It would be disingenuous of me to claim that the list began with any kind of manifesto. It didn’t. It’s not entirely untrue that it began with a certain low-level frustration on my part that I couldn’t easily buy editions of books by two poets: Mary Oliver and Morgan Parker. So, I decided I would try and publish them. It feels particularly good to know that Mary was happy with the work we had done and knew her work was in print here before she died. If the list has a heart, it’s right there: with Mary’s clarity and timelessness, with Morgan’s energy and wit, her way of being always ahead of some curve. In fact, next year we publish the first UK edition of Morgan’s debut Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night (no one does titles like Morgan does titles) and the first UK edition of Mary Oliver’s Dog Songs.
Honestly, I am not part of any poetry scene. I am not based in London. I am not a poet. I don’t claim to be any kind of expert. I acquire poetry like I acquire fiction – relying heavily on my ear for words on a page, a certain degree of gut-instinct. I read to learn. I am a slow reader. I fear I depend far too much on the passage of time: I like to let words percolate. To hear what silence reveals, I guess. I think perhaps it means I am open to things that might not be immediately ‘obvious’.
I want the list to develop publishing poets from home and elsewhere, to do that through submissions and by happy chance, through collaboration and conversation. Next year, I am excited to be publishing Joyelle McSweeney. The brilliant Nightboat Books published her collection Toxicon and Arachne earlier this year in the US. To my mind, she is writing some of the most genuinely thrilling poetry around.
Also next year, we are celebrating twenty years of Malika Booker’s Poetry Kitchen, with an anthology edited by Rishi Dastidar and Maisie Lawrence. I hope it stands as testimony to the work of this quiet, mighty, revolutionary collective in nurturing and elevating the work of poets who did not fit the traditional literary establishment.
Truthfully, I suffer a lot from impostor syndrome but to look at the small bookshelf of poets we publish, I can’t help but feel we are doing something good. Mary and Morgan and Joyelle; Ada Limon, Fatimah Asghar, Fiona Sampson, Heather Christle. And, of course, Shane McCrae. The Gilded Auction Block was my book of the year last year To see Sometimes I Never Suffered on the T S Eliot shortlist alongside these other incredible poets is a big moment for a nascent list. I’m delighted for him and delighted to say that we will be publishing his next collection in 2022. The future is and ever was a fragile thing – but there will be damn good poetry to greet us there.