Monday, 1 October 2018

Changing...NPD, submissions, new titles & more

This Thursday is National Poetry Day with a whole range of readings, poetry sharing and inspirational events taking place across the U.K.

This year's NPD theme is change. Life, poetry and publishing are full of change, particularly in the contemporary high-tech era. At V. Press, we're pleased to celebrate both poetry and change every day, and especially this week, in this blogpost.

V. Press is very very proud of all its authors and their poetry and fiction, making the wheel new, in their own way. On this score, we have some review news and a few more announcements about titles already lined up for next year...


V. Press is very very happy to share two new reviews, of Michael Loveday's flash fiction novella Three Men on the Edge and Helen Calcutt's debut poetry collection Unable Mother.

"...Three Men on the Edge by Michael Loveday? Not boring...

"The beauty of this book, overall, is its not-neatness, its focus on the out-of-focus, its one minute a story, its next minute a footnote, its edginess, its familiarity, its murkiness, it’s really good."

Jonathan Cardew, Bending Genres, full review here

Sample flashes and more on the novella can be found hereThree Men on the Edge can also be ordered using the Paypal link below. 

Three Men on the Edge (including P&P)

A new review  and analysis of poems in Helen Calcutt's debut collection Unable Mother by Emma Lee includes:

“The language is precise and allows the poems to build layers of insight...
“The poems are intimate in their offerings of insights and draw from considered experience using precise, spare language to explore vulnerability and to seek clarity. It’s good to see the less-explored side of motherhood expressed with compassion and intelligence.”
Emma Lee, full review here

Sample poems and more on the collection can be found here. Unable Mother can also be ordered using the Paypal link below. 

Unable Mother (including P&P)


Following on from guest editor selections and other imminent pamphlets and collection news in our blogpost at the end of August, we can now reveal details of a few more new titles.

Lined up for the start of 2019, V. Press has poetry pamphlets Making Waves Albert Einstein: Science & Life by Martin Zarrop and Heroines on the Blue Peninsula by Becky Varley-Winter.

Later in the year we also have debut collections from Nichola Deane and Charles Lauder, as well as a new collection from V. Press designer and talented poet Ruth Stacey!

But these are just some of the poetry titles lined up for next year. V. Press has more to come - including next year's flash fiction titles...There will be more news and announcements on all these over the coming months, as well as new author biographies being added to Our writers/Illustrators page.

On the submissions front, all those authors who had poetry and flash fiction manuscripts shortlisted from the submissions window earlier this year, should now have received an email about their submission.

Final decisions were harder and closer than ever this year - so many more manuscripts V. Press would have taken on with more resources. We wish all shortlisted authors the very best.

Following on more generally from the submissions process, V. Press editor Sarah Leavesley has put together a short (eight A4 pages) guidance sheet on 'Structuring a Pamphlet'. The advice and points to consider are based on Sarah's own experience as a writer putting together her pamphlets and collections, as well as her work as an editor reading and working on other writers' manuscripts. This guidance sheet is mainly intended for those putting together a poetry pamphlet. But some of the points on it may also be useful for flash pamphlets and full collections.

This guide is free, though a voluntary Tip-jar donation of £2 is invited.

For a pdf copy of 'Structuring a Pamphlet', please either email Sarah at or click on the paypal Tip-jar donation button below.


V. Press is also very very delighted to share the news that Kibriya Merhrban will be joining us as a University of Birmingham Post-Graduate Cultural Intern in partnership with Writing West Midlands.  (Our thanks to Writing West Midlands for organising this.) Kibriya will be working with V. Press for a half-day a week from the end of October 2018-February 2019, so look out for more from Kibriya over the coming weeks...

Kibriya Mehrban is a recent graduate of English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Birmingham and is working with V. Press as part of her internship with Writing West Midlands. She loves poetry in all its forms and looks forward to working with V. Press and contributing to their continued success. Kibriya’s poetry featured in the anthology This is Not Your Final Form (Emma Press, 2017) and she has also written for the Apples and Snakes website. Twitter: @KibriyaTM 

Happy National Poetry Day (Week) 2018!

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Free Verse

September: seasons of mists, mellow fruitfulness - and the London Poetry Book Fair!!!

V. Press is very very delighted to be heading to London for Free Verse, the annual Poetry Book Fair, on Saturday.

This year the fair has been organised by The Poetry Society, and takes place at a new venue: Senate House (William Beveridge Hall), London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU, from 11am to 5pm.

Free Verse is an all-day bazaar, market, library, meeting place, performance venue, information resource and more. Celebrating the vitality of contemporary poetry in the UK, publishers and organisations both large and small, both experimental and traditional, display and sell their work direct to the public.

More than 80 publishers and poetry organisations are taking part this year, with the event also offering workshops and daytime readings.

More about this year's fair can be found here. Meanwhile, here at V. Press, we're busy packing and planning special sales offers. It's always so lovely to be able to meet readers in person, so please do stop by and say hello!

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Launching Unable Mother

V. Press is very very delighted to launch Helen Calcutt's debut poetry collection Unable Mother.

“This work challenges our abstract and cosy notions of motherhood with a brutal and vulnerable delve into the psyche. Calcutt grapples, sometimes violently, sometimes with aching tenderness, each hard-won line ‘like squeezing / flesh and fruit from the bone, / this terrible love’. Yet these poems reach even further, into the rent world, and the remarkable kinds of beauty to which poetry alone can allude. This is an intimate book, the kind that comes in close to your ear to whisper dark secrets and unavoidable truths. These poems are spare, careful, insistent--and devastatingly good.” Robert Peake

“Helen Calcutt’s poems are full of surprising and intricate moments - they unfold like origami, deftly packing and unpacking themselves into new forms and presenting the reader with confidences, secrets and insight, the tender words for the things that are hard to say. In their explorations of motherhood, loss and discovery, Calcutt’s poetry is steeled with precise language, always finding clarity forged in the heart of experience.  These are intimate poems which are felt in the body, and written with a keen physicality – ‘love is meant to live on in the body’ writes Calcutt, ‘My flesh making heaven of it.’ In their makings and re-makings, each poem here reveals this to be a remarkable and potent debut.” Jane Commane

Unable Mother is very revelatory and very achingly poised.

R.R.P. £9.99

A sample poem from the collection can be enjoyed below.

BUY Unable Mother now, using the paypal link below. 

Unable Mother (including P&P)

The listening tree

I don’t know when this began. I have an ear
for the beautiful/terrible 
sounds, soaked with rain.
With my hearing in such leaves,
I can bear the worst of human music.
I’ve gone so very far, listening 
without moving. My roots are bound 
by ribbons in the earth
which lengthen into my back
and I sway, as it happens 
in these roots from my back. I listen,
and sleep between the dark 
and the dark
where my hearing is suspended.
And between this and my skull, 
it’s all dark matter, 
where earth and her sweetness
have darkened to gather each
bone to a bone, 
every coil to a chord.
I sing, though you wouldn’t know it.
My mouth is sunk in a pool
of old life,
it glitters and tries
to sing of its light,
and cries owl-cries
for a secret way out. Still, I bend
my thick spine 
to bare my neck, and touch you. 
You could almost be a stranger 
who's found me by a road,
you hold out your arms
as if you hold the great world,
you place your hands 
on my body and hair. Your tears 
catch on the quiet in the air,
and shake and glitter with the shakings 
of your hair;
something in your shape 
is like a tree, like me. I barely brush you
and your mouth comes alive on my light, 
I barely sigh I am a temple, I am 
soaking you with light.
If I could birth myself a second time,
I’d have your soul.  
You rock and sigh ‘oh I’m done, Mother,
I’m done.’  But the young, my love,
are free, or didn’t you know? There’s no 
god in this world. 
The closest thing to prayer is 
a child who says she hurts.

Unable Mother's cover image ‘Retreat’ by Katherine Sheers (

Monday, 27 August 2018

Reviews, new titles and forthcoming teasers...

V. Press is very very pleased to share some new reviews and news of titles out soon.


"Claire Walker’s Somewhere Between Rose And Black was shortlisted in this year’s Saboteur Awards, and it is easy to see why it is so well loved....

"Walker’s style is poised, trembling on a knife’s edge, eloquent on emotional frailty and unspoken intimacies. We follow the speaker through a whole narrative arc of temptation, infidelity, and the hope for forgiveness. The stag who causes damage to the garden brings trouble, but is, in the end, preferable to a pruned and suppressed landscape, reflecting the speaker’s own ‘untamed’ qualities and her desire for warmth and contact."

Becky Varley-Winter, Sabotage Reviews, full review here

More on the pamphlet and a sample poem may be found here.

BUY Somewhere Between Rose and Black now, using the paypal link below.

Somewhere Between Rose and Black (with P&P options)

"Written with love, honesty, and a hint of frustration at times, A Z-hearted Guide to Heartache will take you from one end of the emotional spectrum and back again... A brilliant collection and I'm looking forward to more from Charley Barnes in the future!"

Daniel Burton, The Writing Dragon, full review here

More on the pamphlet and a sample poem may be found here.

BUY a copy of A Z-Hearted Guide to Heartache now using the paypal link below.

A Z-hearted Guide to Heartache (including P&P)


Last blogpost, we revealed details of our first guest editors and the pamphlets they've selected as forthcoming V. Press publications.

V. Press is also very pleased to share the news of two new pamphlets by existing V. Press poets Alex Reed and Kathy Gee. Kathy Gee's forthcoming Checkout mixes elements of flash fiction, poetry and radio play to create a compelling and characterful poetry narrative. Working in collaboration with photographer Keren Banning,  Alex Reed's These nights at home is a longer pamphlet that both stands alone and continues the narrative from his earlier A Career in Accompaniment.

Early 2019 also sees the publication of John Lawrence's debut collection The boy who couldn't say his name so we're  already looking forward already to another year of very exciting publications!

More on all these titles to follow shortly, and just a reminder that  main decisions on shortlisted submissions from the recent submissions window have not yet been made - so don't worry if you're one of the shortlisted authors and haven't yet had a response.


Forthcoming this year, we also have Helen Calcutt's debut collection Unable Mother next month and Brenda Read-Brown's collection Like Love in November.

Unable Mother is a collection of poetry by Helen Calcutt that is very revelatory and very achingly poised. A sample poem and more about the collection can be found here.

A copy of the collection can also be ordered with the paypal link below.

Unable Mother (including P&P)

Meanwhile, Like love by Benda Read-Brown is a poetry collection that is very open and very unpredictable. A sample poem and more about this collection can be found here.

Like love can also be pre-ordered using the paypal link below. [The collection is published in November. Pre-orders are dispatched in the week of publication.] 

Like love (including P&P)

V. Press also has a new print run of Antony Owen's collection The Nagasaki Elder, complete with a new cover to celebrate his shortlisting in the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry 2017.

A sample poem and more about this collection can be found here. The Nagsaki Elder can also be ordered using the paypal link below.

We do have a few copies from the original print runs still, so if anyone would particularly prefer the new or old cover, please do request this when ordering.
(NB We will supply the prefered cover version where possible, but stocks are limited so this can't be guaranteed.)

The Nagasaki Elder with packing & postage

Friday, 17 August 2018


V. Press is delighted to announce its first two Guest Editors along with their choices of manuscripts for publication.

Guest Editor Mary-Jane Holmes has chosen 'The Escapologist' by Jinny Fisher as the manuscript that she'll be editing for V. Press.

Guest Editor Carrie Etter has chosen 'The Protection of Ghosts' by Natalie Linh Bolderston as the manuscript that she'll be editing for V. Press.

More about both poets and guest editors may be found below, along with an update on other submissions.

Photo by Nathalie Marchant
MARY-JANE HOLMES has lived and worked as a teacher, editor and translator in many places including Spain, France and Switzerland. Since 2009, she’s been chief editor of Fish Publishing, Ireland. She is creative director at the Casa-Ana writing retreat in southern Spain and editorial consultant at The Well Review.  Her debut poetry collection, Heliotrope with Matches and Magnifying Glass, is published by Pindrop Press. Irish Poet Dave Lordan has described her as "perhaps the most convincingly rural and at the same time convincingly contemporary English poet since Ted Hughes". Winner of the 2017 Bridport Poetry Prize, the Martin Starkie Poetry Prize, the Bedford International Poetry Prize and the 2014 Dromineer Fiction Prize, her other publication credits include Mslexia, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Prole, The Tishman Review, The Lonely Crowd and The Best Small Fictions Anthology 2016 and 2018. She has a Master of Studies in Creative Writing from Kellogg College, Oxford (with distinction). Website:

JINNY FISHER was first a classical violinist, then a psychoanalytic psychotherapist, now a poet full-time. She's a member of Wells Fountain Poets, and her work has appeared in print and online magazines including The Interpreter’s HouseUnder the RadarDomestic CherryTears in the FenceProleThe Poetry ShedStrange PoetryAmaryllis and Ink, Sweat & Tears. Commended in national competitions, she was runner-up in The Interpreter’s House Competition 2016. She's committed to bringing poetry to a wider audience and takes her Poetry Pram to music festivals for one-to-one readings. Twitter: @MsJinnifer. Her 'The Escapologist' was selected by  V. Press Guest Editor Mary-Jane Holmes.

Photo by Dot & Lucy Photography
CARRIE ETTER grew up in Normal, Illinois, spent thirteen years in southern California, and moved to England in 2001. Her fourth collection of poetry, The Weather in Normal (US: Station Hill; UK: Seren), will be published in autumn 2018; her individual poems have appeared in Poetry Review, The Times Literary Supplement, The New Statesman, The New Republic, and many other journals in the US and UK. Her V. Press pamphlet, Hometown, is her first collection of fiction. She is Reader in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and also teaches for The Poetry School and Poetry Swindon. She is guest editor of Natalie Linh Bolderston's 'The Protection of Ghosts' forthcoming with V. Press.

NATALIE LINH BOLDERSTON studied English at the University of Liverpool, where she won the 2016 Felicia Hemans Prize for Lyrical Poetry and the 2017 Miriam Allott Poetry Prize. She now works as an Editorial Assistant. Her work has been featured in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, L'Éphémère Review, Oxford Poetry, Smoke, and The Tangerine. She is a 2018 Creative Future Literary Award recipient. Her 'The Protection of Ghosts' was selected by  V. Press Guest Editor Carrie Etter. 


The announcement above is the first from V. Press's recent poetry submissions window. Other shortlisted poetry manuscripts are still being considered, with no publication decisions yet made. (Please bear with us in terms of notification as there are a lot of factors involved, so final decisions will take some time.)

The authors of shortlisted flash fiction samples have now been notified, and have a month to send in the full manuscript.

This year, decisions have been harder than ever shortlisting both poetry and flash submissions. There are many writers who didn't make the shortlists this time that we'd be happy to read submissions from in the future.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

New Review News

V. Press is very very pleased to share more words of praise for Michael Loveday's Three Men on the Edge.

"An outstanding work of fiction

"Three Men on the Edge is a remarkable first book. Described as flash fiction, it is a series of three stories, each about an isolated man. Michael Loveday presents the different characters with subtle understanding and sensitivity, taking the reader into their heads as they struggle to cope with their feelings and lives in the edge lands of Rickmansworth. The observation is acute and the use of language brilliant, the pared writing offers irony, humour, sadness and lyricism. With its use of compression and striking imagery the book has many of the characteristics of poetry and to me it seems on the borderland between poetry and prose. In Three Men on the Edge Michael Loveday emerges as a fine writer. I look forward to seeing what he produces next."

Myra Schneider, 5-star review on Amazon here.

"an exciting hybrid of poetry and flash-fiction, published by the impressive V Press.

"Three Men on the Edge is an agile and brave book - it blends the finest points of poetry - nuance, the unsaid, and the metaphorical with the sharpest image-making and narrative of very short fiction. The result is a tender yet never sentimental hybrid of a form that I found exciting, compelling and very readable. It is a cliche but I was sorry not to read more. There is something very fresh about Loveday's book and it deserves to reach a wide audience."

Sarah Westcott, The Literary Loper, the full review here.

Three sample flashes from the flash fiction novella can be enjoyed here.

BUY A COPY OF Three Men on the Edge now using the paypal options below.

Three Men on the Edge (including P&P)

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

In a flash...

The end of July will be here in a flash, and with it the end of our flash fiction submissions window. But if you're a flash writer and haven't sent your submission in yet, there's still one week to go. Full submission guidelines here.

This summer has been an exciting one already for V. Press, with flash fiction writers Santino Prinzi and Michael Loveday launching their new titles on Sunday in a V. Press showcase at this year's Flash Fiction Festival

More on There's Something Macrocosmic About All of This by Santino Prinzi can be found here, while sample flashes from Michael Loveday's Three Men on the Edge flash fiction novella can be found here


V. Press is also delighted to share a new review of Charlie Hill's fiction pamphlet Walking Backwards.

"...Again, I think of Hemingway, and in all of these stories there’s his ‘iceberg’ technique – more below the surface than can be seen above...

"They are all part of a pleasing variety on show here.

"All the best prose writers have a love of poetry. Charlie Hill is a real writer, and a very good one too."

Neil CampbellSabotage Reviews, the full review, also focussing on specific stories can be found here.

BUY a copy of Walking Backwards now using the paypal link .

Walking Backwards (with package & posting options)

A sample story and more information about Walking Backwards can also be enjoyed here.

Monday, 16 July 2018




We're absolutely delighted that this year's Flash Fiction Festival at Trinity College, Bristol from July 20-22 will feature a V. Press showcase.

The showcase on Sunday, July 22, will feature readings from this year's V. Press titles: There's Something Macrocosmic About All of This by Santino Prinzi and Michael Loveday's flash fiction novella Three Men on the Edge.

V. Press editor Sarah Leavesley presents 'A Flash Guide to V. Press' over on the festival blog here, where you can also find out more about the festival and tickets.

And, on the topic of flash fiction, V. Press is delighted to share extracts from two new reviews of Three Men on the Edge.

"...This book is a rummage through the storerooms of the human heart with all its fears, its passions, its yearnings, its failures, its betrayals.   Part of me suspects that  Three Men on the Edge is a series of prose poems with an interlinking narrative structure. But that is merely a quibble of naming.   That the prose is a feast of poesy is no accident, Loveday being a fine poet as well as, now, a fiction writer."

Frances Spurrier, on Volatile Rune, full detailed review here

"Clever, clean and economically written, Three Men on the Edge will surely win over those hesitant to commit to what might otherwise seem an esoteric and specialist form. Both character and place are perfectly evoked, and the sense of trauma only half-experienced is rarely far from the surface. These are men desperate to be something they are not, to be what they might have been or thought they always were, to be someone else entirely; men whose uncertain place in the world is echoed by the edgelands they inhabit.

Three Men on the Edge is a triumph, and I look forward to seeing more from Loveday."

Joel Hames, 5-star review on Amazon and goodreads.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Review news!!!

V. Press is very very delighted to share snippets from recent reviews of three V. Press titles, and our press style!!!


"V Press clearly have a keen editorial eye and produce beautifully imagined and constructed pamphlets and books...

"Jenna writes quite brilliant poetry, which isn't a bad place to start and with this collection she has created something genuinely beautiful and moving...

"Jenna's poetry has a quiet power to it that shines through the simplest of passages and as I read her work I was repeatedly hit by the beautiful imagery that she uses...

"There is a real, genuine depth to the poetry that has a sense of the spiritual but never descends into preachy. Instead there is a feeling of the ancient about the collection and Jenna's choice of words is always quietly apt and they are always meticulously placed, clearly considered.

"This is very much a grown-up collection of poetry, and if it isn't seriously considered for awards in the coming months it would feel criminal."

Mark Davidson, A Restricted View From Under The Hedge, full review and an interview with Jenna in issue 2

A sample poem and more about the pamphlet can be found here.

BUY Against the Pull of Time now, using the paypal link below.

Against the Pull of Time (including P&P)

"It is getting a little predictable to say that V Press clearly know what they are doing when it comes to producing beautiful and important poetry books, but the debut collection from Helen Calcutt is something special even by their standards...

"These are poems that are fractured and continually full of pain, but such is her skill that they are in no way terrifying as there is a leavening of joy there too...

"On the cover of the book, Robert Peake talks about a 'terrible and terrifying love' and that is perfectly put. He also says that Helen's poems are 'devastatingly good', and that just about sums it up for me too."

Mark DavidsonA Restricted View From Under The Hedge, full review and an interview with Helen in issue 2

A sample poem and more about the collection can be found here.

PRE-ORDER Unable Mother now, using the paypal link below. Unable Mother is published in September. Pre-orders are posted out in the week of publication.]

Unable Mother (including P&P)


Meanwhile, across the internet, two new reviews of  Michael Loveday's flash fiction novella Three Men on the Edge:

"...This book is a rummage through the storerooms of the human heart with all its fears, its passions, its yearnings, its failures, its betrayals.   Part of me suspects that  Three Men on the Edge is a series of prose poems with an interlinking narrative structure. But that is merely a quibble of naming.   That the prose is a feast of poesy is no accident, Loveday being a fine poet as well as, now, a fiction writer."

Frances Spurrier, on Volatile Rune, full detailed review here

"Clever, clean and economically written, Three Men on the Edge will surely win over those hesitant to commit to what might otherwise seem an esoteric and specialist form. Both character and place are perfectly evoked, and the sense of trauma only half-experienced is rarely far from the surface. These are men desperate to be something they are not, to be what they might have been or thought they always were, to be someone else entirely; men whose uncertain place in the world is echoed by the edgelands they inhabit.

Three Men on the Edge is a triumph, and I look forward to seeing more from Loveday."

Joel Hames, 5-star review on Amazon and goodreads.

BUY a copy of Three Men on the Edge now using the paypal button below. 

Three Men on the Edge (including P&P)

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Launching A Z-hearted Guide to Heartache

V. Press is very very delighted to launch A Z-hearted Guide to Heartache, a poetry pamphlet by Charley Barnes.

“The poems in A Z-hearted Guide to Heartache will make you re-think your relationship with pizza, garlic bread and your mobile phone. These sharp, sad and wry observations – on the reality of living with mental illness and disability, the heartbreak of the everyday, and perseverance despite everything – capture what it is to be twenty-something, in love, and healing through food. This is an exciting debut pamphlet from a new and honest voice.” Jenna Clake

“In her debut pamphlet, Charley Barnes examines the reality of heartbreak and its different forms, highlighting how aspects of modern society can play – often brutally – on our insecurities: the wish to be prettier, more popular, more lovable. These poems deftly explore the bitter, lasting sting of loss and how it shapes us. Yet there is also the tenderness of possibility at play – a sweetness to offset the sharpness encountered by a young woman trying to navigate her way; a knowing, self-deprecating humour that shines through, even in dark experiences. There is a wisdom of the importance of nurturing here, accompanied by the will that, whatever happens, ‘you have to keep going, don’t you?’ ('The lie my mum told me').” Claire Walker

A Z-hearted Guide to Heartache is very quirky yet very full-blooded.

ISBN: 978-1-9998444-4-8
36 pages

R.R.P. £6.50

A sample poem can be enjoyed below.

PRE-ORDER a copy of A Z-Hearted Guide to Heartache now using the paypal link below. [The pamphlet is published in July. Pre-orders are dispatched in the week of publication.]

A Z-hearted Guide to Heartache (including P&P)

My therapist says...

I tell my therapist that I don’t want to be
the sort of person who prefixes sentences with:
“My therapist says...”

My therapist says that’s an irrational concern.

My therapist tells me that you’ve told her that I’m writing
on the walls again: hurried hieroglyphics
scribbled around the house. I tell my therapist
how telling the assumption is that if you can’t
understand something it must be foreign.
This worsens your ignorance; it doesn’t excuse it.

I tell my therapist that when I’m talking to you, I start
sentences with ‘My therapist says’ to legitimise my claims.
My therapist asks whether I think that’s a sensible thing
to be doing to my partner. And I tell my therapist that it is
ambiguous, but also the only way I can get anything done. 

When my therapist asks why I’m writing on the walls again,
I tell my therapist in a level tone:
“There are important things that I need to write down.”

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Living on the Edge...

How does where we live - be that city, countryside or somewhere-in-between - affect our lives? In this blogpost, Michael Loveday shares some 'Edgelands' experiences from growing up, and reveals how this feeds into his new V. Press flash fiction novella Three Men on the Edge.

Living on the Edge

I grew up with a form of identity confusion.

My family home was in Northwood, in the former postal county of Middlesex, a region on the Northwest edge of Greater London.

“Middlesex” belonged to London. But we had a Hertfordshire phone number.

We lived on a quiet street. But 50 yards from a fairly busy main road.

If I walked away from my house, in one direction I moved towards the densely-packed suburbs of Greater London; in another direction I could find a series of splendidly landscaped golf courses; another direction took me into the heart of a private housing estate of detached, mostly mock-Tudor properties with large grounds; elsewhere nearby I could walk our Bernese Mountain dog through thick woods into unkempt fields whose ownership seemed unidentified – apparently common, wildmeadow land.  In Northwood, we were serviced by the Metropolitan Underground Line. Except it was overground. We called it the train (not “the tube”) - I didn't understand the difference between real trains and my tube-trains until adulthood.

Welcome to the identity confusions of the suburbs, where you are neither one thing nor the other.
Later, after a few years of moving around, I bought my first flat not far from Northwood, in a commuter town called Rickmansworth, which lay about 3 miles northwest – a couple of stops further out on the Metropolitan Line.

Rickmansworth is in a valley where three rivers converge – literally the Three Rivers District of Hertfordshire. They feed the Grand Union Canal as it passes through between London and Birmingham.

It also marks the northern beginning of a remarkable series of over 60 (yes, sixty) lakes (former quarry pits – whose extracted gravel was used to build the original Wembley Stadium) that combine to form Colne Valley Park, a zone of managed wildness stretching many miles from Rickmansworth in the north to the Thames in the south, towards Slough in the west, and Heathrow in the east.
Despite the proximity of all this beautiful, watery countryside, Rickmansworth is densely housed, and expanding – a population of 15,000 in the 2001 census, 24,000 in 2011.

I lived in Rickmansworth from 2007 to 2016, and experienced there the strange, unsettling territory of a true “Edgelands”, an experience neither urban nor rural, neither truly London nor the Hertfordshire countryside. I had to start writing about it.

The “Edgelands” are a concept first defined in 2002 by the writer Marion Shoard in her essay of the same name (published in Jennifer Jenkins (ed.), Remaking the Landscape (2002)):

“The apparently unplanned, certainly uncelebrated and largely incomprehensible territory where town and country meet… it is characterised by rubbish tips and warehouses, superstores and derelict industrial plant, office parks … golf courses, allotments and fragmented, frequently scruffy, farmland.”

In its own low-key way, Rickmansworth can lay claim to all of that. I’m not sure where exactly I first heard the term “Edgelands” but I do know that my first immersion into researching the concept was a book written by poets Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts (Edgelands: Journeys into England’s True Wilderness (2011)) that further opened my eyes and ears to the territory I was living in. I was fascinated by the catalogue of landscape features that Symmons Roberts and Farley identified as classic “Edgelands” elements: landfill, water, pylons, allotments, verges, canals, wasteland, woodlands, hotels, retail parks, industrial estates, golf ranges, airports etc. And I found the descriptions themselves captivating, possessed of an ungainly, mythical beauty: “the fringes of English towns and cities, where urban and rural negotiate and renegotiate their borders…” (p.5), “the hollows and spaces between our carefully-managed wilderness areas and the creeping, flattening effects of global capitalism…” (p.12), “In the A-Zs of major English cities, there are always pages where the circuitry of streets gives way to blank grid squares, peppered with nameless ponds, industrial parks, nurseries and plantations…” (p.20), “seldom visited wastelands bypassed by the flows of commerce and leisure, the landfill sites and blank unnamed pools of dark standing water…” (p.23), “this is a different wildnerness… It has the echoing silence of miles of empty car parks, dark and locked glass offices, pockets of woodland and strips of standing water.” (p.267).

Their book was the perfect introduction to the idea of “Edgelands”, and I heartily recommend it. It’s a future classic of landscape writing to be mentioned in the same breath as its acknowledged ancestor The Unofficial Countryside (1973), by Richard Mabey, who pioneered writing about the same kind of geography before anyone else had thought to celebrate it.

My book Three Men on the Edge (V. Press, June 2018) took me six and a half years to write, and in it I’ve tried to celebrate the strange hinterland that is Rickmansworth, neither properly the suburbs of a big city nor exactly the countryside. As research, I often went for walks with notebook or camera in hand, documenting the landscape around me and trying to find ways to bring it into the context of my fiction. (I think the people I passed may sometimes have looked at me oddly). Three Men on the Edge attempts to capture the split self of the town as a character in its own right, divided between its canals, lakes, fields and woodlands on the one hand, and its supermarkets, commuter train lines, and busy cafés on the other.

The book also has another in-betweenness. It’s very much a literary hybrid: a novella composed of three linked sequences of miniature stories, informed by the techniques of prose poetry. I might suggest with a fair amount of conviction that you won’t have read anything similar before.

If you enjoy books that put landscape and environment at the centre, or if you have ever experienced the strange and ambivalent emotions of suburban life, or if you enjoy the “edgelands” of unusual forms of writing, I hope you might find Three Men on the Edge an interesting kind of territory to encounter.

Michael Loveday

Sample flashes and more details about the book can be found here: Three Men on the Edge (V. Press, 2018)

Friday, 29 June 2018

Launching Three Men on the Edge

V. Press is very very pleased to launch Three Men on the Edge, a flash fiction novella by Michael Loveday featuring three men living on the edge of London.

The story of the three men – Gus, Denholm and Martyn – is narrated in three distinctive sections: Denholm – Cause for Alarm; Gus – The Invisible World; Martyn – Chewing Glass. 

“A beautifully crafted novella-in-flash, small and perfect slices of life written with skill and heart.” Kit de Waal

“In his debut novella Michael Loveday sketches with a delicate brush the colourful lives of three troubled men living on the edge of London. With poetic language and emotional precision, Loveday writes like a cartographer about the wilderness we call ‘the human heart’.” Meg Pokrass

“This is a novella full of the aches and bruises left by loneliness. It's written in fragments, like a bottle smashed during a solitary boozing session, but it coheres around the vividly captured edgeland that haunts the three men. This a heart-felt book, but its prose is controlled by a steely intelligence. It's funny, too – and moving and scary. Michael Loveday is a name to watch. He's writing a new kind of fiction.”  David Swann

Three Men on the Edge is very richly shaded and very unconventional.

R.R.P. £9.99

Sample flashes from each of the three sections of the novella may be enjoyed below.

BUY a copy of Three Men on the Edge now using the paypal button below. 

Three Men on the Edge (including P&P)


Bath Launch: Saturday, 6 October 2018. 1.45 for 2 p.m. Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, Queen Square, Bath, BA1 2HN.


From (I) Denholm – Cause for Alarm
i. Lost Object

(Where are the fragranced pillows, where are the flying horses) Denholm balances the square box on his palm, lifts the purple lid, and inside, instead of hazelnut whirls and lemon crunches, resting in the depressions of the plastic tray, are the fifteen pairs of keys which used to open Gorgeous Gifts, no longer a going concern (where are the Union Jack beard trimmers, where are the tiger-print purses), he closes his eyes, fingers the keys, they rattle in his brain, fifty years trading on Rickmansworth High Street, Watford, Chorleywood, Bushey, St. Albans, places where mother’s business dug into Hertfordshire soil (find us the faux-diamond ballerinas, find us the Spitfire key-rings); how he cherished helping buyers turn panic to inspiration, and he drifts back to the Rickmansworth storeroom, clambering through stuffed cardboard boxes, the one-chair staffroom with its grown-up magazines (go find the Hertfordshire egg-timers, go find the invisible inks), and the smell of Grandma’s daily gammon rolls, how the shop became a home, how he memorised those cluttered shelves (go get the coin-box skulls, go get the footballing pigs), and how much he loathed the family party-trick, the loss of light as they put the blindfold in place. 

[First published in Flash: the International Short-Short Story Magazine]

From (II) Gus – The Invisible World
ix. Town Ditch, September

Five corpses float at the surface. Carried in the water is a dark sludge that seems to be silt: when he dips his hand, the sludge smells only of earth.

The next day many more litter the ditch. He gives up counting. They bob in the slow current, spinning as they snag against branches and leaves.

He looks closer, sees others, alive, rising to the surface, their gills beating for breath amid the black silt. Chubs, bullheads, minnows, roaches. Glinting silver scales, sandy-yellow blotches, flecks of gold, orange. The dead ones float flat on their sides.

He shivers. The bare eyes stare up, gawping blindly at him.

[First published in Flash: the International Short-Short Story Magazine]

From (III) Martyn – Chewing Glass

Sometimes Anja praises Martyn so highly she makes him feel like Superman. He has the Superman dream always the same way: not the caped crusader saving the civilised world, but Clark Kent the reporter wearing preppy spectacles and befuddled by Lois Lane—except Lois is Anja—and Anja’s nipples are made of kryptonite. But this is a dream and Lois-Anja is also somehow Lex Luthor at one and the same time—looking like Gene Hackman with his big-collared 1970s shirt—and Lois-Anja Hackman takes off Clark Kent’s glasses, kisses his brow sadly, then draws his head closer to her deadly, trembling chest.

[First published in Funny Bone: Flashing for Comic Relief]


"Michael Loveday’s Three Men on the Edge (V. Press, 2018) reminds me of why I love the novella-in-flash form. This story, told in a series of fragments, drops you right into the worries and yearnings of three men living in uncertain times in a watery suburb of London. Loveday’s poetic rendering of everyday details takes the reader to a captivating, but beleaguered, town where the protagonists can be as touching and, at times, funny, as they are clueless about how to move forward in their lives. The writing follows Denholm, Gus and Martyn into the more vulnerable corners of their edgelands existence, unveiling their disappointments, perplexities and desires with poignancy, humor and an unforgettable sense of place. There is something touchingly and disturbingly recognizable in each of the protagonists. And there is something about Three Men on the Edge that makes me want to take a stroll away from the high street and find a place to sit along the canals of Rickmansworth." 

Charmaine Wilkerson, author of How to Make a Window Snake, winner of the Bath Novella-in-Flash Award 2017, review here.