This has been an extra-ordinarily busy autumn and it’s not done yet – before the end of November there are another six exciting launches – not quite the pace of six in one week, but in combination with a week away teaching a writing course, a trip to Birmingham for a West Midlands Arts Council England meeting, a trip to York for the annual Inpress conference, a much-looked forward-to visit from one of our most exciting Cinnamon Press authors, Jane Monson, and two major funding applications to complete, I think I should be kept safely busy.
The last four days have been at home. I love my quirky old house, but it does take a lot of attention. Having managed to tile the kitchen with tiles we’d had for nearly ten years and paint the kitchen and hallways this year, we’re now starting to think about the bathroom. It gets condensation for Wales so we’ve invested in antifungal wash and anti-mold paint to tame the ceiling. Really it should be completely renewed, but the budget runs to paint, and that will see us through another winter. Getting ready for winter is a major annual event. The chimneys have been swept, the stove has had a new ring and a new door catch, the wood has been delivered on a pallet that barely held its weight, the fruit is ready to make Christmas cakes and we’re waiting for a wonderful neighbour who knows so much about quirky old buildings to attend to a damp patch in one room downstairs – where the house goes under the road at one side.
In between maintenance tasks, I’ve had four days to catch up with some Cinnamon office work, which this week has included preparing all the notes and workshops for the writing course at Ty’n y Coed; working on cover designs for books due out next spring and preparing the information sheets for the books to go off to Inpress and ready to upload to Nielsen BookData and the Welsh Books Council; writing and sending out the November Cinnamon Press newsletter to our 5,000 subscribers and updating the website with the most recent events and offers; completing the adjudication for the first of our mini-competitions (congratulations to Ken Head) and for the last poetry collection award (congratulations to Cara Watson) and emailing the entrants and winners; editing the next issue of Envoi ready to go to the wonderful proof editor, Gail Ashton, and designing the cover – this one picking up the theme of Edward Ragg’s poem, ‘Snow in Beijing’ which features in the issue – and generally keeping up with emails and admin, book orders and accounts.
Now I’m packed and ready to head off to Ty’n y Coed tomorrow – the day before the course begins so that I can go from there to our last October launch tomorrow evening (October 28th). It’s the launch of three great poetry collections at Palas Pendref Print, 170 High St, Bangor, 7.00 p.m. – Pete Marshall’s Agog, Marianne Jones’s Winter is not my country and Steve Griffiths’s Surfacing. If you’re in the area please join us.
Agog is set to cause a stir – from found poetry to careful allusion, there is a lively wit at work in the pieces. Pete is able to marry cultural or social commentary (sometimes with a critical edge) with a passion for place with a fluidity that is seamless. Similarly he can move from the lyrical to the colloquial with ease. Rooted in the landscape and mythology of North Wales there is also a wider narrative and an original perspective. The voice is wry, witty, often linguistically playful and the style pushes at the boundaries of free verse and concrete poetry. The result is an innovative, often-thought provoking, sometimes openly proactive collection that works on many levels.
Winter is not my country builds on Marianne Jones’s skills as a humane and meticulous writer of highly crafted lyric poetry, deeply rooted in a sense of place as well as exploring themes of aging and death, landscape and language. The poems are honed and precise and the work is always accessible, but nonetheless profound and moving. Marrying a sensibility of global concerns with rootedness in Welsh landscape, this is an intelligent and mature collection from an increasingly confident poet. As Fiona Owen says,
Throughout this collection of sharply focused poems, there is a sense of journeying – of pilgrimage. However, what primarily characterises this collection is its quiet music with elegiac strains rendered sonorous. Especially strong are those poems that explore the theme of impermanence and change, yet many poems suggest a hunger for the permanent – the eternal summer – and this creates a bitter-sweet tone.
These poems pay repeated reading – there is more to them than at first meets the eye – balancing the personal with the public, the spiritual with the material, and language with silence.
Philip Gross said of Surfacing,
A varied but coherent collection by a subtle and deeply intelligent writer who can address human concerns like the intimate recall of childhood or the challenges of middle age without sentimentality; he can move between abstract thought and concrete particularities with such ease that sometimes the join is invisible. This is mature writing, picking its way through the layers and ‘surfaces’ of an experience, suddenly clarified into a single lucid image. Steve Griffith’s writing voice is assured but not predictable.
It’s a fantastic collection that moves from darkness to light along a pathway that is rarely linear, with moments of startling epiphany along the way. As Anne Cluysenaar commented ‘pure poetry.’