You can find an interactive map of events across the country here: https://nationalpoetryday.co.uk/join-in/
It is a truth universally acknowledged that everyone hates to be hassled for online votes. Which is why we’re only going to mention this once, and then we’ll get back onto making you more weird and wonderful books about robots, bats and soforth.
Sidekick Books have been nominated for the Saboteur Awards in the following categories:
1. Most Innovative Publisher
2. Best Anthology (Aquanauts)
Now, a) we believe we’re pretty innovative as a press, and we are very proud of the beautiful underwater odyssey that is Aquanauts. And b) The Saboteurs are the only awards that recognise the strange literary concoctions we make.
So if you like what we do, please vote for us. We would truly appreciate it. If someone else takes your fancy on the shortlist, vote with your heart. In the case of octopus fans, vote with all three of your hearts.
Voting closes on 9th May 2018.
That’s it. That’s as much as we’ll hassle, harangue and badger you. Thanks for reading, and thank you, as ever, for all of your support!
From its inception, the idea behind Sidekick was to publish collaborative books. ‘Collaborative books’ is almost a tautology – a book is nearly always a collaborative effort between artists, editors and designers, to say nothing of those people thanked on the acknowledgements page for their varying degrees of influence and judgement. But in terms of poetry – as well as other leading genres – the writer is generally credited (and marketed) as sole author. The single author collection is by far the dominant form in poetry publishing, and this makes the poetry ‘industry’ extremely reliant on the celebrity and saleability of individuals.
(As a side note, the fact that publicity leans so heavily on author identity is one cause of the lack of diversity at the top layer – since it’s easier to pass off older white men as having the authority required of the ‘eminent poet’ archetype. It’s true that recently, there has been a shift toward celebrating alternative perspectives and experiences, particularly those of women and minority groups, but the emphasis on identity is unchanged, and this carries with it the danger of reducing non-white-male authors to cyphers.)
Beyond the single author collection, the second most dominant form in poetry publishing is probably the ‘survey’ anthology – in effect, an instrument of categorisation and organisation. Then there are celebratory or occasional anthologies, and therapeutic or self-help anthologies. With the exception of Bloodaxe’s Staying Alive and its sequels, books in the latter two brackets are critically ignored, regarded as purely commercial exercises.
So the somewhat ambitious remit behind Sidekick was to try to find or forge a new form of mainstream poetry book, one that emphasised the collaborative aspect of book creation and avoided emphasis on the figure of the poet. What if poetry was the mode, rather than the genre? What if, instead of all poetry being confined to the Poetry section of a bookshop or online marketplace, it was found in all the other sections – one of the ways in which any topic might be explored, or any genre realised?
To this end, we’ve published mainly themed, multi-author compendiums of newly solicited writing, mixing poetry with prose, illustration and graphic arts, questing for the right balance between charming and unruly, orderly and idiosyncratic. We tried to make our Birdbook series a kind of catalogue or ornithopaedia as much as a poetry collection, and we tried to involve as many different poets as possible across the various projects – driven in part by the notion that more poets can reach a wider audience if they aren’t fighting over the same few pulpits. (Or crowns? Pistols? Whichever metaphor suits).
One disadvantage of this approach is that a poet who has written one or two poems for one of our books isn’t likely to feel very well represented, or like they’ve had much influence on the overall shape or feel of the book. It also makes compiling and editing particularly fiendish – imagine trying to make a complete jigsaw out of dozens of pieces from different jigsaw sets, but without being able to choose exactly which pieces.
So we came up with a new plan: offer poets (and other experimental writers) a little patch of land. Book-land. Space for a sequence, or micro-pamphlet, or something substantial. Ask them to describe to us what they would do with it, based on a broad idea of the theme of the book. Then select a number of those ideas to commission in full and put together the skeleton of the book from there. The process is intended to be less top-down, more generative, with the work of individuals given a little more space to breathe. It should also streamline the production process, since we can start on the layout before the final components arrive.
Undoubtedly, there will be downsides to this approach as well, and difficulties we haven’t foreseen. But we thought it was worth experimenting with. As with other aspects of our unconventional approach to publishing, the results should be, at the very least, rather interesting.
AquanautsAquanauts was the first in our Headbooks series: a set of interactive, highly visual complete-me-yourself books aimed at taking poetry out of one corner and inviting readers to become collaborators. To launch Aquanauts, we joined forces with live artist and poet Abi Palmer to host Aquanautica, a deep dive into a post-flood world. Participants followed the signal of the mysterious Captain Nautilla to find a cavern of merbartenders, scientists, sirens, signs, sceptics and sculptures. Enjoy more of poet John Canfield’s photos on our Instagram channel. And you can find Aquanauts right here!
Bad Kid CatullusBad Kid Catullus, aka Headbook #2, takes Rome’s filthiest bard as its starting point, but this is no ordinary series of translations. In BKC, an orgy of poets transports Catullus through genre, time and form: sashay from noir to high fantasy to western, spy some pointed graffiti or study a sex position calligram of those famous carmina… Get down and dirty with Bad Kid Catullus right here.
Headbooks exhibitionThe Headbooks launch took place at the Poetry Café, Covent Garden, included wine, grape, figs and honey cake, as well as fauns, fornication and a forum of toga-clad poets. Visit Ian McLachlan’s Instagram for more decadent photos (Ian was the faun in question!). The Headbooks exhibition features art from Kid Catullus and Aquanauts, and is on for free at the beautifully refurbished Poetry Café until 31 January 2018. BUT ALSO! Got some poems hanging around that need a good Frankensteining? Come and join us for Sidekick Remixathon, a workshop to go along with the exhibition, in which Jon and K will show you how to make gold from “gah!” More information here!
Advent CalendarFinally for 2017, we invited poets to send us aperture poems for our Advent Calendar. The aperture poem was invented by James Midgley, and involves taking an existing text (or inventing one), and placing an imaginary window frame over part of it, leaving only a portion visible to create a new micro-poem. Like so! View all 26 (yes, we got carried away) aperture poems here!
COMING UP!That was all dandy, but this is the exciting bit. What comes next? Do your resolutions include writing more? Then get yourself in a mechanical or echolocatory frame of mind! We’ll be issuing calls for two new Sidekick Headbooks! Follow us on Twitter or Facebook or sign up for our mailing list at the bottom of the page to get the first alerts! Ahem! 1. No, Robot, No! will be a celebration of real and fictional robots. Philosophy, ethics, mechanics, automation – choose your mode! 2. Battalion will explore the dark and delightful world of bats. We’re after biology, ecology, myth and movement – keep your ears open! Have a Happy New Year, one and all – look forward to playing with you all in 2018! Jon and Kirsty
Thank you for following this aperture poetry advent calendar, and thank you to all of our supporters and friends for a wonderful year. We hope you are ensconced in warmth, companionship and fine reading. Have a lovely holiday and a mischievous new year!
For more Clairity, visit clairetrevien.co.uk and follow her on Twitter @CTrevien.
For more exceptional Pollytry, visit pollyatkin.com or follow her on Twitter @pollyrowena.