Posted on

‘We’re the extended family of indie publishers, editors, poetry nights, producers and event organisers.’ – Cynthia Miller on what Verve is and why it is the single most ambitious and important thing she’s ever done.

Next Thursday the single most ambitious and important thing I’ve ever done kicks off. Verve Poetry Festival’s mission is to showcase the diversity, heart and dizzying talent of UK poets and change how you feel about poetry. It runs Feb 14-17 in Birmingham.

We have a ludicrous line up of 50+ poets who, I kid you not, are life=changing to hear and read. Poets like Vahni Capildeo, Roger Robinson, Bernadine Evaristo, Liz Berry, Polarbear, Inua Ellams, Momtaza Mehri, Andrew McMillan, Amy Key, Anthony Anaxagorou, Alison Brackenbury and many, many more!

Also, if you haven’t heard of those names, that’s *totally cool*. Actually, that’s IDEAL. I love that hundreds of poetry nerds enjoy Verve but what i love most is when people who aren’t writers attend / are dragged along and end up being astonished, moved, delighted. 

Here’s what I mean: this is one of my favourite Verve photos. It’s form 2017, our first festival. My friend showed up for moral support and was so blown away by Emily Harrison in the Burning Eye Books Showcase event. That joy is what poetry should do for everyone, not just poetry lovers.

Some poetry you’ll love. Some you won’t (which is fine too!). The whole point of Verve is that you get to experience different kinds of art without all of the pretention, eye-watering prices, London-centricity or homogenous line-ups that usually happens in the literature world.

This year we’re experimenting with a bunch of new things. We’re launching an Annual Performance Lecture with poetry icon Anthony Anaxagorou, blending spoken word and academic discourse for an incisive, urgent, discussion of race and class in how page vs stage poetry is perceived.

We’re book-ending the fest with two music/poetry jams – Inua Ellams RAP Party on Thursday and The Funkenteleky Verve Special for Sunday’s finale, because everyone needs hip-hop and improv jazz in their life. We’re hosting our first ever Poet of the Festival, Sumita Chakraborty, all the way from the US!

We were blown away by UniSlam last year and so collaborated on a special Verve Prize at UniSlam 2019 for an individual performance, which was won by Prerana Kumar. We also commissioned Second City Poets (who won UniSlam 2018) for a new piece called Playground. See them above bout to drop the hottest album ever.

The point is Verve is about innovating new formats while amplifying important voices and work that is already here. We’re the extended family of indie publishers, editors, poetry nights, producers and even organisers.

There are some people and organisations to big up who have embraced the festival and our agenda and supported with their time and energy. Swift Foundation, Aki Schilz, Poetry School, Yoniverse, RAP Party, UniSlam, Apples and Snakes Midlands, Bohdan Piasecki, Funkenteleky, Nine Arches Press, The Emma Press, Burning Eye Books, Outspoken Press, Penned in the Margins, Nymphs and Thugs,  Poetry Translation Centre. There are many more. They are the real MVPs of poetry. They support us and deserve in turn to be supported by you.

Anyway, in case you are in any doubt, the best way that you can support our work if you value what we do and why we do it is to attend our festival. After all, festivals are only ever as good as the audiences they attract. We promise you the poetry time of your life! I hope you can be there.

Posted on

‘Black women win when we write our own narratives.’ – Odelia Younge on the joy of co-writing and editing ‘A FLY Girl’s Guide to University.’

Ariana Brown wrote in her poem “Supremacy,” “in what version of the story do black women win?” I know from my time working on this book and other writings in my life that black women win when we write our own narratives. We win when we pry open the chains of the world and live for ourselves and each other. We win when we love ourselves.

Dreaming up A FLY Girls’ Guide to University was a love song to myself, black women, and other women of colour invested in breaking silences to push back against oppressive systems. I knew that I had spent too much time behind ivory towers to only hear the same story told inside and beyond them. Our stories are not here for diversity campaigns and our photos are not only for recruiting brochures. We are real and nuanced.

My mother is a writer and I have always been encouraged to write as a means of liberation for myself. Through her influence on my life, I have championed the idea of creating yourself to freedom, which is about owning our narratives and using creativity of our inheritance to map a journey toward self-actualization.  Words may have been used to enslave me, but I have also used them to free me. And that impact is compounded when my voice joins together with others. It’s been the greatest joy to not write this book alone. 

Suhaiymah, Waithera, and Lola, have always been there along the way. To see our stories intersect, diverge, and empower, has only strengthened our work.

This book is much more than just a collection of prose, poetry, and essays about our time at Cambridge. It’s about every institution that is steeped in power and elitism. Every institution that writes strict codes of who can represent it, and who it serves. This book will resonate with anyone who has ever found themselves in the midst of these institutions or wondering what the insides are like. We don’t represent every story, but we do represent our stories. Join us in having these discussions.

A FLY Girl’s Guide To University is out on Thursday 24th January and available for pre-order with free postage right up to the end of January. Order your copy by clicking on the book cover above!

Odelia, Suhaiymah, Lola and Waithera are launching their wonderful book at three (and only three) UK events this month! They will talk about the book, answer questions, read poetry and sign copies at inspiring events in Cambridge, Birmingham and London. Follow the links below to book tickets – you don’t want to miss them!

Cambridge – 26/01/19 –

Birmingham – 30/01/19 –

London – 02/02/19 –

Posted on

Helen Calcutt

Helen Calcutt’s introduction to the anthology she instigated in aid of a cause so very close to her heart demands to be read. It eloquently and passionately states her reasoning behind and hopes for this unblinking but hopeful collection of poems and some of the background about CALM’s fight to raise awareness around this important issue. As such, we have decided to reprint it here in its entirety. Read, digest, and then please help by buying this incredible book. Help us help CALM. And most importantly of all, help yourself. Verve Poetry. 

A few weeks after my brother Matthew died, my daughter told me she could see his face in the moon.

Days later, when she spied its silver disc in the window again, she said, that actually, it wasn’t just his face she could see. Everyone who had ever been sad was up there.

The moon changes, and so too, do all the people in its glow.

And that was when I realised ….

    We all suffer. There’s this idea that the personal blow of death, or a trauma, can’t be relatable. And with society’s insufferable ignorance to human vulnerability (especially male vulnerability) it’s difficult to see how this could ever change. But I feel it can, if we stop the bullshit. If we accept the reality of the human condition – that it’s a diverse, beautiful, troubled, elated, mish-mash of a being – and if we live by its natural demands, we can influence what is considered ‘normal’ behaviour. What currently stands as such has been working against us for generations, and ultimately, brought us to the mental health crisis we find ourselves in today.

   There are other factors to this issue – foremost, lack of funds to mental health services. But change starts with the individual, and this is one of the reasons I created this book. I received little-to-no help from any authority or public service after my brother killed himself. The doctor signed me off for three weeks and I was offered pills. What does this do? This response, though an initial kindness, had no relevance whatsoever to the patterns of my complicated grief, and this signalled a twisted understanding of it, or worse, a normalised ignorance to my vulnerability, in all its ugliness and truth. It also exposed a desire to sweep the problem under the carpet. As was the police’s response after my brother was found. Male dead, domestic tragedy. Tick the box. Move on.           

     It’s my understanding that, at present, society is shaped to deny us our defining human quality: our complexity. To be human is to be vulnerable. It is also to be aggressive, quiet, commandeering, violent; it depends on the circumstance you find yourself in. But these are all naturally existing, powerful sides to us. For whatever reason, society encourages an over-simplified existence, thus generating accepted ‘norms’ to our behaviour. We live, we die. We weep, we laugh. We suffer, we feel joy. It would seem we’re only ready to acknowledge and celebrate three of these six crucial human emotions. 

And the desire to live up to this warped standard of being has sadly become greater than the desire for truth. 

    Women cry, men do not. Men hit women, women don’t hit men. Both examples of what we would consider a socially accepted norm, denies either party their natural complexity. Women do hit men, and though a violent and harmful act, it also highlights a particular type of vulnerability (perhaps a trauma too) that needs addressing. Men weep. It’s probably one of the deepest, moving sounds I have ever heard. Denying this as a normal attribute to male behaviour, almost refuses them the basic right to grieve, to shed a skin – to let it out. Grief isn’t just about death either. The effects of grief and trauma are very present in the body and mind of someone who has suffered divorce. The loss of a life we love, either from sudden house eviction to an extra-marital affair, can take 12 months at the very least, to overcome. We can even grieve, deeply and with absolutely profundity, the loss of our former selves in the wake of any personal travesty.        

    Not acknowledging the many possibilities, the many realities, to inner turmoil, is damaging. It represses and confuses us. Suicide rates are through the roof in the U.K. Male suicide stats are particularly devastating. 84 men kill themselves a week, my brother being one of them. The reasons why he did it, are complicated. And unknowable to us in many ways. But I will say, that the pressures of a society largely unwilling to accept the anxiety and despair of a ‘man’s man’ (holding down a job, a mortgage, child-care) will have had something to do with it.

     The more we work to a fixed behavioural and emotional ‘standard’, the more we squash the natural intricacies of the broader human condition—not honouring or respecting who, and what we are. It’s time we changed that. After putting out the call for submissions and contributions to this anthology, I can see I’m not alone in my thinking. 

Anthony Anaxagorou, Nick Makoha, Carrie Etter, Salena Godden, Katrina Naomi, Ian Patterson, Andrew McMillan, Mario Petrucci, Abigail Morley, Joelle Taylor

The many poems I received, felt ready-made. Like they had been waiting at the bottom of a draw for the perfect opportunity and place to speak. I’m glad those who submitted felt this was it. The poems published here, and the adjoining blog, have given this book the truth it was seeking, showcasing humanity in all its vulnerable beauty. From the baby in the bath who knows that daddy is gone, to the woman whose father haunts her like a wolf through the window, anthology Eighty-Four gathers an exquisite collection of voices, singing completely different hymns, but together creating a sincere and authentic piece of music. From well-known poets, to new voices, there’s a glittering strength of character to this volume, because of the honesty from which its poems have been created, courageously and delicately embracing human complexity in all its forms.

    I knew immediately the title would be ‘Eighty-Four’. Inspired by the success of the #MeToo anthology, I wanted to create something for a specific cause, that honoured and supported Project 84, by the charity CALM (campaign against living miserably) and drew attention to an issue in the only way I knew how: through poetry. But, for me, this number represents more than a devastating statistic. 84 men lost to suicide a week isn’t a simple black and white problem. And the problem itself, isn’t a symptom of any single cause. It’s part of a wider dilemma, acutely connected to our almost pathological denial of human fragility (connected perhaps, to our fear of immortality and death). If you’re reading this, you may not feel an immediate emotional connection to male suicide. But you can understand the prevalence and seriousness this number holds. You might also start to understand what it means for us as a society, and share in asking the crucial question: how shamefully oppressive have we allowed the world in which we live, to become?

     Together, with the creative minds at Verve Poetry Pres, CALM, and my wonderful father and co-editor, we have created a book that, in opening its doors to the devastating theme of male suicide, has inspired a river of additional sub-themes and contexts: all relevant and connected to the central theme. At one stage, I considered grouping the poems under different chapters. But with time, I saw this wasn’t necessary. Anthology Eighty-Four has taken on its own life and shape, with each new phase of reading, though distinct, somehow aligned and in harmony with the one before it. There are poems here that sing to each other. Words and images that relate, yet with their altered backdrops, offering new perspectives. There are clear changes in voice and tone: the angry man, to the angry bereaved. This kind of opposition (or ‘balance’ as I like to call it) gives this anthology the emotional range it deserves, and is an authentic reflection of the overwhelmingly diverse, and sustained affects of suicide. Each poem conducts its own careful truth, told with searing conviction. Light and shade.

     This book is for every single person who has ever felt silenced. For anyone who feels uncomfortable talking about trauma or grief, to those currently suffering from grief-by-suicide, or who want to learn more about mental health issues. Let this be your touch-stone. Not only does it prove how powerful poetry can be in bringing our injured worlds into view, it also exposes a new, hopeful reality. Saying to you – start talking and keep going. Live through and voice your vulnerability. Speak and live your humanity.

    This book is also for Matthew. The older brother who was always giving. The first one to call me and tell me everything was going to be okay when I was pregnant. Whose laughter filled the room and infected every single person in it. Who was honest about not liking poetry. Who listened, and reserved judgement. Who was open and giving to every other human flaw, right to the end. Just look how this generosity has inspired others and lived on.

Helen  Calcutt (December 2018).

Full list of poets included (A-Z): Anthony Anaxagorou, Romalyn Ante, Casey Bailey, Abie Budgen, Lewis Buxton, David Calcutt, Helen Calcutt, Louisa Campbell, Diana Cant, Garry Carr, Stewart Carswell, Gram Joel Davies, Michelle Diaz, Glyn Edwards, Carrie Etter, RM Francis, Alan Girling, Salena Godden, Emily Harrison, John Hawkhead, Martin Hayes, Alastair Hesp, Shaun Hill, Paul Howarth, Rosie Jackson, Janet Jenkins, Helen Kay, Asim Khan, Charles Lauder Jr, Hannah Linden, Jane Lovell, Nick Makoha, Liam McCormick, Andrew McMillan, Abegail Morley, Katrina Naomi, Antony Owen, Isabel Palmer, Ian Patterson, Mario Petrucci, Zoe Piponedes, clare e.potter, Peter Raynard, Brenda Read-Brown, Victoria Richards, Belinda Rimmer, Bethany Rivers, Stephen Seabridge, Richard Skinner, Caroline Smith, Janet Smith, Joelle Taylor, MT Taylor, Christina Thatcher.


Posted on


Well, that went by quickly. Verve Poetry Press has completed it’s first full year as an indie poetry publisher for Birmingham. And what a year it’s been! We have published so many wonderful poets this year. Here’s the list: Matt Abbott, Casey Bailey, Jenna Clake, Nafeesa Hamid, Rupinder Kaur, Luke Kennard, Polarbear, Leon Priestnall, Amerah Saleh, and Hannah Swinger, as well as anthologies with Beatfreeks Poetry Jam, Verve Poetry Festival City Poems and Lunar Poetry Podcasts. You an read all about these wonderful poets and books via

Our year end bash at Glee Club Birmingham was an absolute blast, featuring performances from all our poets and wonderfully hosted by poet with the mostest Leon Priestnall. The pics above are from this event. It was wonderful seeing our whole year of publishing alive on the stage and the sense of family this created. And we had a wonderful turnout too, which made us feel that people were glad to have us (which is a lovely feeling indeed).

The next six months ahead looks equally exciting for us, with books planned with incredible local poets Jasmine Gardosi, Kamil Mahmood, Yasmina Silva and Scarlett Ward – pamphlets due from the incredible Katrina Naomi, Ben Norris and Clare Trevien and two important books coming first thing in January – Eighty Four: Poems on Male Suicide, Vulnerability, Grief and Hope, edited by Helen Calcutt and in aid of CALM – and A FLY Girl’s Guide to University by Lola Olufemi, Odelia Younge, Waithera Sebatindira and Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan. Believe me, you don’t want to miss either of these books. And with more wonderful books to announce for the Autumn soon, you can see we are in for another exciting year!

I hope you are all as excited as we are! We have been so well received as a brand new indie poetry press and would like to take this opportuniy to thankyou, our readers, our audiences, for all the support you have shown us in these last twelve months. We don’t deserve you but we strive to earn your continued support. 

We’d also like the thank the bookshops who have taken the trouble and leap of faith required to stock some of our books when there are so many books available to stock – you are many and we are so thankful for every order, but we’d like to mention in particular, Waterstones Birmingham (essentially our home store), Blackwells Oxford, Pages of Hackney and Five Leaves Nottingham, for support beyond anything we could have expected in terms of both stocking of books and putting on events – thankyou! 

The poets and I are so, so very grateful to all of you! Look out for more news from us in the new year and have a wonderful and peaceful Christmas Season. With all our best wishes. VPP! 🙂

Posted on

‘We are real!’ – Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan on why The Fly Girl’s Guide to Cambridge needs to exist.

Three years ago during my final year studying History at Cambridge, me and three of the most wonderful, fiery, radical & brave women I know – Lola Olufemi, Waithera Sebatindira and Odelia Younge – decided to write a book documenting our experiences as women of colour in an institution that so violently erased our realities, histories and sometimes our very existences; in fact an institution which ideologically and financially was rooted in and flourished on the concept and consequences of slavery, racism and colonialism.

We all 4 initially met at “FLY” – a group founded before we arrived, specifically as a space for women and non-binary people of colour. In that space was the first time I found the truth of my experiences at Cambridge validated and recognised, and I found I didn’t have to be weighted down by the experience of white supremacist patriarchy but that I could funnel my feelings into anger and creativity! It sparked my engagement with radical politics, poetry and decolonial feminism ever since.

The book, of course, was not something anyone wanted to publish. One publisher actually told us it would have been better if it were fiction – a reminder that it is easier to empathise with women of colour when we aren’t real.

However, alhamdulillah, this year @vervepoetrypres listened to our vision, heard us and recognised that this book needs to exist. IMHO we don’t particularly need a best seller or big recognition.

. I am excited solely because this book is a testament to the experiences that never get heard and thus are never accepted as real. But we are real. Our experiences are real and this book is a testament to us and every woman of colour struggling to articulate how it feels to be in spaces built for others.

We publish in January inshaAllah (and you’re all invited to the launches! Dates tbc!) but you can pre-order RIGHT NOW by clicking on the book cover illustration on this page.

Above all I hope our FLY GIRL’S GUIDE can be a testament, a refuge and a friend to anyone who needs it. I am so thankful for all the WOC in my life and ultimately, always, to Allah.

Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan @thebrownhijabi

Posted on

‘My Spoken Brummie Saga’: all about The Second City Trilogy by Polarbear

Polarbear AKA Steven Camden

I fell into spoken word before I really knew what it was. Speaking stories and playing with rhyme was something we’d always done, without any designs on stages or gigs. 

Once I was introduced to this thing, these events, where people stood up and spoke their words to an audience, I ran mouth first, straight into it. The freedom and openness of it grabbed me. The fact that I could play with spaces and silence as well as the patterns of speech, descriptions, repetitions, all felt like this magical mix of music and chemistry.

Once I started finding my voice, I felt the itch to play. That meant longer pieces. That meant more risks. More layers. Things I wanted to learn.

I was lucky enough to get support to develop my first feature length piece from Birmingham REP. If I Cover My Nose You Can’t See Me. In that one I played with rhyming and not rhyming. Narrative devices. The dance of rhythm and the definition of character voices. All combined with a Batman infused slightly surrealist noir story about a boy following his future self. It felt great.

On the back of that I wanted to push further.  My spoken word pieces all felt like short films to me as I spoke them, so I asked myself. Challenged myself. Could you speak a full film?

Polar LIVE!

RETURN is just that. A combination of shot descriptions and dialogue. An experiment in conviction and simplicity. My hardest performance piece to speak (and arguably to listen to), but a massive benchmark for me personally in terms of what I could do with words and my mouth.

After that I played with lots of ideas for a while until I came up with the final piece to what had become, in my mind, a definite trilogy. If I Cover My Nose was all about leaving Birmingham. Breaking the cycle of my life at the time which had gotten stale and uninspiring. RETURN was all about the desire to come home and realising how much I love Birmingham and it’s influence over my new creative life.

Polarbear - final publishing announcement of 2018!

The final piece of the puzzle became a celebration of the mess between what I was and what I’d become. The origins of my new life and the fractured sense I’d come to make of it. A melting pot of form, voice, memory, fantasy and realism. OLD ME was born and the perfect third instalment to my spoken brummie saga. 

I am so proud of these pieces and how they map my journey as a spoken word artist trying to craft his own voice whilst also trying to gather a sense of who the hell I am.

They have helped me find myself. And my heart. 

And they, just like me, belong to Birmingham.

Speaking to Stuart about Verve and the work they are doing with the festival, events and printing collections, I got stupidly excited about being part of their list. I’d spoken to other people about releasing stuff before and always felt like it wasn’t the right thing for these words. Verve is the right thing. A Birmingham press, offering me the chance to share my Birmingham trilogy with the world in print? Yes please. I said. Thank you I said. Chuffed.

I cannot wait for this book to come out and let people read, speak and 

play with the stories that have shaped my life. The Second City Trilogy is my creative time capsule.

Nice one Stuart. Nice one Verve.

Posted on

84 – A New Anthology on the Subject of Male Suicide – Submissions Details

84 is a new anthology of poetry on the subject of male suicide, as well as sub-themes of mental health, vulnerability, grief, and hope. You can read about our campaign to raise awareness and money for CALM with this book HERE.

Published by us, and edited by Helen Calcutt, the anthology will feature a host of male and female voices sharing their experiences of suicide, mental health, or grief – from those who have been on the brink of suicide, to those who have lost a loved one, or been moved by the campaign. We see this anthology as both an uncensored exposure of truths, as well as a celebration of the strength and courage of those willing to write and talk about their experiences, using the power of language to openly address and tackle an issue that directly affects a million people every year.

This book will be for everyone – from those who have lost a loved one to suicide, to those who want to support the call for action, and deepen their understanding of the crisis.

Submission Guidelines

-Submissions will open on Saturday 15th September 2018, and close on Monday 15th October 2018, midnight GBT.

-Up to three poems per poet (with none exceeding 40 lines) will be considered.

-Two works, including one short and one long poem (exceeding 40 lines) will also be considered.

-There is no limit to how short a poem can be.

-We are afraid that previously published work cannot be considered.

-Please include your name and contact details in the body of your email. Your personal information mustn’t be anywhere on the documents containing your poems.

-All work must be single spaced, with a title. If you poem does not have one, please give it an ‘Untitled’ heading.

-Please entitle your submission POETRY followed by the title of your work/s.

-Every single poem submitted will be read carefully by the editor.

-The editor’s decision is final.

-Please send your submissions to:   Only submissions sent to this email will be considered.

Please note that all submissions will be read very carefully, and with the utmost respect and sensitivity. If you want to share your story, but aren’t ready to share your identity, we accept anonymous submissions or those under a preferred pseudonym.


Note from the Editor:  ‘I am looking for work that is direct and unflinching. That is in each way unique to the poet and bright with clarity and precision. I prefer writing that turns the world on its head – as with translated works when English is brought to you fresh, I enjoy poems that are an experience. Taut with energy, and bold with musicality, lyricism & intent.

The translation here, however, will come directly from your experience: let this be your touch-stone.Sing your work from the body and mind. Play with voice, physicality, and landscape – internal and external. Be as honest as you think you can be, and as open as you feel you need. I’m not strictly looking for confessions, or songs of sorrow. There can be hope too, and words from another perspective. I admire work that dares to say ‘I suffer’ – but also that which looks to a new dawn. Be honest, take your time.

Thank you again for all your support during the early stages of this project. We’re excited to be taking this forward, and delighted you’re with us on the journey!

Warmest Wishes,

Helen Calcutt (editor), Stuart and The Verve Press team.

Posted on



Luke Kennard, Rupinder Kaur, Nafeesa Hamid, Lunar Poetry Podcasts, Matt Abbott, Jenna Clake, Hannah Swings, Polarbear

Well we told you we had some exciting plans to announce for the coming Autumn, didn’t we? The press is tramping on wonderfully, and is developing new strands as it goes. Let us explain…

Our DEBUT COLLECTIONS SERIES continues apace this Autumn. Following on from super Spring debut’s by press co-founder Amerah Saleh as well as Casey Bailey and Leon Priestnall, this series, featuring young and exciting poets local to Birmingham continues to grow and delight from September onwards. This project sits at the heart of the press. It is our reason for being, and we will always be heavily focussed on this important work. Which is why, coming this Autumn, we   are looking forward to publishing Rooh by Rupinder Kaur, Besharam by Nafeesa Hamid, and nearer Christmas, as yet untitled debut collections by Kamil Mahmood & Hannah Swings. Both Rooh and Besharam are available to read  about and pre-order on our website HERE. Kamil & Hannah’s books remain shrouded in secrecy for a little longer, but we know they will be incredible!

Rooh by Rupinder Kaur
Besharam by Nafeesa Hamid

But through our close links with Verve Poetry Festival, we have also started to bump into other opportunities to get things into print that need and deserve to be read, and a couple of these are coming this Autumn too.

Two Little Ducks by Matt Abbott

MATT ABBOTT has always been a big supporter of our festival, and produced an excellent showcase for us at Verve 18 under the banner of his NYMPHS & THUGS spoken word record label. Meanwhile, his one man poetry show – Two Little Ducks – has been developing into a storming performance piece at Edinburgh and elsewhere, and this Autumn, Matt is embarking on a 22 date tour of the UK with his show. You can read more about this HERE. But suffice to say, when the opportunity arose to put this wonderful piece into book form along with a fair few individual poems that Matt has written over the same period we knew we had little choice. We are thrilled to be publishing Two Little 

Duckss on National Poetry Day (Oct 4th 2018) and on the day after that, Matt will be launching both the tour and his book at Waterstones in Birmingham. You can get your tickets HERE.

Similarly, David and Lizzie Turner have been an important part of Verve Poetry Festival since it started. Like Verve, their series of podcast interviews – LUNAR POETRY PODCASTS – which is beginning to get the audiences it deserves, promotes poetry as a broad church that should be celebrated for all it’s many and varied forms, and they have featured some of the key names in UK contemporary poetry, without limiting themselves to the poetry mainstream. To celebrate their fourth year, we are helping them publish ‘Why Poetry? – The Lunar Poetry Podcasts Anthology’. And what an anthology it is – featuring poems from a large selection of the poets they have featured…

'Why Poetry?' by Lunar Poetry Podcasts

from Helen Mort to Kim Moore, from Jane Yeh to Mary-Jean Chan, from Melissa Lee-Houghton to Luke Kennard, from Susannah Dickey to Travis Alabanzer and everywhere in between. The anthology also featured extracts from each poets’ interview. The whole makes for a wonderful and thought provoking engagement with poetry both as form and as performance. This anthology will be published on Sep 27 2018 – watch our for Lunar Poetry’s launches around that date.

This Autumn we will also be launching our NEW EXPERIMENTAL PAMPHLET SERIES. This series will offer opportunities for poets – either local or friends of Verve festival – who perhaps already have collections, to do something a little different, or perhaps to work with someone on a joint project. Our pamphlets   will be printed locally, will be lovely to hold and look at and will be limited to  only 250 copies. Once they are gone, they are gone!

Tuffle Hound - Luke Kennard

We are absolutely bowled over to be able to announce that kicking off the pamphlet series will be LUKE KENNARD’sfirst pamphlet since 2012 – Truffle Hound. More resolutely prose than any of his previous books of poetry, here Luke allows his childhood (imagined or otherwise) to flood into the foreground, while his present (factual or fake news) distorts and fractures as if his life were being directed by David Lynch and Terry Gilliam and neither could agree whether horror or comedy should dominate. Dogs, cigarettes, children and pills shouldn’t really be permitted to mix should they? Here they are a heady mixture indeed!

Luke’s pamphlet drops on Sep 6, and will be followed nearer Christmas by two more! One from recently crowned Eric Gregory poet JENNA CLAKE, who’s debut collection, FORTUNE COOKIE has already been greeted with such acclaim. And one from the wonderful JASMINE GARDOSI! Jasmine’s will be her first ever book, can you believe, and will be amazing! 🙂

                         STILL READING? Good – because lastly, and quite possibly           mostly, the best news of all!

Sometimes (we hope often) a poet of note will give us some of his poems to publish just because they like us, or because we are small and in Birmingham, or just because. And we will be happy and honoured to put them in a book because not only are the poems amazing, but they are rooted firmly in the city we love – are, in fact, almost a love letter to the city itself.


POLARBEAR’S ‘SECOND CITY TRILOGY’ is an excellent example of this. Containing three long poems – ‘If I Cover My Nose, You Can’t See Me’, ‘Old Me’ and ‘Return’ – that are close to Steven ‘Polarbear’ Camden’s heart, taken together these performance pieces stack up to become the poet’s love song to the city. It is a city that the direction of his life has taken him away from, but where he’s always happy to return. As the poems progress they move too, from simple spoken word piece to fully fledged dramatic work. We are thrilled to be able to bring them to you on Nov 29!

Steven 'Polarbear' Camden

SO there you have it! Our Autumn list! We are thrilled with the quality of it, the variety of it, but mostly with the way that, while it is changing, it is still resolutely US!
We hope you agree and are as excited as we are! 🙂

OUR LAST AND FINAL ANNOUNCEMENT for now is a hold the date announcement…


HOLD THIS DATE - 30/11/18!!!!!!

Most of you will already know how good at performing Verve Poetry Press poets are! So on 30/11/18 you are in for a real treat. On this date, OUR FIRST ANNIVERSARY END OF YEAR EARLY CHRISTMAS BASH will take place in the Glee Club Studio on Hurst St, Birmingham. And will feature EVERY SINGLE POET THAT WE HAVE PUBLISHED OR WILL PUBLISH THIS YEAR!!! We are limited to 130 tickets for this venue and they will absolutely sell out. So please don’t be late. When the tickets go on sale (mid Sept) book yours straight away. You have been warned! 🙂

Casey Bailey
Amerah Saleh
Leon Priestnall
Nafeesa Hamid

We for one can’t wait!!!

Happy Poeting! 🙂


Posted on


Amerah Saleh launching I Am Not From Here - April 20, Waterstones Birmz.

6th June 2018 – The picture above brings back fond memories of the April launch of our first two collections for Amerah Saleh and Casey Bailey. What a night that was – 160 people crammed into Waterstones Birmz to hear seven guest poets and Amerah and Casey perform their hearts out! We’ve been overwhelmed with the support we’ve been shown since, both in our home city and beyond, and our two collections have gone down a storm! If you still haven’t got yours, you can get them here – they are both super reads!

Verve Poetry Press Logo


This month marks our half year as a working press, and what a six months it’s been. You can read our story from the beginning in our previous blog:  VPP – The Story So Far

We’ve been having a glorious time, bringing out books, signing poets, making connections, becoming the press we want to be. We’ve planned our publication schedule right through to February 2019 (when the next Verve Poetry Festival will take place, in case you didn’t know:)) We will be announcing this in full soon, and have a teaser for you at the bottom of this newsletter. We have some very exciting news up our sleeves!


June 22 2018 sees us launch our next two collections. What a pair of books they are, and what a wonderful launch night we have planned!

Click above for tickets to this wonderful event.

Leon Priestnall’s Bennetts Hill Blues is published on Thursday June 21st and will be available through all the usual channels  – our site, from Leon himself, to order from all good bookshops in store and online – from that date onwards. It is an amazing book of sharp observation, magical turns of phrase, and old fashioned sensibilities told through the eyes of a pained post-modernist. This performer of note has performed his way onto the page in great style.

Nafeesa Hamid’s Besharam is a wonderful book by a young poet writing well beyond her years. This book won’t be published until September 2018…

Cover Bennetts Hill Blues
Cover Besharam

…but will be available to purchase at the launch as well as from Nafeesa at various feature spots at spoken word events across the summer. Those who pre-order through our site this summer will also receive their book ahead of publication and postage free. It is an incredible book.

At the launch event on June 22 Leon and Nafeesa will be supported by six excellent poets each of whom have a guest poem in one the the collections. They are Yasmina Silva, Jack Crowe, Zeddie, Scarlett Ward, Mina Mekic and Bethany Slinn. Do join us if you can get to Waterstones Birmingham – it will be an ace night. Tickets available here.


You want more? So we’ve already told you about the other collections we have in the pipe line for the Autumn. Rupinder Kaur will be publishing her much awaited debut Rooh in September, followed by two as yet untitled collections from Kamil Mahmood and Hannah Swings in October and November. These debut collections by Birmingham poets are the reason for Verve Poetry Press. You will hear much more about these wonderful books soon.

But we are also branching out a little in the autumn by publishing a small number of books that relate more closely to Verve Poetry Festival – you will hear how.  AND we are launching a small experimental pamphlet strand featuring authors who already have collections out or in the works, letting their hair down in various ways. These books will be exciting and interesting and add something to our main collection strand.

As we said, you will hear more about this in our next news-letter. But to keep you entertained, and guessing, here is a little collage we have made to give you a clue as to who we will be publishing. We think we may have created a monster! 🙂


Now that you’ve found our blog, we’d love you to sign up to our mailing list – that way when our news comes out each month it will just drop into your inbox – how much easier for everyone! If you’d like to sign up you can do that here.  

Our next newsletter will contain details of ALL of our remaining publishing for the year, news of the first Verve Poetry Press Festival Showcase which is happening this Autumn, and a cover reveal for Rupinder Kaur’s Rooh. We can’t wait. We hope you can’t either!

Happy poeting!


Posted on


3rd May 2018 – So, we have been SO busy since our launch in February – too busy it seems to sort out a working website, and to start blogging regularly. Well all that changes now. Here we are on a brand spanking new website (thanks to marvellous Verve friend Emma Scott) and we will be blogging and newslettering on a monthly basis from now on…

So what’s been happening? And why so busy?  Here’s why…


February saw the first two Verve Poetry Press releases at two very special Birmingham occasions.

Wild Dreams & Louder Voices was released to tie in with the fifth anniversary celebrations of Poetry Jam – the regular open -mic only poetry event run by Verve friends Beatfreeks. Poetry Jam is absolutely one of the most important poetry nights in the city – a safe space where many of Birmingham’s best poets cut their teeth and where the poets of the future a performing RIGHT NOW! Their fifth anniversary birthday bash was held at our wonderful Town Hall and what a night it was – over 500 attended, and the quality of the poetry was sky high. What an event to launch our Poetry Jam Anthology at! The book contains poems from a broad range of local poets, all of whom have performed at Poetry Jam over the years. The contents list is a role call of poetical excellence, both realised and emerging. Names such as Jasmine Gardosi, Joe Cook, Polarbear and Spoz sit alongside names you will certainly hear from in a big way one day – Ahlaam Moledina, Yasmina Silva and Dennis Muhirwa Nkurunziza to name but three.  

Cover of Wild Dreams & Louder Voices
Cover of It All Radiates Outwards

Barely a week later and we had our second anthology good to go, this time to launch at our sister festival Verve Poetry Festival. An altogether different beast, It All Radiates Outwards features the winning, commended and commissioned poems from our city themed poetry competition and event. Judged by Luke Kennard, the calibre of the entries was sky high. The book reflects this, containing a heady mixture of approaches to the idea and reality of city living by ‘name’ poets such as Jacqueline Saphra, Claire Trevien, Polly Atkin, Roy McFarlane as well as poets to watch: Stephanie Papa, Vik Shirley, Sarah Marina and David Turner. When competition winner C.I.Marshall flew all the way from North Carolina to appear at the Verve City event, we knew we were onto something. Our City Poems anthology is a book to be proud of.


Hands Signing A Contract

We have been very busy too talking to local poets about their projects and agreeing schedules for the publication of their collections. We have some wonderful books coming along as the year progresses. June 21 will see the release not only of Leon Priestnall’s debut collection Bennetts Hill Blues, but also Nafeesa Hamid’s first book, Besharam. Both titles launch at a special event at Waterstones Birmingham on June 22, which we can hardly wait for. And both can be pre-ordered now if you go to our site shop! At Verve Poetry Press, if you pre-order you don’t pay postage!

Then beyond the summer, we have Rupinder Kaur’s debut, Rooh which we are really excited for, along with as yet untitled collections from Kamil Mahmood and Hannah Swings. We have three or four other titles in pipe-line too which will shock and delight you, but which we aren’t ready to announce quite yet. It all adds up to a bumper year ahead for Verve Poetry Press!


You will already know our big news! Just two weeks ago, we published and launched our two debut collections for two amazing Birmingham poets, Amerah Saleh and Casey Bailey! Press co-founder Amerah’s wonderful I Am Not From Here is as glorious as anticipated, exploring the fractured nature of her own identity and a world that, piece by piece, word by hard fought word, is only just beginning to make some kind of sense. Casey’s book, Adjusted, grapples in his trademark musical verse with becoming and losing a parent in the same year and is both a moving and uplifting delight. 

Cover of I Am Not From Here
Cover of Adjusted.

The launch was at Waterstones Birmingham and what an event it was! 160 people watched guest poets Hannah Swings, Afrah Yafai, Reuben Field, Raza Hussain, Sophie Wheeler, Adjei Dsane and Ahlaam Moledina perform single poems before Casey and Amerah took to the stage. What an atmosphere! What a great way to properly launch this press for Birmingham!

We urge you to get hold of these two books. They really are thoroughly worth a read. They are available to purchase at our website shop, but you can also order them online or in store from ANY bookshop. (Waterstones Birmingham, Foyles Birmingham, London Review Bookshop and Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham are our current stockists.) They are also available to borrow from The National Poetry Library in London’s Southbank Centre and from our very own Library of Birmingham.

Casey And Amerah With Books


We do hope you like it. It feels wonderful to finally have an online home. We have all the usual stuff – a SHOP to buy our books from, a statement of intent on our ABOUT page, a way of CONTACTing us. AND a MAILING LIST which we urge you to sign up to as this really is the best way to hear all our news and receive our special offers. On our GALLERY page you will find some pictures from Amerah and Casey’s awesome launch-night. And our EVENTS page is something we’re really proud of. Our poets are excellent performers and are out and about performing NOW! (Esp Casey, who we can’t seem to get off the stage at the moment!). If you want to catch any of them, check out our calendar. We know you won’t be disappointed. 

Shot of Website Home Page

SO, NOW YOU’RE ALL CAUGHT UP … We hope you like it here. You’re welcome any time. Take your time and have a good look around. There’ll be more from us soon. In the meantime, don’t be a stranger 🙂