Posted on

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.

I TOLD YOU EVERYTHING

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.

SAMPLE POEM

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!

More Verve Poetry Press Authors
Posted on

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.

ROCKSONG

 ‘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

SAMPLE POEM

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!

More Verve Poetry Press Authors
Posted on

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.

INTO EROS

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. 

SAMPLE POEM

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

HAND & SKULL

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

PREVIOUS PUBLICATIONS

Aubade After A French Movie (Broken Sleep Books, 2020)
Notes From a Swing State (Parthian Books, 2019)
Conquest (Bloodaxe, 2012)
The Secret (Bloodaxe, 2007)
More Verve Poetry Press Authors
Posted on

Phoebe Stuckes

Phoebe Stuckes is a writer from West Somerset now living in London. She has been a winner of the Foyle Young Poets award four times and is a former Barbican Young Poet. Her writing has appeared in Poetry Review, The Rialto, The North and Ambit among others. Her debut pamphlet, Gin & Tonic was shortlisted for The Michael Marks Award 2017. She has been awarded an Eric Gregory Award and The Geoffrey Dearmer Prize.  Her first full length collection, Platinum Blonde will be published by Bloodaxe Books in 2020. 

THE ONE GIRL GREMLIN

Her first pamphlet since her debut full collection  Platinum Blonde sees 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. 

Phoebe Stuckes remains one of the most exciting horrifying hilarious unsettling poets writing today. The One Girl Gremlin is of course an absolute triumph! 

SAMPLE POEM

Holes 

The truth feels repetitive like if you were to fall down a hole in the street and hurt yourself, once, perhaps they’d say that’s terrible, I’m so sorry you fell down the hole in the street, well done for getting out. But it keeps on happening to you. Pretty soon, your friends are talking at parties, saying things like; she’s always falling down holes, she walks home alone, at night, on the bad roads, she’s just really into unstable ground. None of the holes I fell down were my boyfriends. One of them was someone else’s boyfriend. If you were feeling cruel, you could say I brought it on myself. The hole’s real girl-friend put on a white dress and married him, even though I told her everything. I try and warn people about the holes, I try and know where they are at various events, holes ordering pints at the poetry reading, holes as your friends other friend, your lecturer, the hole, working on the role of the void in work by another hole. No one seems to listen. Sometimes they say we’re not all holes in the ground you know. Or you probably asked for it, you must love falling down holes. Why else would you stay? Didn’t you tell the hole you loved it there even though you were scratching at the walls. I don’t know what to tell you except maybe the holes aren’t part of the street. Maybe they’re stacked on top of each otherand when I hit rock bottom in this one, the next one is waiting to fall through.

'Stuckes deftly balances violence and wit, self-consciousness and panache. She can turn a sentence on a dime: Get yourself a bottle of gin, some photos of your exes, and settle into a velvet chaise longue to read’
Kim Addonizio

PLATINUM BLONDE

Platinum Blonde is Phoebe Stuckes’ debut collection. Whether wildly or wryly funny, each poem presents an episode in the up-and-down life of the wise-cracking party girl.

On the surface, this is a world of dancefloors and bathrooms, glitter and girls, love and disappointment, but beneath the laughter and antics these are self-questioning poems. Poems about self-belief, self-image, vulnerability and insecurity, loneliness, trauma and survival.

'In Platinum Blonde, there is a relentless accuracy at work. The reader can’t anticipate this landscape: it ‘could be glamourous’ or ‘bad nights and bad love’ or both.'
Elisabeth Sennitt Clough
The North

Phoebe launches her debut collection, Platinum Blonde.

More Verve Poetry Press Authors
Posted on

Sam J. Grudgings

‘I found solace & sobriety in the poetry community & to repay them I wanted to write a wonderful grisly spectacle to sate their morbid curiosity & to challenge the notion that recovery has one set path or that any of them are easy’

Sam J. Grudgings is a poet perpetually on the edge of collapse, shortlisted for the Outspoken Prize 2020 & longlisted in 2019. Renowned for his off-kilter, frenetic delivery & boundary pushing stage dynamic, Sam grew up in the punk scene & it shows.  

Injecting gallows humour into fiercely wrought metaphors, Sam subverts the narratives of addiction, bringing a wry touch to devastating subjects whilst still allowing himself the space to be painfully candid & devastatingly vulnerable. He yells stories about recovery, mental illness, loss, fighting god & cities made of teeth because it’s  cheaper than therapy & is less physically taxing than pornography .

Sam runs workshops on performance as well as campaigning for the recognition of lived experience in professional & academic circles.  He endeavours to bring poetry to everyone eventually. He can be found if you know where to look.

THE BIBLE II

A defiant splatterpunk body horror on the Inneracy of theological doctrine, in the context of recovery, addiction, death & grieving. A kind of reverent aching. A glorious descent into havok & profanity.

Exploring what god is to an addict, The Bible II is a gory, surreal How-Not-To-Guide for alcoholics coming to terms with their own saviour complex in absence of traditional methods of recovery.

The world is ending but if you need something a little more holy to guide your soul wherever you think you are heading this might be it.

SAMPLE POEM

SM(ART) - BEDROOM SESSIONS

As part of sm(art) festival 21, Sam performed his poem ‘Redeemer’ (which features in The Bible II) from his bedroom in Bristol.

Flustered, inimitably poignant, and profound, Sam experimented with 1930s silent film background projection along with his signature frenetic delivery and whirlwind stage presence.

More Verve Poetry Press Authors
Posted on

Rick Sanders

I am so pleased that Verve has been bold enough to publish my collection, because it feels that comic poetry is always on the fringes of the mainstream poetry establishment, yet when we experience comic poetry at it’s very best it has the power to lift us and transport us in exactly the same way as all the other poetic forms and you get a good laugh thrown in for free!’

 

Rick Sanders, aka Willis the Poet, is an established comedy stand-up poet based in the mighty West Midlands. He is a regular headliner and featured poet on the flourishing spoken word scene across the UK, his sticky sausage-fingers in as many pies as he can. 

You can find him running his mouth off at any event where there is a) an audience and b) a microphone. In between gigs he skulks in the dark recesses of abandoned buildings trying to think of funny things to write about, which is testament to the contents of this book really; a romp through the cerebral cortex of a man who writes humourous verse about pretty much anything and then inflicts it on unsuspecting poetry fans wherever he can. 

 

THE TOP SECRET POETRY NOTEBOOK OF WILLIS THE POET

Sometimes things are top secret for a reason. Thankfully Willis the Poet assures us that these poems have not been hidden away for that reason but another one altogether.

Anyone who has seen and laughed with Willis the Poet will know that his poetry notebooks contain poems big and small, incidental and even more incidental, rough and smooth and everything in between (incl smoothly rough).

The thing they have in common is that they are all hilarious. At least the ones he reads out are. But never before has Willis the Poet permitted his audience to peep inside his most prized poetry trove. A bad idea? Perhaps, but there’s no resisting a topsecret poetry notebook!

SAMPLE POEM

'Willis the Poet is without a doubt one of the funniest poets it has been my pleasure to hear perform. His easy yet intensely witty interaction with his audience makes every performance a time of laughter, hilarity and sheer out and out fun!'
Nick Lovell

BRUM RADIO POETS

Brum Radio Poets is a radio broadcast on the last Sunday of each month at 10am, featuring poets from the Midlands and surrounding area. Hosted by Rick Sanders aka Willis the Poet, the show is an hour of chat and poetry readings with 3 other poets. Relaxed, insightful and always fun, tune in to listen to great poetry…

Guests have included many of the Verve family, such as Jasmine Gardosi, Casey Bailey and Spoz, to name but a few!

For a taste of Rick’s comedy, have a look at this performance on his YouTube channel!

More Verve Poetry Press Authors
Posted on

Emily Rose Galvin

Emily Rose Galvin was the first female Staffordshire Poet Laureate (2017-2019) before becoming Poet in Residence at Lichfield Library and co-host of Spoken Word night WordCraft in Stoke-on-Trent.  Performing regularly across the UK, Emily has a repertoire of poetry that tackles mental health, emotional wellbeing and the complications of human relationships, and was most recently placed in the Top 5 Shortlist for Culture Recordings’ New Voice in Poetry Prize 2020. 

THE DEW POINT

Taking inspiration from the transient states of water, and the parallels of human sentiment, the debut collection from Emily Rose Galvin explores the changing states of emotion, relationships, mental health and cultural pressures. From the vapour-like intangibility of first love to the waves of depression, the dew point aims to examine that finite degree between happiness and desolation; emptiness and making ourselves whole.

At times both vulnerable and shocking, Emily’s writing strikes a nerve between the subtle and uncomfortable, while coaxing out the honest core of readers and forcing them to engage with the darker parts of modern life that we tend to gloss over.

SAMPLE POEM

The Theory of Relationships According to Pythagoras

 
Point one, and you’d be blind to call this a triangle,
triangular as your limbs all seem;
too many elbows, somehow,
jutted in to left angles,
one too many ribs that make each breath
sound like a butterfly earthquake between chests.
But you embrace like a moulding.
A negative degree angle,
convex,
each cell below the belly button and above the kneecap
part of some complex reaction
fusing into one another,
or
desperate to.
 
Hearts meet at point two,
Straight lined, so much less about sex these days,
a full-bodied unity.
The points of the hips meet softly now
as breathless kisses,
the sigh of an arm draping a shoulder in triangulation.
These bodies the rise of a steeple, the stretch of a finger,
the swoop of a wing.
 
But I saw us at point three
obtuse in all angles, repellant;
the touching biceps and minds wandering beyond the
conservatory door.
I’d build a ship in the space between us
and set sail for hope
were it not for the anchor of a tear
against my right-angled shoulder,
and I know these are no seas for mismeasured sails.
 
I know the triangular warning sign when I see it.
 
The back pedal got lost, in the angles between hips,
and I’m waiting for point four, an equilateral,
but triangles are only three.

ROSE & CLOUD

Emily’s thoughtful, heartfelt poetry combine with John MacLeod’s sympathetic guitar arrangements in this two-man musical-poetic outfit.

Throughout 2019, Emily & John have home-recorded material, released their debut EP recorded at Tremolo Recording Studio, made radio appearances, and performed in venues and at events around Staffordshire & beyond, and have had a great time doing it.

In 2020, amid the chaos of lockdown and uncertain times, they have remotely recorded a new collection of pieces in the form of an EP entitled #40, and also a Christmas recording entitled ‘The Night Before’.

'It’s Only Thursday' delivers a beautiful taste of things to come from Rose & Cloud, I’m sure of it. Galvin’s words are heartfelt but they’re given a new dimension by MacLeod who lifts them up a notch in terms of their auditory delivery, with both poetry and instrumentals proving a joy to listen to – individually, of course, but when put together they make for something special.
Dr Charley Barnes
Mad Hatter Reviews for 'It's Only Thursday'

Emily performs as part of her duties as Poet in Residence at Lichfield Library.

More Verve Poetry Press Authors
Posted on

In Conversation with Rushika Wick

This month, we caught up with Rushika Wick. After a stellar poetry year and the release of her collection Afterlife As Trash, she reflects on the how and why of her work as well as its brilliant reception…

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

I’ve been observing the lack of differentiation between the seasons with a sense of dystopian dread and countering this by swimming in open water, reading incredible books and hugging people I love inside as many different buildings as possible (we are privileged to have plenty of vaccines available here). One of the things I’ve developed since the series of lock-downs is a deeper appreciation of nature, another is awareness of the poetics of physical space.

Swimming is turning out to be a trend in the poets we’ve talked to this year – Shazea Quraishi talks about it in her interview too.

In terms of news, I’m excited to be an editor for a forthcoming project run by sunseekers poetry and Carnaval Press exploring the broad definitions of ‘Disease’follow us on Instagram for the submission period! I’ve also joined the assistant editorial team at Tentacular with a forthcoming issue on Technology (also submit!) Having grown up in a family of cosmologists, nanotechnologists and biologists, this is a dream come true. Asimov remains a favourite author and I’m enthralled by how Jorie Graham writes from the future perspective in her latest collection Runaway.

It’s amazing to hear that you’ve got so many exciting things going on! Speaking of enthralling collections, could you tell us a bit about your weird and wonderful creation Afterlife As Trash?

Afterlife As Trash (I now wish was lower case to be anti-power differential) is a political work exploring ways in which people’s freedoms and lives are constrained and bewitched by systemic controls. In particular, that of late capitalism and the patriarchy. The title alludes to the idea of deferred spiritual gratification being the norm and displaced by material pursuits or distractions.

It  invites consideration of the term “trash” which is meaningless as all things can be re-used, recycled in the way that all matter and energy is finite. Waste is arguably a capitalist construct and an extremely harmful one. I’m privileged to have had Fran Lock review the collection with the sharpest senses and wit in Culture Matters (online) magazine- she probably understands the work better than I do, so maybe read her review.

The book also explores our ecological stance as a species in a very between-the-cracks manner. Weeds or wild flowers of such ideas and of the need for a new relationship with nature push through.  Ana Seferovic (Verve release pending!) sent me a podcast (LARB) where a performance artist witch – ‘The Oracle Of LA’ – was interviewed. She views green Wicca as being political, as it provides a radical re-engagement with our natural environment via enchantment as a process. This is profound to me.

There are so many of these wonderful and complex ideas explored in the collection – our editor Stuart Bartholomew has said he was hooked from page one! Could you tell us about the first poem of the collection, ‘Diaries Of An Artist in Hiding’?

Diaries was written on the way to work listening to the radio covering the plight of zero hours contract workers during the pandemic, thinking about the struggles some of my artist friends were experiencing. Spending their time doing things they did not enjoy so that they could put food on the table.  I find my work as a paediatrician in the NHS very rewarding but at times I am saddened that I would not be supported (by society) to take time out to purely write. There is a false discourse for not valuing The Arts, denying their ethical, therapeutic and heuristic drives which is retrograde.

You won’t find any arguments from us there—we’re grateful for every opportunity we get to platform exciting, interesting and meaningful art but it’s rarely easy.

It sounds like that poem in particular was born from a combination of an idea that had been brewing for a while and an external jumpstart. Afterlife As Trash is such an eclectic collection, it would be interesting to know if your writing process reflects that.

The process is chaotic. I write without a plan, often during liminal times – falling asleep or in transit. Thankfully Bernadette Mayer endorses lucid dreaming for best writing.
Much is “found” – either from overheard snippets of conversation, thoughts on paintings or inspiration from other artists and human beings. The poems form like photographic negatives. The collection was pulled together as I realized I had written around the same questions and theme afterward.

a peek at Rushika's bookshelf

Bernadette Mayer
Anne Carson
Frank O'Hara
Charles Bukowski
Terrance Hayes
Sylvia Plath

I am influenced by everything around me, but some stylistic muses from the canon include Ann Carson, Frank O’Hara, Bukowski, Terrance Hayes and Sylvia Plath. Also Patti Smith, Rave culture and Picasso. I’m not young anymore which is great because I’ve read more and care less.

There are a whole host of characters who flash in and out of being in the pages of this collection – can you give us some insight into where they come from for you?

I’m more of a visual person and will see/ inhabit a character as I write, which I usually don’t question. They are a multitude but are mostly outsiders in some way, looking in on the world, and in that sense are a chorus. I have been accused of being an unreliable narrator which I partly attribute to a collectivist upbringing in a Sri-Lankan family where there is never just your own voice. I hope I keep a reader with me by the writing being fresh and via thematic continuity, although voice and narrator may change. Perhaps like being at a party rather than catching up with one friend.

Love that as a metaphor. And it certainly does seem like readers enjoyed the party, to say the least. Your poetry has had a brilliant year, from featuring in The Telegraph and The Poetry Review to being well reviewed from Fran Lock as you’ve mentioned and Anthony Anaxagorou who called it ‘breathtakingly impressive’. You’ve recently been highly commended in the Forwards! What has that been like?

I had no idea how it would be received. I write so that I may see. I have imposter syndrome like many of us, for me because I’m not an academic literary writer. Having said that, a big part of my writing is about the community – it doesn’t occur in a silo. Writing groups, performance and The Poetry School have been formative – I live with inspiration all around me and it means so much to have writers I admire support my work as well as readers I’ve never met.

There is of course the hope that you do your publisher justice – I’m lucky that Verve picked this up, that the editor Stu Bartholomew is passionate about variety in poetry and had faith in my work. When I look at the panel of other Verve poets I am very grateful to be amongst them. Many of them are boundary-pushing and occupy unique and active spaces. 

They are a lovely bunch, aren’t they? We’re very proud to have you among them.

Rushika launched Afterlife As Trash alongside collections from three more of our amazing poets on May 6th 2021

Finally, the inevitable question: working on anything new?

Haha, I’m trying to write a semi-ecological series using only found words from one book. It’s quite hard and I may give up. I have some visual work curated by the talented S J Fowler coming out in the Seen Not Heard anthology – Kingston University Press, in October.  I’m also making poem objects such as contemporary prayer-bandages for pregnant women and love letters to plants.

That sounds magnificent, we can’t wait to see what you do next! Thank you so much for talking to us and good luck with all your experiments!

For more from Rushika, check out her collection Afterlife As Trash or read more about her on her author page here!

Posted on

Autumn 2021: New Releases

After a (slightly) quieter Summer, Verve Poetry Press are hitting the ground running with a jam-packed Autumn, full of wonderful books that we’ve just been dying to share with you. Here are the collections and pamphlets we’re putting out September-November 2021!

Emily Rose Galvin - the dew point

due sep 21

Taking inspiration from the transient states of water, and the parallels of human sentiment, the debut collection from Emily Rose Galvin explores the changing states of emotion, relationships, mental health and cultural pressures.  From the vapour-like intangibility of first love to the waves of depression, the dew point aims to examine that finite degree between happiness and desolation; emptiness and making ourselves whole.

At times both vulnerable and shocking, Emily’s writing strikes a nerve between the subtle and uncomfortable, while coaxing out the honest core of readers and forcing them to engage with the darker parts of modern life that we tend to gloss over.

Emily Rose Galvin

Emily Rose was the first female Staffordshire Poet Laureate (2017-2019) before becoming Poet in Residence at Lichfield Library and co-host of Spoken Word night WordCraft in Stoke-on-Trent.  Performing regularly across the UK, Emily has a repertoire of poetry that tackles mental health, emotional wellbeing and the complications of human relationships, and was most recently placed in the Top 5 Shortlist for Culture Recordings' New Voice in Poetry Prize 2020.

Phoebe Stuckes - The One Girl Gremlin

due sep 21

Her first pamphlet since her debut full collection Platinum Blonde sees 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.

Phoebe Stuckes

Phoebe Stuckes is a writer from West Somerset now living in London. She has been a winner of the Foyle Young Poets award four times and is a former Barbican Young Poet. Her writing has appeared in Poetry Review, The Rialto, The North and Ambit among others. Her debut pamphlet, Gin & Tonic was shortlisted for The Michael Marks Award 2017. She has been awarded an Eric Gregory Award and The Geoffrey Dearmer Prize.  Her first full length collection, Platinum Blonde will be published by Bloodaxe Books in 2020.

Rick Sanders - The Top Secret Notebook of Willis The Poet

due sep 21

Anyone who has seen and laughed with Willis the Poet will know that his poetry notebooks contain poems big and small, incidental and even more incidental, rough and smooth and everything in between (incl smoothly rough). The thing they have in common is that they are all hilarious. At least the ones he reads out are. But never before has Willis the Poet permitted his audience to peep inside his most prized poetry trove. A bad idea? Perhaps, but there’s no resisting a top secret poetry notebook!

Rick Sanders

Rick Sanders, aka Willis the Poet, is an established comedy stand-up poet based in the mighty West Midlands. He is a regular headliner and featured poet on the flourishing spoken word scene across the UK, his sticky sausage-fingers in as many pies as he can. You can find him running his mouth off at any event where there is a) an audience and b) a microphone. In between gigs he skulks in the dark recesses of abandoned buildings trying to think of funny things to write about, which is testament to the contents of this book really; a romp through the cerebral cortex of a man who writes humourous verse about pretty much anything and then inflicts it on unsuspecting poetry fans wherever he can.

Zoë Brigley - Into Eros

due Oct 21

The poems in Into Eros consider 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.

‘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

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.

Golnoosh Nour - Rocksong

due Oct 21

‘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. As Audre Lorde writes ‘We survived and survival breeds desire for more self’. Or, in the glowing neon precincts of Rocksong, more selves, plural. 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

Golnoosh Nour

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.

Jo Morris Dixon - I told you everything

due Oct 21

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.

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. 

Sam J. Grudgings - The Bible II

due nov 21

A defiant splatterpunk body horror on the Inneracy of theological doctrine, in the context of recovery, addiction, death & grieving. A kind of reverent aching. A glorious descent into havok & profanity.

Exploring what god is to an addict, The Bible II is a gory, surreal How-Not-To-Guide for alcoholics coming to terms with their own saviour complex in absence of traditional methods of recovery.

The world is ending but if you need something a little more holy to guide your soul wherever you think you are heading this might be it.

Sam J. Grudgings

Sam is a poet perpetually on the edge of collapse, shortlisted for the Outspoken Prize 2020 & longlisted in 2019. Renowned for his off-kilter, frenetic delivery & boundary pushing stage dynamic, Sam grew up in the punk scene & it shows. He yells stories about recovery, mental illness, loss, fighting god & cities made of teeth because it’s  cheaper than therapy & is less physically taxing than pornography Sam runs workshops on performance as well as campaigning for the recognition of lived experience in professional & academic circles.  He endeavours to bring poetry to everyone eventually. He can be found if you know where to look.

See something you like?

Preorder below for free postage and packaging!

Posted on

In Conversation with Natalie Whittaker

Just half a year after we published her pamphlet Tree, Natalie Whittaker’s life looks very different. We sat down to talk to her about the stuggles of writing about stillbirth, how her heartbreaking pamphlet came to be and what it means to her now….

Hello! How are you doing? What have you been up to since we last heard from you?

I’m very well, thank you. Things have changed a lot since you last heard from me – a week after the launch of ‘Tree’, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter Ivy, so she’s been taking up all of my time! It was a strange feeling to be launching ‘Tree’ while eight months pregnant, as the pamphlet is all about the loss of my first daughter. The online launch actually made it a lot easier; the audience could only see my head and shoulders on screen, so it wasn’t obvious!

Natalie launched Tree alongside pamphlets from three more of our amazing poets on March 31st 2021

I’m sure everyone would have been focussed on the reading regardless — could you tell us a little more about your beautiful (and heart-breaking) pamphlet?

‘Tree’ is full of poems that I wish I’d never been able to write. On the 4th October 2019, when I was five months pregnant, an ultrasound scan showed that my unborn baby had died in utero. Two days later I returned to the hospital and gave birth to my firstborn, stillborn daughter. The pamphlet is written out of the profound emotional and physical trauma of that experience, and the months that followed.

There was the funeral, the post-mortem, a diagnosis of PTSD, as well as the usual impact of childbirth on a woman’s body, but without a baby to look after. Just describing that again now, it sounds like a nightmare, rather than my own life. Baby loss is still a taboo subject (sitting as it does in the centre of a Venn diagram of taboo subjects: death, and female bodily experience) and it felt important that I should write about it.

Did you know: the pattern on Natalie's cover isn't a Tree at all, but the pattern of blood vessels in a placenta

And we’re very glad you managed to. Is it safe to presume that writing this pamphlet was a different experience to your previous work?

I was halfway through an MA in Writing when I suffered the loss, so it inevitably became the topic of my final portfolio – it was impossible to write about anything else. That final portfolio eventually became ‘Tree’. 

The poems came very quickly, in intense bursts of writing; one weekend in November 2019, and another weekend in December 2019 – so very, very soon after the loss. They came out pretty much fully-formed, with minimal need for editing, which isn’t my usual process at all.

Earlier that year I’d been experimenting with using extended spaces in place of punctuation, so that form came quite naturally by the time I was writing ‘Tree’.

It definitely reads as a work born out of the moment you were in. Has its significance to you changed this many months on?

I’m extremely proud of the pamphlet, and of how positively it has been received by readers and reviewers. But I think it will always be a collection that I have an uneasy relationship with.
 
Inevitably.

As the title suggests, there is a lot of nature imagery in this pamphlet, particularly nature as a marker of time. Could you tell us a bit more about where that comes from for you?

‘Nature as a marker of time’ is a great summary of the recurring imagery in the pamphlet. A few of the poems repeat ‘June’ and ‘November’, as well as describing the changing state of trees, as there was a cruel sense of pathetic fallacy to my situation – I fell pregnant in Spring, and by the arrival of Autumn, and the turning of the clocks, my baby was gone. October and November were marked for me by a refusal to acknowledge or accept the passage of time, and a longing to turn back the clocks to when I was first pregnant, and start again.

The tree is of course a significant symbol as a measurement of the seasons, time, growth and grief. There are also the metaphorical associations with family trees, and the visual similarities with both uterine spiral arteries, and placental blood vessels.

Despite the references to time and the seasons, the pamphlet’s ordering is non-chronological, as my experience of grief was not linear. My memories of the period closely following the birth are a series of confused flashbacks, and I experienced what Denise Riley calls ‘time lived, without its flow’; a non-time that I could not process.

Finally, are you working on anything right now? When Ivy lets you, of course.

I’ve published two pamphlets now (my first, ‘Shadow Dogs’ was published by ignitionpress in 2018), as well as poems in magazines and unpublished bits – so I suppose I’m looking to publish a first collection next. I just need to be more organised about sending out a manuscript. If any publishers want to get in contact and save me the hassle, that’d be great!

 Seriously though, I’d like to plug the charities Tommy’s  and Sands, as well as the work of Rebecca Goss, Denise Riley, and Karen McCarthy-Woolf, who were influential when finding a voice for these poems.

They’re some of our favourites too! Thank you so much for talking to us and all the best for that first collection—we’ll be keeping an eye out 👀

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