes of interpersonal relations and cultural prowess never once leaving the reader to feel alienated or stranded. What Wick has done here is breathtakingly impressive.