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Verve Poetry Press Submissions Window: An Interview with Stuart Bartholomew

It’s that time of year again! Yes, VERVE Poetry Press are currently open for submissions until the end of May 2022. To make sure everyone’s on the same page (haha) we’re dusting of an interview with Verve founder and editor Stuart Bartholomew – updated with all the info you need this year.

What is he looking for in a manuscript? Can you submit more than once? What about languages other than English? All is revealed below…

First, the basics: when, where and how can people submit their work to the press?

Our submissions are going to be open for the whole of May 2022: That’s midnight on Sunday 1st until midnight on Tuesday 31st. This time we’re looking for full collections AND pamphlets. We want complete manuscripts although we will consider high quality drafts that are almost there.

You can submit by emailing us at, with the manuscript as an attached file titled with both your name and the provision title, so: AuthorName_TitleOfManuscript.

In addition to the manuscript itself, we’ll want a one-page (and only one-page, mind you) document detailing your poetic journey so far – we want to know your favourite poetry books, your favourite performers, your favourite events attended (remote or otherwise) alongside a full list of workshops attended, publishing history and readings you’ve given, although it matters less if you don’t have answers for those last three.

We know a thing or two about inspring events...

Here is a good point as any to make clear that we know there are all sorts of factors that can limit access to physical poetry books, performances and workshops and this should in no way be a barrier to applying; tell us instead about online readings and events you’ve attended and enjoyed, and about which of the mountains of free online poems you’ve read, loved and been influenced by!

Finally we want to know the details of the ambitions you have for the book you hope to make, and what things you intend to do personally (outside of submitting it to us) to help it reach a wide audience. We’re an ambitious but still small press and every book’s success is a result of collaboration between us and the author.

And when and how can people expect a response?

The plan is to get back to everyone within eight weeks of the window closing. That gives us enough time to consider everything and make some inevitably difficult decisions. We’re not able to give individual feedback to everybody that submits, for the simple reason of time constraints.

Brilliant. So, logistics aside, what are you looking for in these manuscripts? What are the kinds of poetry that are most likely to make it onto the Verve publishing schedule?

'Submissions must be excellent, generous, open-minded, ambitious and informed.'

If you know us at all, you will know the answer to this. Like our sister festival, we have a love and respect for poetry in all its forms and from all sources. We love poetry designed for the page that is read-out-able and poetry designed to perform that is readable in book form. We love poetry shows, long narrative poems, short quirky poems, one poem manuscripts, seventy poem manuscripts, dramatic poems, quiet poems, free-form poems, fully formed poems, heavily edited poems, poems written in one go. But they must be excellent, generous, open-minded, ambitious and informed.

I don’t want anyone to feel like we’re not interested in ‘their kind of poetry’ but I do want poetry that has an understanding of itself and the context it lives in.

Recent additions to our pantheon! Could you join them?


When will successful manuscripts  be published?

Of the manuscripts we choose from this submissions window, some will be published in 2023 and more in 2024. We’re reducing the frequency of our submissions windows now, so the next opportunity to submit will be in Spring 2024!

Can people submit if they’ve already submitted to Verve in the past?

Yes! Not only that, but they can submit more than one manuscript at a time, if they have that much poetry knocking around.

What about if they’re also submitting elsewhere?

Fine by me – they’ll just have to keep me informed of any updates in that regard.

What if the work is previously published?

If poems have been published in magazines or anthologies before that’s not a problem, as long as the collection as a whole hasn’t ever been published as a complete work.

How do you feel about non-English language poetry?

We’re really interested in manuscripts that involve more than one language – I’d say it’d have to be at least 50% English: bi- and multi-lingual poetry is absolutely a yes.

Do you have to be from the Midlands to submit?

Not at all. Like our sister festival, our roots will always be in Birmingham but we are proud and excited to have our doors open to poets far and wide – we’ve published poets from all over the world!

Is there a submission fee?

No. We want to remove as many barriers as possible from the submitting process, so we haven’t charged people for submitting their work.

Do people have to buy a book from you to submit?

No, there’s no requirement and no enforcer going door to door checking your bookshelves. Although it does make sense that you should know who we are and the work we publish – and in my humble, unbiased opinion, we do have great books that you would probably enjoy if you did buy them.

Any last words for people thinking about submitting?

Just that we’d love to see your stuff. It was amazing to read through our last window’s material and I’m really looking forward to seeing what we get. If you’re serious about poetry, this is absolutely for you – show us what you’ve got!

So there you have it! (Almost) everything you need to know about submitting to Verve Poetry Press in one place. If you or anyone you know is interested, be sure to follow us on socials for all the updates and get those manuscripts ready!

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In Conversation with Phoebe Stuckes

After being blown away by her reading at VERVE 2022, we had to reach out to brilliant VPP poet, Phoebe Stuckes. Read below for her thoughts on her party girl persona, writing during a pandemic why we just can’t log off of social media, even when it’s making us miserable…

Hello Phoebe! How are you doing? What have you been up to since we last heard from you? It was brilliant to hear you read at VERVE Poetry Festival in February!

Hi! I’m doing okay, not a great deal to report, just writing and working. I’m delighted that it’s Spring as the Winter makes me morose. Thanks! I had a great time performing at Verve and it was my first in-person reading in two years!

Lucky us! We’re honoured to have been your return to readings – hopefully the first of many!

Phoebe read the title poem from her pamphlet on the VERVE Stage in February

The One Girl Gremlin is your second pamphlet, and your first since your full-length collection Platinum Blonde. What is unique about this project compared to your previous writings?

I didn’t really set out to write a complete sequence. I just wanted something to do really, I wanted to write something and I’d been reading a lotof prose poems so I think that influenced the style of the poems. My friend Em Meller pointed out that Platinum Blonde is mainly about external events whereas in The One Girl Gremlin there’s a lot of dream sequences and contemplation; I think it’s definitely more dreamlike. 

My approach was the same in that I just try and write a lot of poems and then I usually understand the sequence only in retrospect, at the time of writing I’m too close to it. I have this problem where whenever I try and plan a piece of writing before I write it I always vere off in the other direction, so no I’ve never written anything that I set out to write!

We published Phoebe’s pamphlet The One Girl Gremlin in September, her first since her full length collection Platinum Blonde (Bloodaxe Books, 2020)

“Here, Phoebe Stuckes’ trademark poems of high humour and hubris take on a dreamier, more abstract, quality. Perhaps the ‘wise-cracking party girl’ of her earlier work is sensing that, for a while at least, the party is postponed. There isn’t much worth staying up late for any more in these poems. Instead, our character lies awake in bed long into the night or wakes up into a pre-dawn world they barely recognise. And the strange new rural setting they wake to is inviting and also threatening and therefore not to be trusted.”

Very relateable! Speaking of things not going to plan… how was your experience of writing and releasing Gremlin affected by the pandemic?

I think it forced me to write outside of my usual themes because my usual subjects; nightlife, intimacy, etc. weren’t available to me anymore. Everything I would usually have done around the release was moved online, I also haven’t been doing many in-person readings even though they seem to be starting up again, so I haven’t had as many opportunities to put it in people’s hands as I would like.

There’s a lot of reference to being visibly online in these poems, as well as those that more broadly explore a sense of living performatively. Is that something you set out to interrogate with this pamphlet?

I suppose so; I’ve written a lot in my other poetry about femininity and the self being constructed. I think in Platinum Blonde there was a strong persona and in The One Girl Gremlin the persona slightly dropped because I didn’t feel like I had an audience anymore. I think people of my generation have a really high level of anxiety around being surveilled because so much of our life is online and will probably be there forever in some form or other.

I’m interested in that because I loathe it and still participate in it, partly out of a fear of missing out. During the last lockdown I was living alone and I wanted to tune out so badly but I was like if I log off it’ll be just me here and that’ll be horrible.
That’s an ambivalence a lot of people share, for sure.

There are a few of your poems that get shared a lot online – do you think there’s something about your poetry that’s particularly retweetable?

God I hope not! There’s really no telling what poems people will share around and which they’ll basically ignore so I try not to think about it too much. I like the attention obviously, and it’s a good way to reach new readers but I don’t think about it too much.

Finally, are you working on anything new at the moment? Are there any upcoming projects you’d like to plug?

Nothing that isn’t top secret. I’m running a workshop on Ekphrastic poetry for The Poetry Business for a second time on the 25th of May, you can book tickets for that here:

Sounds amazing! Thanks so much for talking to us!

For more from Phoebe, check out her pamphlet The One Girl Gremlin, or read more about her on her author page here!

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EVEN MORE Spring Releases at Verve Poetry Press

Your eyes do not decieve you! We’ve got even more amazing Spring collections ready to order – details of these brilliant books and their wonderful authors below.

For more on these and our upcoming releases, check out our Coming Soon page here.

Kathy Pimlott – the small manoeuvres

apr 22

Pimlott is my favourite flâneuse, conjuring place like no one else, with an immaculate eye for the juicy, telling detail. In these clear-sighted poems she confronts aging and lockdowns, both bringing a world: ‘wilder and straitened / like the bins.’ I love Pimlott’s cast of memorable characters; her tinder-dry wit; her hard-won knowledge that: ‘what matters now is grace on a wire, enough sleep.’

Clare Pollard

Kathy Pimlott

Kathy was born in Nottingham, in the shadow of Player’s cigarette factory but has spent her adult life in London, the last 40 or so years in Covent Garden, specifically, in Seven Dials. She has had a rag-bag career in social work, community activism, arts television and artist development and now works on community-led public realm projects. She has published two pamphlets with The Emma Press, Elastic Glue​ (2019) and Goose Fair Night (2016). Her work has appeared in Magma, Mslexia, Brittle Star, The North, Poem, ​The Rialto and Under the Radar.

Kayleigh Campbell – Matryoshka

apr 22

Matryoshka represents the feminist notion that females are human beings with agency; it presents the good, the bad and the incomprehensible. A mixture of confessional and imagined writing, it explores motherhood, love, death and violence. There are saints and sinners, witches, celebrities and mischievous cats against a backdrop of Russian folklore and magical realism. It is haunting and melancholic, unsettling and dark, but there are also little pockets of comedy and relief. The poems take the reader on an unpredictable trail through the enchanting forest of the female.

Kayleigh Campbell

Kayleigh Campbell finished her PhD at The University of Huddersfield in March 2022 and is a member of the Editorial Board for Grist Books. Her poems have appeared in Butcher’s Dog, Rialto, Stand Magazine & The High Window; she was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize 2021. In 2019, her pamphlet Keepsake was published by Maytree Press.

Sarah James – Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic

may 22

‘Sarah James’ Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic compellingly conveys the journey of a life pervaded by type one diabetes and the myriad struggles of that hidden disability [...] Always engaging and often moving, James’ poems deftly immerse as well as inform, urging a deep appreciation of life’s plenty, “breath[ing] in the sky.’
Carrie Etter

Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic is award-winning poet Sarah James’s exploration of 40 years living with type one diabetes, a life-threatening autoimmune condition that is now treatable, but remains incurable. The collection tracks her personal journey from diagnosis, age six, to adulthood, including the high and the low points, as well as the further long-term health risks lurking in the background. These are poems of pain, but also of love and beauty, taking in motherhood, aging and establishing self-identity in a constantly updating world.

The route to some kind of acceptance and belonging may be troubled by ‘trying to escape’ but it also ‘holds | more light than your eye | will ever know’

Sarah James

Sarah is a poet, fiction writer, journalist, occasional playwright, photographer, poetryfilm maker and arts reviewer, as well as editor at V. Press. Author of four poetry collections, three poetry pamphlets, a poetry-play, an ACE-funded multi-media hypertext poetry narrative > Room and two novellas, she also enjoys artistic commissions, mentoring and working as a writer in residence, and was delighted to be The High Window Resident Artist for 2019!

Georgina Wilding – Hag Stone

may 22

Hag Stone is an exploration of the ways in which working class girlhood, broken homes, and sex interact, with a realisation that each is seemingly interconnected in more ways than one.

The poems in this manuscript take rigid childhood events and reclaim the narrative through aggrandized surrealism, making it so that the harsh realities of some of these events are suddenly mutable against the whimsy, and in some places, desperate chaos that occurs in the work.

Georgina Wilding

Georgina Wilding was crowned Nottingham’s first Young Poet Laureate 2017 – 2019, and Creative Director of Nottingham Poetry Festival until early 2021. In 2015 she set up the poetry publishing house, Mud Press. Georgina has featured at events such as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, International Poetry Day:Granada, Sofar Sounds, Bright Spark, Hit the Ode, Straatstheatre Braunschweig and Off Milosz festival in Poland. She has been commissioned by organisations such as The Royal Shakespeare Company and BBC Radio Nottingham. She has been published in literary journals such as The Rialto and Kontent, in magazines such as Pussy Magic, Rebelotte and Left Lion, and in anthologies such as Peace Builders Small Acts of Kindness and Jubilee Press’ The ‘art of Nottingham. She was recently long-listed in the OutSpoken prize for poetry performance category.

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Spring Releases at Verve Poetry Press

2022 is rolling on and Verve Poetry Press are continuing to work to bring you brilliant work from fantastic poets . To celebrate Spring (we’re ignoring the weather here) we’ve put together a round-up of our recent releases and the details of how you can get your hands on them – enjoy!

For more on these and our upcoming releases, check out our Coming Soon page here.

Peter deGraft-Johnson – A Testament To Life & Death

feb 22

'Exciting, energetic and revolutionary, this is a brilliant and powerful testament to life and death from one the UK’s most prophetic and passionate new voices.'
Salena Godden

The debut pamphlet from The Repeat Beat Poet contains poems written for their utility, their intensity, and their tenderness of spirit. For Peter, these poems function as blessings, memorials, prophecies, and survivor’s guides for soldiering through modern life while being Black in Britain. A writer as comfortable in the cadence of preachers as easily as the flows of rappers, Peter engages his poetry to celebrate life, chronicle suffering, and point towards paths of survival and freedom. 

For the poets who are right with us from graveyard to cradle
For the poems that keep us stable
For the poets everywhere
and the poetry that got them there
This is For The Poets

Peter deGraft-Johnson

Peter deGraft-Johnson is The Repeat Beat Poet, a Hip Hop writer and broadcaster working to capture and extend moments of time, thought, and feeling. Peter, a British-born Ghanaian has performed across the UK and internationally at venues including the Southbank Centre and Ronnie Scotts in London, alongside writers like Margaret Atwood, Salena Godden (FRSL) and Roger Robinson (TS Eliot Prize).

Betty Doyle – Girl Parts

mar 22

’Tender, fierce, full of joy and rage. I wish I’d written so many of these poems and I’m thankful that Betty Doyle has. A must-read.’
Helen Mort

‘In the opening poem of Betty Doyle’s Girl Parts, there is deft shift from tenderness ‘this place again. It’s where I wake up / and recall I have no daughter’ to anger ‘or…turn on the news and feel thankful I have no daughter’. This oscillation between vulnerability and rage is on show throughout this confident collection; a striking exploration of the pain, exhaustion and fear that comes with living in a female body: ‘Sometimes it carries keys / between knuckles’.

Girl Parts is Betty Doyle’s debut pamphlet.

Betty Doyle

Betty Doyleis a poet from Merseyside, UK. Her work has appeared in Flash Journal, Cake, Lunate, Another North, Give Poetry A Chance anthology, and has been accepted by Agenda. She was longlisted for the Mslexia and Poetry Book Society Women Poets Prize in 2018, judged by Carol Ann Duffy. Her debut pamphlet, ‘Girl Parts’, is due to be published by Verve Poetry Press in Spring 2022. She is currently studying for her Creative Writing Ph.D at Manchester Metropolitan University, analysing infertility in contemporary women’s poetry.

Erica Gillingham – The Human Body Is A Hive

mar 22

'Amidst the joys and complexities of queer family-making, Gillingham offers us tender, sensual and profound poems suffused with a tensile strength.’
Mary Jean Chan

Composed in two halves, Erica Gillingham’s The Human Body is a Hive is a playful and observant reconception of queer love and queer family-making. Opening with a shameless celebration of sex and desire, the collection expands the boundaries of love to include friendship, romance, and lifelong partnership. The latter catalogues the cyclical heartbreaks and wonders of fertility treatment through the microscopic lenses of nature, medicine, and art. Both quietly moving and profoundly celebratory, this exciting debut evokes tenderness and resilience.

Erica Gillingham

Erica Gillinghamis a queer poet and writer living in London, England, via Siskiyou County, California. She is a bookseller at Gay’s The Word, Books Editor at DIVAmagazine, and Poetry Editor at The Signal House Edition. Her poetry and essays have been published by Cipher Press, Muswell Press, Monstrous Regiment, Pilot Press, Fourteen Poems, Untitled, Impossible Archetypeand clavmag. The Human Body is a Hiveis her debut pamphlet.

Qudsia Akhtar – Khamoshi

mar 22

“Can one experience diaspora / in the body?” Qudsia Akhtar’s poems are silted with female loss, a kind of silence that builds slowly inside generations of migrant women. Through partition, nationalism, racism, sex and filial duty, these poems ask to whom do we belong if not our selves? A motherland calls to its daughters; an adopted country demands to hear her voice. Akhtar’s language is rich and exact, fearing sentiment, turning on its heel towards a path entirely of its own.   

– Sandeep Parmar 

​‘Qudsia Akhtar’s thrilling debut collection Khamoshi (Silence) traces the complexity of living as a British-Pakistani writer with great courage, integrity and insight. Akhtar’s vision takes in the broader historical perspectives of the trauma of partition and the experiences of racism and sexism while focusing on the embodied tensions of a self that is never fully at ease with itself: ‘I hear / my voice call / my self / imposter.’ In dialogue with Muhammed Iqbal’s philosophical poem The Secrets of the Self, Akhtar asks unflinchingly ‘can I be from here if my roots / lie elsewhere?’, ‘what does the British-Pakistani want?’ ‘can Herstory / be rewritten?’, creating a precisely articulated poetry full of vivid images and passionate thinking. If Akhtar does not shy away from the challenges she presents (‘the chaos of collective identity’), nevertheless this is an enormously optimistic book in which she wears ‘the flag / of hope’ whilst paying homage to ‘all / the voices / in me.’ This is an adept and provocative work which firmly establishes Akhtar as an important new voice for her generation.’  

– Scott Thurston 

Qudsia Akhtar

Qudsia Akhtar is a Manchester-based poet who is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Salford. Her work has appeared in Acumen, The Tower Poetry Anthology, The Ofi Press, and Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal.

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New Year, New Releases

Seeing as 2022 is already barrelling towards us, there’s no harm in letting you know that our new year’s resolution is the same as always: to keep bringing you brilliant poetry from wonderful, talented poets – and here’s the proof. 

Below are details of just the first five collections we’ll be putting out in 2022, plus the inside scoop on the poets responsible for them.

They’re all available for preorder with free P&P along with a few(!) others you can check out here.

Nicki Heinen – There May Not Be A Reason Why

due jan 22

‘The astonishing poems in Nicki Heinen’s new collection have an exceptional diamond clarity and a richly self-aware sense of humour, transmuting dark matter into intense beauty. This is brilliant and haunting work.’
Nick Drake

Nicki Heinen has been sectioned and hospitalised under the mental health act on several occasions during her life. As such, her debut collection contains vivid descriptions of hospitals and her incarceration in them. 

‘… rotting plaster, the cracked tiles erupting weeds, a summer gone bad in the crater of today, yesterday, tomorrow, every day the same but for the occasional bath.’

She has also experienced long periods of freedom, often chaperoned as it is, by its evil twin brother, loneliness. At times, freedom can be an incarceration of its own.

‘…I ask my lovers if they will say my name, gently, as you did; / they cannot. They take the mirror and hold it up to my face. / Look, they say, you are alone.’

It is no exaggeration to state that, in this astonishing debut full collection, Nicki shows time and again that she has the imagination, the wit and the craft to be able to move almost nimbly beyond all these restrictions. She has produced a book of great power and invention, with imagery you can taste! It is poetry of some power that can raise you up through the roof of the cage and out into the air!

Nicki Heinen

Nicki Heinen was born in Germany but moved to Birmingham, U.K at the age of 6. She studied English at Girton College, Cambridge University, where she won the Barbara Wrigley Prize for Poetry. Her work has been published in a variety of print and on-line magazines and anthologies, including Magma and Bloodaxe’s Staying Human anthology. She was shortlisted for the Pat Kavanagh Prize in 2012, and commended in the Winchester Prize 2018. She founded and hosts Words & Jazz, a spoken word and music night, at the Vortex Jazz Café, London. She lives in North London.

Elle Dillon-Reams – Maladaptive

due jan 22

Maladaptive is about identity, wintering, womanhood, love and home. Exploring the loss of self and homesickness for that which is no longer there, grief for those gone and the rebuilding of hope and finding the light in the dark.

Whilst being a hugely honest, personal and vulnerable collection, Maladaptive is accessible, relatable and comforting. A raw exploration of mental health with a necessary, playful dose of finding comedy in unexpected places, a mindfulness in the natural world drawing on Elle’s growing up by the seaside and feeling a strong drawing to the water. And sourcing the bonds that connect us all as much more than monoliths, that which make us feel we belong.

Elle Dillon-Reams

Originally from Brighton, Elle has lived in London for the last 12 years. After dabbling in various poetry nights across the UK, she won the Genesis Slam in 2019 and is going ahead to the Hammer and Tongue National Finals at The Royal Albert Hall that was slated to take place last year. In 2019 she also performed as Boiler House London’s International Women’s Day Poet. After winning the Imperial College Nature Slam in 2020 with her piece FOR FREDDY, she was then the International Women’s Day poet for Imperial College London in their 2021 celebrations, running a bespoke workshop for doctors, mathematicians and scientists. 

Imogen Stirling – Love The Sinner

due jan 22

Love The Sinner is the second collection from poet and theatre-maker, Imogen Stirling. A fusion of poetry, theatre and electronic music, it will premiere as a stage show later in 2022.

sirens, shutters, smashed glass and traffic hums
itchy feet
twitching thumbs
the city thrums with unrest
turns a buzz of thought

The seven deadly sins are alive and kicking hard in contemporary Scotland.

Swooping from the mundane to the immense, Stirling’s long-form poetry weaves narratives of human experience. A loose alliance of extraordinary and unextraordinary characters struggle to comprehend their identities in a world bladed with criticism and obsessed with self-betterment. This story sees ancient roots clasp hands with modern compassion to explore human frailty, love and resilience, while the threat of ecological crisis rumbles in the background.   

Mirror and rallying cry both, Love The Sinner reflects on the meaning of being human today.

Imogen Stirling

Imogen is a Glasgow-based spoken word poet, theatre-maker and vocalist. She was the inaugural Writer-in-Residence for Paisley Book Festival 2021 and appeared on the BAFTA-winning Sky Arts documentary, Life & Rhymes. Imogen is an established performer (inc. BBC, Sofar Sounds, Latitude Festival, Neu! Reekie!, Aye! Write). She is best recognised for her five-star debut show #Hypocrisy (sell-out runs at Edinburgh Fringe and Prague Fringe; UK tour) and featured in the BBC Words First talent development scheme. She co-founded Siren Theatre Company, whose production Text Me When You Get Home is being developed with Tron Theatre, Creative Scotland and Glasgow & Clyde Rape Crisis. Imogen’s work has been described as ‘life-affirming artistry’ (Everything Theatre) and ‘a tonic for the tribal times we live in’ (Darren McGarvey).

Kathryn O’Driscoll – Cliff Notes

due feb 22

Kathryn O’Driscoll’s debut collection comes from the edge of being alive, being sane, and being heard. Exploring grief, sexual abuse, mental illness, isolation and recovery, Cliff Notes forms the story of many losses and what is left behind. 

Poetry from the precipice oscillating between beauty and brutality, Cliff Notes examines how our experiences shape our ideas about who we are. Intrusive thoughts, metaphor, and facts are woven together until reality is indistinguishable from a dysfunctional mind’s perception of it.

A biological cartography of the effects of trauma and silence, both enforced and self-imposed, this is a portrait of the body as the site of betrayal but also redemption. O’Driscoll’s writing is sharply human as she unflinchingly excavates the grimmest places and combs through the decay to find if there is anything alive growing there still. Yet amid all the darkness, each poem is a defiant flare of hope that change is still possible.

Cliff Notes sets you adrift, struggling to keep your head above water that will either save or destroy you with its next wave. This collection won’t let you catch your breath. This is poetry as survival and suffering, with no easy answers about which will win in the end. 

Kathryn O’Driscoll

Kathryn O’Driscoll is a spoken word poet, writer and activist from Bath, England. She talks openly about disabilities, mental health, LGBTQIA+ issues and joys and gender politics in her wide range of poems. She is the current UK Slam Champion. Aside from performing poetry across the South West, she has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe, at multiple UK National competitions, on BBC Radio Bristol and was featured on the Sky Arts spoken word TV show Life and Rhymes.

Kat Lyons – Love Beneath The Nails

due feb 22


Kat thought they were far too young to worry about menopause. Biology had other ideas…
Dry Season is a spoken word theatre show that interweaves music, movement and medical texts with original poetry and animation.

Using the role of women in fairytales as a starting point, Kat takes the audience on a journey through a chaotic year of hormone issues, NHS visits and unexpected connections.

Honest, intimate and threaded through with dark humour, Dry Season uses Kat’s experience of premature ovarian failure to question societal expectations of age and gender, and explore wider issues around mental health, identity and how we cope with loss.

Containing the full stage script for DRY SEASON as well as many of Kat’s best performance and page poetry on overlapping themes – this wonderful debut collection gives a rounded and detailed view of Kat, the poet and performer. It is an incredible read!

‘In writing that is cinematic and intimate Lyons balances deftly on the bridge between what is spoken and what finds life on the page. Experimental and innovative this debut first collection adventures across a range of poetics including two heartbreaking sets of cantos circling grief and sexual terrorism. Beautiful.’
Joelle Taylor

Kat Lyons

Kat is a Bristol-based writer, performer, facilitator and creative producer. They have performed at poetry events and festivals across the UK, have a full collection forthcoming in 2022 from Verve Poetry Press and have recently finished developing a spoken word theatre show exploring age, identity and menopause. Kat is passionate about using the power of stories to connect people to themselves, each other and the environment.

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In Conversation with Annie Fan

Since she was tragically unable to attend her own launch event, we’ve been desperate to catch up with amazing VPP poet Annie Fan. We finally pinned her down to talk about her gorgeous pamphlet Woundsong and everything she’s been busy with since…

Hello, Annie! How are you doing? Have things calmed down since your pamphlet launch or are you still as busy as ever?

I’m on a bit of a hiatus from academics and work, so have spent the past few months writing and reading – it’s been so great to do something so wholly creative! Currently, I’m part of the London Library’s Emerging Writers Programme, and am also a Ledbury Critic; both are busy schemes, but I’m learning so much, too (and hopefully have a review forthcoming in PN Review!). For a bit of fun, I’m helping a friend write some opera scenes based on the French trouvère tradition, which will then be set to music – very exciting and very, very new work.

Woah! So just a different kind of busy, then. Good for you!

It’s been about half a year since your gorgeous pamphlet Woundsong was published. Could you tell us a bit about how it came about and what it means to you?

I’ve really enjoyed writing about femininities and representations of gender for a long time; I came across the idea of gender as a wounding in a fantastic peer’s work – Brynne Rebele-Henry’s Autobiography of a Wound – and I don’t think I’ve stopped thinking about it! 

When I was writing the poems in the pamphlet, I was thinking a lot about the low church Anglicanism that I’d grown up with, and the complexity of Christian religious rituals I came across in Oxford; the female body/form is also subject to so many secular rituals, and I found the connections between those really fascinating. And how they might both relate to growing up, in general. Being feminine, for better or worse, for me, has always been a process of becoming, of growing towards some sort of divine ideal in my head that can never be reached.

Those are some incredibly complicated and delicate subjects – how did you go about writing them for this pamphlet? Did it go as planned?

The poems span a lot of years! The oldest poem is ‘Dreamscape’, which I wrote when I was fifteen – a sort of lurid fever-dream of a poem – and the newest ones were written right before I submitted to Verve. I’ve tried to write this pamphlet a lot of times, but I think it really came together when I stopped trying to force the poems to fit together through editing, and instead wrote poems to add to the existing collection.

Well we’re endlessly glad it turned out the way it did and that we’re the ones who got to publish it!

Speaking of lurid fever dreams… one of the exciting things about this pamphlet is that you’re never quite sure what you’re going to see when you next turn the page – you enjoy playing with form?

It’s really, really good fun! The form of the poems change a fair bit depending on what shape I feel the poem inherently is – I tend to write very quickly on a computer, so it’s a lot easier to be playful with form.

Annie reads and talks a little about her writing process for her poem “How to Invert a Hyperbolic Function”. 

Between being part of Barbican Young Poets and the Ledbury Poetry Critics programme as well as being involved with various other poetry organisations/publications, it seems like the poetry community is a big part of your life. Does that feed into your work?

It’s always so great to hear what other people are thinking about, in relation to their own art: what poets they’re reading, what shows or events they’re seeing, and what’s generally on their mind! I love hearing about stuff that has no clear relation to contemporary poetry, in particular; I think it’s when you find the strangest, most arresting ideas.

Finally, are you working on anything new at the moment? Are there any upcoming projects you’d like to plug?

Just a first collection which should appear sometime in the next few decades! 

We’ll be over here waitingas patiently as possible!

For more from Annie, check out her pamphlet Woundsong, or read more about her on her author page here!

Annie's Socials

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In Conversation with Helen Calcutt

This month, we’re talking to Helen Calcutt, author of VPP pamphlet Somehow and editor of Eighty Four our anthology dealing with the epidemic of male suicide. She talked to us about the painful and cathartic experience of working on these projects, as well as her more recent work using her dance expertise to put poetry into motion…

Hello, Helen! As always, we start with a catch-up: how are you doing? What have you been up to?

I’m really well! I’ve been working on a full-length collection, which I actually finalised maybe two weeks ago? Things feel very exciting there, and I’m eager to divulge more, but I can’t right now. All I know is that it feels like a very strong piece of work. The poems are very different to those in Somehow – both in tone and content. But it’s all part and parcel of the creative, evolutionary process. It’s exhilarating.

The most tantalizing possible beginning to an interview, we can’t wait to hear more! For now we’ll focus on what you can talk about…

It’s been a year since your beautiful pamphlet Somehow was published. Could you tell us a little bit about what it meant to you then and what it means to you now?

‘Somehow’ is probably one of my proudest achievements as a writer. It just fell together so effortlessly. The poems poured through, and Stuart was there to catch, and filter them through, for which I am eternally grateful. The whole process just stands out as an incredibly sacred time for me. The poems really resonate with people too; they always feel so fresh. Whenever I read from ‘Somehow’, everyone feels a little more in touch with themselves somehow (ha! No pun intended!) which is wonderful.

And the writing process itself? what was that like? Did you end up writing the pamphlet you set out to write?

I didn’t set out to write a pamphlet at all, actually. I set out to write a collection. I was going to call it The last words I said were beautiful. But I quickly realised that, the subject matter being what it is, that a pamphlet would serve better. The loss of my brother has been explosive, raw, tragic, revealing, and a huge growth process. It felt (and still does feel) like a moment in time, suspended. Matt’s suicide isn’t something I want to drag across 60+ pages. It’s something I want to hold aloft: expose and absorb. Pamphlets help you do that. And Stuart helped me realise this was the way forward too.

Helen launched her pamphlet alongside Carrie Etter, Louise Fazackerly & Shazea Quraishi. You can watch the whole event on our YouTube Channel, including a Q&A with the poets!

That makes a lot of sense. You deal with a lot in this little space: incredibly difficult themes and emotions alongside tender, (painful?) hope. What are your thoughts on that balance? Did you have readers in mind as you wrote?

The reader in my mind was me, because I wrote them for a part of the self that often gets neglected when you suffer trauma. However, during the editing/ordering process I started thinking about ‘the reader’ a lot. I asked friends and family members lot of questions, and everyone more or less said the same thing – that they wanted to hear the truth. They want it raw and real, because ultimately, people want and need to truly feel into their pain.

‘Everything will be okay’ is such a well-worn phrase. And while this is true, actually – things do lift, perhaps even more so than before,  it’s very important to start owning what hurts you. By this, I don’t mean drag it around like a ball and chain, I mean own it. With confidence, with feeling, with truth. I’m not sure I fully ‘owned’ Matt’s death in Somehow, but I’m definitely on my way.

As readers, we’re both moved and honoured by that truthfulness and the vulnerability it brings – hopefully it brings a sense of freedom too.

Speaking of balance, there’s a lot of nature imagery in Somehow, from sunlight to rain to snow… why do you think that is?

I’ve always turned to the natural/elemental world, in all of my work, quite simply because I find it so inspiring. It’s a gateway back to the self. What exists without is within. And you only have to observe the stillness of a leaf, and then be aware of how you’re observing it, to tap into your own being and what’s working away in there. The natural world is not separate from us – we are it. It is us. I use it so much in my work, because essentially, I write about what it is to be human, and a river is as much a part of my humanness as anything else.

As well ‘Somehow’ you’ve also worked with Verve Poetry Press as editor of Eighty Four an anthology of poems about male suicide; what was that like?

Putting Eighty Four together was hard in the sense that I encouraged people to be vulnerable for the sake of their art. I had to reject some poems, which I struggled with initially. But I can see now it’s all a part of an important, collective process, with so many poems reaching us – all of them hurting, all of them brave and beautiful.  Everyone who submitted, whether they ended up in the anthology or not, were part of this wonderful movement for change: and it’s still reverberating. There’s more to come from that, I think. What form this will take, I don’t know, but I have a feeling. You can’t create something that inclusive, impactful, and qualitative, and it not last and last.

We heartily agree.

Finally, you’ve already mentioned an upcoming collection – is there anything else going on at the moment you can tell us about?

I’m doing a lot of research into translation at the moment – how we take written and/or verbalised language, and translate it into the body through dance. I see a lot of dance and poetry happening at the same time, side by side, but this isn’t translation. It can be impactful yes. But it doesn’t get to the root of why poetry and dance are so cohesive. When I write a poem, and when I dance, I get the same feeling. The same parts of my brain and body fire up. So, I know there’s a deep connection. One I want to expose fully.

That sounds amazing!

Poetry in motion: Helen combines dance and poetry in her work above.

I’m working with Max Porter’s ‘Grief is the thing with feathers’ as part of my research here, supported by Arts Council England, the DanceXchange, and the University of Worcester. What’s exciting, is that the professional dancers I’ve been working with (Sara MacQueen, Shelley Eva Haden, Francis Hickman, and Claire Lambert) all absolutely love the process.

As dancers, we haven’t created or explored anything like it before. The movement is generated from a very particular space, meaning the movement itself can be very particular. But it’s also about the dancer’s subjective relationship to the text and to it’s meaning, and how we explore and translate that, as well as the words and phrases themselves, that I find fascinating. It’s such a deep dive, and because of it, the movement is utterly unique. Bonkers at times, breath-taking at others

 I’m looking towards the next stage of the project now, with the long-term aim of staging a full dance production of the text. It’s already been adapted for theatre – so I know it works in this setting. I just want to take it to the next level. Tap in the movement of all that subjective, compound grief – and let it fly.

We cannot wait to see where it goes! Thank you so much for talking to us!

For more from Helen, check out her pamphlet Somehow, the anthology she edited Eighty Four or read more about her on her author page here!

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Jo Morris Dixon

Jo Morris Dixon grew up in Birmingham and now lives in London. She has worked in museums and currently works for a mental health charity. Her poetry has been published in Oxford Poetry and The Poetry Review. She was longlisted for the 2015 Plough Poetry Prize and the 2020 National Poetry Competition. I told you everything is her debut pamphlet.


Jo Morris Dixon’s debut pamphlet I told you everything reveals how poetry can function as a holding place for difficult experiences and emotions. Through language at once vivid and straightforward, Dixon skilfully addresses coming-of-age themes which are often left unexplored, even in therapy rooms. There is a keen attentiveness to form in these startling poems, ranging from the sonnet to the Golden Shovel. Urgent, complex and searingly honest, I told you everything is a fierce addition to poetry and queer writing in the UK.


Girl Guides 

we met on a Girl Guides trip (she texted first)
which caused me to check my phone
in French class at school, a different school
to the one she was at which had a pool
but wasn’t private she told me
to focus on the sound of leaves
crunching under my shoes whenever
I felt sad and that the dress code for
her fourteenth birthday party was red
which meant I expected her to invite me
so when she posted photos of herself
and her friends with Smirnoff Ice on MySpace
that night I hid my red turtleneck jumper
down the side of my bed and dreamt
about her saying sorry and kissing me
in a way which made me wake up
shocked to see that she had texted to say
my friend told me you like me, is it true?

'Artfully off-kilter, angular and perhaps even uncomfortable in moments, these poems find a rare clarity in the examination of difficult times. The therapist's gesture, a bully's graffiti, a phone call to a helpline all become the genesis of crystalline and precise poems in the hands of Jo Morris Dixon. But there us protest here too. I told you everything is both resolutely and complexly queer.'
Richard Scott

More from Jo!

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Golnoosh Nour

Composing ROCKSONG was a truly wild ride, at times a painful one, but mostly ecstatic & inspired. Sometimes I still don’t understand how I wrote these poems, I just know I wouldn’t exchange this transcendent experience for anything else!’

Dr Golnoosh Nour is the author of The Ministry of Guidance and Other Stories (Muswell Press, 2020). Her full-length poetry collection Rocksong will be published in October 2021 by Verve Poetry Press. Golnoosh’s work has also been published in Granta and Poetry Anthology amongst others, and she has performed in numerous literary events, including Stoke Newington Literature Festival, the Poetry Café, and RVT. Golnoosh is a visiting lecturer at the University of Bedfordshire. She’s currently co-editing the issue 80 of Magma and the anthology Queer Life, Queer Love forthcoming from Muswell Press.


 ‘Our house has been vandalised again they have destroyed our bedroom our bed while we were away falling more deeply inimpermissible love.’ – from ‘A Manifesto – The Future is Queer

Fresh, queer, brave, profound, the poems in this collection from London based Iranian Golnoosh do not disappoint. Her stories are wonderful – her poetry is breath-taking!

'So tough, ferocious even, so beautiful, as insinuating in their radiance as they are translucently blunt, Golnoosh Nour’s poems, with a steely mindfulness and whiplash denouements that gut the heart, are a great and vital treasure'
Dennis Cooper


In Your Arms I Am A Boy

A sparrow, trapped and warmed in your hands,
a nightingale singing the songs of misery and victory,
a boy who competes with other boys to win at pool, at fights, at life.
A boy who murmurs in your ears that you are an empress for whom
he is ready to murder everyone else.

A jealous boy, a delicate boy, a delicious boy.
An inebriated boy, a pauper, a landless poet, a nomad who
has been accused of being a solipsistic prince.
A socialist boy, a sociable boy, an isolated boy, an island in love
with the ocean that is drowning it.

A brown boy, daggered by injustice,
an attacked prince like Siyavash, dragged
to walk through flames to prove his innocence.
As I storm through the fire, you hold my hands
like a bouquet of blossoming roses.

You are right, my empress, I am nothing but a wounded prince:
stabbed in the back and front by all my friends and
none of my enemies, bleeding on your cold marble, and you,
mesmerised by my golden blood,
will betray the world to save your boy.

'ROCKSONG is a shamelessly baroque ride through the nadirs and summits of the contemporary queer. It's a decadent book, where decadence isn't a cipher for self-indulgence, but a fierce and fugitive resistance. These poems flirt and confront in turns, they seduce and attack, they are tender and grotesque. They create a strangely exultant burlesque on identity, sexuality, desire and language. I love them for that.'
Fran Lock

The Ministry of Guidance and Other Stories

Nuanced and powerful, Nour’s collection of stories explores love and cruelty, sex and religion, and being confined by the rules of an uncompromising culture.

Set mostly in Iran, but making forays to London, Germany, and the transit area of a Ukrainian airport, the stories are brilliantly deft in summoning up the dilemmas of their protagonists, be they characters who are kicking against the confines of the society into which they are born, or characters wanting to embrace those confines.

'A strong, original voice with unprecedented stories to tell'
Marina Warner

Golnoosh reads at ‘Silent Roar: a renegade reading with 7 poets’ for the 87 Press.

More from Golnoosh!

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Zoë Brigley

There’s a quotation in Into Eros that says: “Women’s madness is an intelligible response to unlivable conditions in which other modes of response are blocked off.” I think most of the “madwomen” in history were probably forced to extremes by unlivable conditions, but I hope for my work to be the voice for other women that I never had.
The voice that says: This is not your fault and You can find joy.  

Zoë Brigley has three collections of poetry from Bloodaxe: The Secret, Conquest, and Hand & Skull, and all three are Poetry Book Society Recommendations, as well as receiving an Eric Gregory Award, being Forward Prize commended, and listed for the Dylan Thomas Prize. She also has a collection of nonfiction: Notes from a Swing State: Writing from Wales and America (Parthian). She is Assistant Professor in the English department at the Ohio State University. She runs an anti-violence advocacy podcast: Sinister Myth: How Stories We Tell Perpetuate Violence.


The poems in Into Erosconsider the dangers for women in risking desire, and they tell a story about nature, trauma, and healing. Here, pumpkin flowers, poison sumac, and apple blossoms are as much persons as women are, and their experience are parallel but different. These poems register the value of love after violence. Not possessing or dominating but dwelling with people, with nature – this at last might lead to freedom, and joy. 


The Pumpkin Flowers Take Pleasure Too

At dawn, pumpkin flowers loosen themselves
for the rain. Male buds in bloom for weeks give
way to females flowering. Incandescent,
vivid orange, petals open: submissive
like a wild creature folding back its ears:
the stigma like a nipple. But a teacher
once told me that humans are “the only
species that evolved to make sex a pleasure
for females.” Still the pumpkin flowers stand
engorged without shame or fear & what feeling
when the bee completes its dusty circuit,
brush of fur from its tight, hard body? Now
flowers are shutting slowly, delicately: a woman
crossing her legs: lips closing after a kiss.

'Brigley bravely confronts what it is to be a woman in a world that sees women as prey'
Maggie Smith
author of Goldenrod & Good Bones


Zoë Brigley’s third collection Hand & Skull (Bloodaxe Books, 2019) draws on early memories of the Welsh landscape and the harshness of rural life as well as on her later immersion in the American landscape and her perception of a sense of hollowness in particular communities there. Other strands include the horror of violence, especially violence towards women, contrasted with poems which offer comfort by working as beatitudes or commentaries on life as it exists now, seeking a way of being that is more beautiful, often in relation to her children.

'Brigley gathers up all the fragments of what it is to be a woman and weaves them together in this stunning collection which cuts and heals in equal measure.'
Laura May Webb
Wales Arts Review


Aubade After A French Movie (Broken Sleep Books, 2020)
Notes From a Swing State (Parthian Books, 2019)
Conquest (Bloodaxe, 2012)
The Secret (Bloodaxe, 2007)