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Future Karaoke: Polar Expedition at the Polar Museum, Cambridge

The next event we’re co-organising (with the Cambridge Writing Centre) is the 6th Future Karaoke event, this time with the theme of ‘Polar Expedition’. It’s a hybrid (in-person or online) event taking place at the Scott Polar Museum in Cambridge, on Wednesday 3rd April, from 6.30-8pm. 18 writers will be reading 18 new pieces based on objects from the museum. It’s free! Tickets can be booked (for in-person or online attendance) via Eventbrite.

“She saw your kindness poke fun at her crying eye just once.”

You Again: A Book of Love-Hate Stories is on half-price sale for three days, from now until Friday, and we’ve added a poem from this bitter-honey anthology to our new online collection. Read Camille Ralphs’ ‘She Learns to Count’ here, or enjoy the poem in image form below:  

Hipflask Books: Deadline Extension

The cover designs of the new Hipflask series

We’ve had some enquiries from writers saying that our original deadline for the Hipflask series call was rather too tight in terms of their being able to come up with original work. In response, we’re extending the deadline for submissions by one month to Sunday 28th November.

Hopefully that will give more of you a chance to be included in the project! We’ve had a healthy response so far, and will begin reading though these over the next month – but we won’t make any final decisions until after the new deadline has passed.

Spotlight: ‘Barotrauma’ by Chris Kerr and Daniel Holden

‘Barotrauma’ describes tissue damage resulting from changes in air and water pressure, typically rupturing the lungs or ears. It is a notable cause of death among bat populations due to them flying close to wind turbines, and Chris Kerr and Daniel Holden reach deep into the physicality of such a violent end for this short interactive sequence. It begins with a stuttering, choppy poem that documents the death in close-up, then digs into a three-way visual metaphor – corrupted data as broken body, but also as haywire psychogenetic programming. What happens when technology outpaces the evolutionary development of organic species? We misfire. We struggle to evade suffering.

The code poem at the heart of the sequence begins with a pun: ‘.bat’ is the file extension of a Windows batch file, and the poem is written in this style of scripting. Like all code poems, it plays on the tension between language as information and language as visual architecture, but here that tension has an additional significance – the code executes the animal it embodies. In living, it dies. The fleshy pinks and purples of the text against a black background are a subtle echo of the bat’s physical form, and the asemic cascade of punctuation produced by running the file resembles the fading pulses of a brain.

The final part of the sequence tasks the reader with defining the functionality of various command prompts to help the bat avoid this fate – in other words, a kind of beginner neurosurgery. How would you edit the mind of an animal – or a person – to enable it to better survive?

This sequence is part of Battalion, a compendium of meditations on bats and human—bat relations. Contributors will be reading from the book and inviting audience participation at a special event on 12th December at the Walthamstow Wetlands Centre, as part of their Wetlands Lates series. Tickets can be booked here.

Chris Kerr and Daniel Holden have previously collaborated on a collection of 12 code poems, published online and in print. These can be seen here.

Chris Kerr’s website.
Daniel Holden’s website.

National Poetry Day roundup: Catullus in the Guardian, Headbooks special offer and a cheeky Imp!

National Poetry Day has been and gone and delighted us all once again. We were thrilled that Bad Kid Catullus (thus far the only Sidekick title to receive a Parental Advisory sticker) was featured in the Guardian as one of their top 10 anthologies!

Here’s what they said:

Stone and Irving, the two poets responsible for Sidekick Books – a tiny publisher specialising in irresistible anthologies that double as compendia of jokes, puzzles, teases, weird lists and doodle pages – outdid themselves last year with this anthology of new and old poems inspired by ancient Rome’s filthiest wordsmith, Catullus. Certain concrete poems are X-rated, but if acrobatic acrostics and saucy experiments with form tickle your fancy, this is just the book for a weekend of Latin love.

To celebrate, we’ve extended our National Poetry Day sale until the end of the day on 5th October 2018. Get in quick and get four Headbooks for the price of three! Just £30 for four fizzing, bubbling interactive treasures!

Lastly, Sidekick’s own Kirsten Irving was chosen to represent her home county of Lincolnshire in the BBC’s Local Poets celebration. The project, organised by the Forward Arts Foundation in collaboration with the BBC, saw 12 poets from across England writing on the theme of Poetry for a Change.

Here’s the video for K’s poem, ‘The Lincoln Imp’s Birthday’.

AND FINALLY! The fun doesn’t end just because NPD is over. Stay tuned to our Twitter @SidekickBooks and our Instagram @sidekickbooks over the next few days for a robotastic competition. We can say no more for now…

National Poetry Day recommends Bad Kid Catullus!

Salve Citizens! We are thrilled to announce that National Poetry Day, the biggest annual event in the UK poetry calendar, organised by the Forward Arts Foundation, has selected Bad Kid Catullus as one of its recommended poetry books!
Look! He’s on the same list as Leonard Cohen!
Here’s what they have to say about Our Kid: “The scabrous, self-contradictory poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus (84BC-54BC) have been revisited many times before, and it’s always been a messy affair. But this collection throws the concept of the faithful translation to the wind, allowing poets to create their own weird, wild and shaggy versions. Readers too are challenged to write in this book, until “it’s full of vice and voluptuousness”. There’s no better way to summon and entertain the spirit of Catullus. Rude and beautiful!”

National Poetry Day is on 4th October 2018. Follow them on Twitter @PoetryDayUK and on Instagram @nationalpoetryday.

You can find an interactive map of events across the country here:

No, Robot, No! Deadline extended

Busy month? Didn’t quite pull together your proposal in time? We’ve decided to extend the submissions call for No, Robot, No! to Monday 26th March. (We will also be putting back the final deadline for successful proposals accordingly). Consult the full briefing here, and read about our thinking behind the submissions procedure here.

A new approach to submissions

The submissions call for Sidekick’s next title, No, Robot, No!, breaks with the tradition of asking writers to send in completed individual pieces. Instead, we’re looking for proposals – an idea of what you would do with 3-5 pages, your own little slice of the book. Here are a few words on our thinking behind this.

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.

Submissions Call: No, Robot, No!

Our new submissions call is live. We’re looking for writers to help us build No, Robot, No!, the third in our headbooks series. We want proposals – what would you do with 3-5 pages of this book? Collages and collaboration, calligrams and rewirings, interactive and game poetry, situationist, experimental and lyrical writing all encouraged. Please read the full brief on our Submissions page.


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