Monday 20 July 2015

Latest Chez Nous Recommendation

The latest news from our Chez Nous section is a series of delicious recommendations to enjoy with Jacqui Rowe's Ransom Notes.

Obviously, we think our V. Press pamphlets are great, otherwise we wouldn't publish them. The idea behind Chez Nous then is to offer something very different to a traditional review and a reminder that poetry isn't just words on a page but an experience. To this end, our readers/poetry-sommeliers recommend what they have found to be the perfect accompaniments to bring out the full flavours of each V. Press pamphlet. Today, Angela Topping's recommendations for enjoying with Ransom Notes.


"This fascinating narrative built up from fragments of unlikely found texts and poem drafts by Rowe, would be a great accompaniment to a blue soft cheese like Cambozola, the name of which is a cunning combination of Gorgonzola and Camembert. It resembles a blue Brie, and Rowe’s poems offer the same surprising pockets of salty unexpectedness, such as in these lines from ‘GHAZAL’:

            sanctified by silverpoint mistaken
            pinioned by the evening star anyway
            I put you in a century

The deliberate lack of punctuation allows the readers to spread the creaminess on their crackers in any size portion they like, and nibble or gobble as the poem requires. ‘HENNA’ is definitely a nibbling poem for me, so every morsel can be savoured. From the start, it needs to be taken slowly:

            I go on like a henna labyrinth
            contact print of onion skins
mildewed rose crushed into the weave

Now isn’t that just lush? A supper for a poet, to be washed down with a crisp, dry Chablis on a summer evening, sitting outdoors as dusk falls. I love the faded colours of the henna and the rose. The poems might appear as random as a cottage garden but the careful crafting and shaping makes it a well tended one. Each poem has a single word title and takes the reader into a meditation which is often dreamlike, for example in ‘GLACIER’:

            inside this glacier of art
            the wolverine dived back
            into the sea and felt his limbs
            retract into a dolphin

When you have scoffed your Cambozola and drunk a few glasses of the Chablis while relishing these poems, you too may feel like the wolverine."

Angela Topping 

For sample poems or to buy Ransom Notes, please click here.

Angela Topping was born in the year post-war food rationing ended. Perhaps this is the reason for her lifelong love affair with food and all good things. Another of those good things is poetry, of which she has written seven collections and four pamphlets. Over the years, her prowess in wine appreciation has graduated from Blue Nun and Mateus Rose into a liking for the finer fragranced and fuller bodied. And since she has become more full bodied and likes perfume, this is very appropriate. For years, wine was a balm after a hard day in the classroom and now she is freelance again, it is an inspiration and a treat.

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Launching art brut by David O'Hanlon

V. Press is delighted to announce the launch of art brut by David O'Hanlon. The official blurb for this wonderful pamphlet can be found below. As an editor reading through manuscript poems submitted during last year's open submissions window, this pamphlet stood out from the start. Why? Well, there's the gripping and moving characters and background narrative. Also the way O'Hanlon plays with syntax, pushing sentences to do as much as they can go without snapping...But that's just a fraction of my thoughts. Here's what the cover has to say:

Set against a background of literary and artistic allusions, art brut is a precise and moving sequence on childhood and teenage institutionalisation. Tackling the nature of trying to reshape memories and carve out something positive, this pamphlet is a concentrated crafting of raw experiences into a poetry that is alive with characters and thought-provoking truths. Stripping back the sometimes over-romanticised notions of institution life, David O’Hanlon creates his own sharp and haunting art that is very real and very gripping.

"The poems in David O’Hanlon’s first collection are ‘epiphanies of sun’ which shine a light on the poet’s experiences of psychiatric illness; to read them is to experience serial insights into a much overlooked and frequently taboo aspect of the human condition. Through poetry which is both lucid and engaging, O’Hanlon manages to transform his intensely personal experiences into something more universal: poems which can resonate with everyone (and not just those who have regular appointments with a psychiatrist). Bright lights cast dark shadows, and there are references to padded cells, catatonic states, self-harm, suicide attempts, OCD, et al, yet the deftness with which they are revealed, and the resilience, honesty and humour of this highly promising young poet’s writing, will leave you feeling uplifted. David O’Hanlon shows us that while the past can have a powerful hold over us, beauty, truth and poetry can emerge from the depths of anguish and despair. An astonishing debut." Fergus McGonigal

 "If David O'Hanlon had written this sentence, you'd have shed a tear by now." Jenni Pascoe, JibbaJabba

A sample poem from the pamphlet may be read below.

art brut

So, after my swirling black abyss, a work
still in progress, we turned to Sophies landscape:
a jazz-hands sun, the wide Vs, almost Ms
of birds, a green ribbon, edge to edge,

and, poking their heads up out from the grass
five earthworms, five pink splodges
more finger than worm, with blobbed eyes
and theres-no-bad-in-life smiles.

Are they supposed to represent real people
or a specific event, maybe?
Its a fascinating choice of subject matter.
Worms usually have quite negative associations,

particularly death, but yours are content,
blissful. Do you think maybe theres
something in that, a desire to make
positives from even the worst situations?

She didnt take it with her.
Like others left behind, it ended up
on the wall where, my sentimentality
assures me, it remains, unfaded.

art brut with P & P
Meanwhile, behind the scenes at V. Press, a lot of other plans are in motion for new titles, launches, readings, and, hopefully, re-opening our open submissions window in August. As they say, watch this space, because it won't stay unfilled for long!