Big Fish, Little Fish, Shaped Like Box…

We’re gearing up to launch Aquanauts in immersive, submersive style in London on 22 September (click here to book your free place). To celebrate, we thought we’d share one or two of the tiddler poems that were too shy to go into the book. Introducing a swoosh of Cubist Collage Fish, alongside their real-world counterparts. We deliberately chose fish which change colour, to emphasise the shape-shifting aspect of the form:
Betta splendens – the Siamese Fighting Fish
Real Siamese fighting fish
Chameleon fish
Real chameleon fish
Rock goby
Real rock goby

Aquanautica! An immersive, interactive book launch!

We’re nearly ready to smash the champagne bottle on SS Aquanauts!


To launch this anthology of aquatic adventure, join Sidekick Books and artist Abi Palmer for Aquanautica, an immersive live art voyage!

Let us tickle your senses with our poetic tentacles, using light, sound, touch, 1:1 performances and a grand reading. Leave your mark with interactive games and frolic in the fronds.

The event is FREE but booking is essential as places are limited to aid accessibility and make the experience enjoyable for all.

You can book here:

Once you have booked, you will receive details of how to get to the Mystery London Venue. At the booking stage, you can also tell us about any accessibility requirements you might have. Here is a more detailed breakdown:


The event takes place at an accessible indoor location between 7-10.30 pm on Friday 22nd September. There will be fleeting performances in multiple spaces, and you are welcome to come and go as you please, with latecomers welcome.

The event is in a child-friendly, low-crowd, wheelchair-accessible space. For more detailed accessibility information, please see below.


Nearest tubes:

Bermondsey (Jubilee Line, level access): approx 8 minutes away

London Bridge: 12-18 minutes away, level access on all lines.


Friday’s launch event will be a multisensory experience, in varying light conditions. If you have a particular lighting need, please mention this on your booking form.

An even lower-crowd multisensory, audio described tour of the exhibit can be arranged on Saturday 23rd September. Please contact to book this.

Due to staffing and crowd limitations, we cannot promise a 100% audio-described tour on Friday 22nd September, but the event will contain multisensory performances and 1:1 interactions. On request, these can be adapted to provide as much audio description as possible!


Doors, rooms and corridors inside the venue are all extra wide, and have turning space for wheelchairs. There are automatic doors on all entrances.

The space is on the 3rd floor with access via wide lifts.


The bathroom is level and wide enough for a chair to enter. There is a perching stool by the sink. There is no hoist.


The venue will include a relaxation area in a carpeted room, with varied, comfortable seating and places to lie down. Headphones and ear plugs are available if you want to vary the noise conditions Tickets will be limited to minimise crowding.

Fiddle props and multisensory activities will be provided.


Due to the size and acoustics of the venue, performances will not use microphones. The relaxation room is carpeted but the main performance space will not be.

Background music will be used. If you would prefer to limit additional noise, please include this request on the form.

This multisensory event will include text, touch, movement and visual installations. We aim to provide written transcripts wherever possible. Due to space and budget restrictions, we cannot provide full BSL performance at this stage, but we are working towards this for future events!


A wide variety of chairs, sofas, rugs, mats, reclining spaces and cushions are available. Please shout if you have a special request.


Custom sea-cocktails (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) will be available for a small donation. There will also be a range of other drinks and a wide variety of teas.


You will be able to purchase Aquanauts at the event using cash, card or PayPal. Alternatively, you can find more about it here.

Dive in!

ACE news, Headbooks and making a splash!

Sidekick Books is extremely happy to announce that Arts Council England have given us funding to produce our first four Headbooks! This thrilling and unusual set of titles aims to introduce poetry to new audiences through play, rich visuals and interactive elements. Huge thanks to ACE for their generosity in supporting our work. Sidekick’s collaborative, multi-author focus means our titles fall outside the guidelines of many prizes, so ACE’s support enables us to carry on mixing, meddling and commissioning strange creations. The Headbooks series is a genre-busting set of gift books blending visual poetry with games and activities, and bringing poetry out of the corner of the bookshop, into the light. Our first Headbook, due out next month, is Aquanauts, a twisting, turning journey under the water. Featuring calligrams, colour pages, exercises and creative prompts, it’s a deep dive into the unknown and a feast for the senses. Here’s a taster:
Aquanauts cover, featuring enigmatic model El Aguador
Aquanauts cover, featuring enigmatic model El Aguador
We’ll be following up this aquatic adventure with a journey through time to the Roman empire, to meet Bad Kid Catullus, an explosive set of new Catullus translations, riffs and reactions, mixing collage with frottage. That’ll be due in September. Finally, in 2018, we’ll be issuing open calls for submissions for The Sidekick Book of Sidekicks, a tribute to the shadows that follow heroes and villains, and No, Robot, No!, an updated, multiplayer version of K and Jon’s debut joint pamphlet.

Some … Excuse Me … Damn Fine News

To coincide with both the new series of Twin Peaks and the publication of Chrissy Williams’ first full collection, BEAR (Bloodaxe Books), we’re re-releasing the long out-of-print ANGELA, a team-up between Chrissy and illustrator Howard Hardiman that marries Angela Lansbury to Lynchian surrealism and a Peaksy colour palette. If you’re finding modern life just a little too cosy and comforting, just set ANGELA on your bedside table and let the nightmares do their work.

The Ted Hughes Award nominated Finders Keepers is also entering its second printing, having become an endangered species itself in the bookshop. Nothing lasts forever, so get a copy while you can, on its own or in one of our book bundles.

The Saboteurs are in our midst!

It’s March, and that can, frankly, mean many things.

But for Sidekick Books it means something particularly important!

  Saboteur Awards logo  

Yes, the most important indie poetry awards are back! With the exception of the Ted Hughes Award, only the Saboteur Awards explicitly recognise poetry anthologies and collaborations. These awards are nominated and voted for by you, the public! If you like the work we do (and Dr F takes credit for, and Bandijcat regularly derails), please take two minutes to nominate us for these incredibly important indie awards. We will be tremendously grateful. Three categories we would love your vote in are:  

  • Best Collaboration (Finders Keepers)
Finders Keepers front cover
Finders Keepers front cover
  • Best Anthology (Birdbook IV: Saltwater and Shore)
Birdbook: Saltwater and Shore  

and if you’re feeling particularly warm and fuzzy towards us:

  • Most Innovative Publisher (um…)
Sidekick Books logo

Thank you, as ever, for your love and support. Nominate away!

Finders Keepers makes the Ted Hughes Award shortlist!

Ted Hughes Award for New Poetry logo
Ted Hughes Award for New Poetry logo
Dr Fulminare is ridiculously jittery to announce that Finder Keepers by Harry Man and Sophie Gainsley has been shortlisted for The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry! Finders Keepers front cover This incredible collaboration has been a real labour of love, and goes far beyond the average poetry collection. Harry Man has travelled around the UK to shadow conservation teams and geocache poems for nature lovers to discover.
Ice poem by Harry Man's for Finders Keepers
Ice poem by Harry Man’s for Finders Keepers
Meanwhile Sophie Gainsley’s vibrant, scurrying artwork brings Harry’s emotive, investigative poems to life.
Copyright Harry Man and Sophie Gainsley, 2016
Copyright Harry Man and Sophie Gainsley, 2016
Best of all, the project continues, with future geocaches planned! Finders Keepers embodies what Sidekick Books stands for – energy, teamwork, playing with genre and format. It’s been a pleasure to work with these two talented artists. Thank you to everyone who nominated Finders Keepers for the Ted Hughes Award. We’re thrilled and touched, not least because this news has put Dr Fulminare in such rude spirits he’s doubled our rations! You can read the Poetry Society press release here!

Call for Submissions!

It’s not often we do this! Sidekick is issuing an open call for submissions over the next three weeks for two brand new anthologies: Aquanauts and Bad Kid Catullus. But there’s a twist: we’re after calligrams and visual poems primarily. For further details, follow the link.

PS. You will notice that the Sidekick site is mid-reconstruction at the moment as we gradually move our way over to a WordPress content management system. Bear with us!

Alkemi: post-show thoughts and thanks!

As August slipped out of sight and September approached, Alkemi took place at The Nines, Peckham, as Sidekick Books, in collaboration with the Stockholm Review of Literature, put on a post-Brexit reading celebrating European poetry!

Credit: Wikimedia Commons
We paired up the following readers to share translations in and out of English:

Sofia Capel and Lucy Durneen

Image: Ian McLachlan

James Coghill and Lucy Leagrave
Image: IanMcLachlan

Jen Calleja and Marta Kowalewska 
Image: Ian McLachlan

Gabrielle Nolan and Kirsten Irving

Image: Ian McLachlan

Poets read translations of their own work across French, German, Swedish and Polish, alongside non-translated poetry and the work of their partners. We got Brechtian love poetry, anxiety and shape-shifting, memories and adventure.

Jon Stone hosted, reading translations of Dutch and Spanish work (with thanks to a brave audience member who stepped up to read the original Spanish in one case!). You can read his run-up Europoetry posts on Paul Celan and Raymond Queneau on the Sidekick blog.

Music was provided by the late Jacques Brel and visual stimulation by a beautiful array of European cinematic classics, provided by Sofia, including this well-timed still:

Image: Ian McLachlan

We had a Mini Translation Quiz, which you can take here (and the answers are here).

The ten-point question asked for three-line poems on a time when words failed you, and one of my favourites came from Sian Moore:

It was a fantastic night, and we’d like to thank all of the performers for such great sets. It was also a brilliant opportunity to meet people involved in other poetry projects around translation, such as Giorgia Cacciatore from the Movimento per l’Emanzipazione Poesia, who furnished us with a stash of beautiful Italian poetry to read, enjoy and pass on:

Thanks to the Nines for having us, the wonderful audience who embraced their curiosity, the readers and the Stockholm Review of Literature. Here’s to more collaborative projects in the future!

A Monolingrel’s Forays into European Poetry #2: Raymond Queneau

In the run-up to Sidekick’s Alkemi event, run in conjunction with the Stockholm Review of Literature, I’m touring the Europe of my poetry bookshelf. Dominated as it is by British poets, and limited as I am by my lack of facility in any language other than my own, there are still quite a few Europeans who have managed to infiltrate. Today I’m going to reflect briefly on a recent addition: Raymond Queneau.

It is strange and, some might say, shameful, that this is the only Queneau book I own, and that I have only come by it recently. It’s not even a bilingual edition. It’s not even poetry! (Is it?)

But Queneau is a Charles Xavier among poets; his reach and influence extends well beyond those who have actually read his work. And not simply because his disciples have disciples of their own, or because he was the head of a movement (Oulipo) that has had more than one zeitgeist-y moment, but also because his achievements as an innovator can be boiled down to simple, eye-opening descriptions that have the power to send other writers scurrying to their laboratory-sheds to replicate his experiments. When you first hear about Exercises de Style, for instance – a book that recounts the same anecdote 99 times, each in a different literary or journalistic style – you can grasp the significance of it without a lesson in literary history, and without having to so much as glance at a single page.

Let’s have a glance anyway though. Here’s the English version (translated by Barbara Wright) of the anecdote rendered as a homeoteleuton:

On a certain date, a corporate crate on which the electorate congregate when they migrate at great rate, late, had to accommodate an ornate, tracheate celibate, who started to altercate with a proximate inmate, and ejaculate: “Oi, mate!” But to anticipate Billingsgate debate, he hastened to abate, and sate.

An houate aftrate, in front of the Saint-Lazate gate, I notate him agate, talkate about a buttate, a buttate on his overcate.

And here it is again as a sonnet:

Glabrous of dial, a plait upon his bonnet,
This lousy lout – (how sad the neck he bore
And long also) – performed his usual chore:
The bus was full and he tried to get on it.

One came, a number ten – perhaps an S;
The platform joined to this plebeian carriage,
Crammed full of folk, allowed no easy passage;
Rich bastards lit cigars there, to impress.

The young giraffe described in my first strophe
Once he was on the bus began to curse an
Innocent chap – (he sought an easy trophy,

But got the worst of it); then found a seat
And sat in it. Time passed. Some wicked person,
Returning, found his buttons did not fit.

It’s similarly easy to get the gist of Cent mille milliards de poèmes, a set of ten sonnets with entirely interchangeable lines, allowing for, well, a hundred million million possible combinations. You’re more likely to encounter this work on a website than in book form, and it’s no coincidence that Queneau is referenced in every single book on games studies I currently have on loan from the library – his work is a touchstone for students in game-like literature, literature as inducement to play. The mere fact of its existence is encouraging for anyone troubled by the apparent one-sidedness of the author-reader relationship in poetry.

That much of the value and import of Queneau’s work resides in its formulation also means that he comfortably vaults the language barrier. If you don’t need to read him in English, you certainly don’t need to read him in French. This is not without drawbacks: I’ve detected for a while now a fatigue with Oulipo-inspired work by English-speaking poets, and the murmurings of complaint that the average Queneau-em lacks both purpose and substance. Arguably, anyone truly wishing to imitate the spirit of Queneau should be concocting their own formal innovations, not simply repeating his exercises. One invention of his in particular, the univocalism, long ago became the English-poetry equivalent of bicep-flexing. And it can be galling to be dismissed as an Oulipian trickster simply because one makes use of ideas that have now been around for more than half a century.

So it makes sense to turn back to the work itself, and inevitably find that there’s more to this poet than clever and hyper-restrictive forms. What I like most about Queneau (the above book isn’t the only one I’ve read, just the only one I own) is his penchant for inter-poem patterning and assemblage. It isn’t just the poems, but the books themselves that are elaborate structures. In Morale élémentaire, for instance, the latter half of the book consists of 64 prose poems based roughly on hexagrams from the I Ching. It’s like a deck of cards; it could be published as a deck of cards. Content-wise, tone-wise the poems are incredibly ranging – sprawling, even – and yet they always feel reined in, always feel marshalled. I hate to end on a cliche, but this is precisely what I consider to be missing from many poetry books that leave me cold. At the very least, it makes for a refreshing alternative. Queneau sells you the complete set, painstakingly collected, the finished sticker book, rather than giving you the junk shop tour.