Poetry Pamphlets: A 2011 Top Ten

-Assembled by Claire Trevien

Pamphlets make the perfect Christmas present or stocking filler. For one, they’re usually gorgeously produced objects, for another there’s something manageable and enticing about their small size. So, if you’re trying to convert a loved one to poetry, you could do worse than spring one of these chapbooks on them. This list is a mixture of favourite pamphlets reviewed on Sabotage, suggestions from others after issuing a call-out on twitter and facebook (democracy in action!) and my own subjective taste. You will find below pamphlets for wrestlers and nature-lovers, for burlesque dancers and do-gooders, for neuroscientists and performers, something for everyone then.

In no particular order:

  1. Megan Fernandes, Organ Speech, Corrupt Press. This ‘unnervingly good’ debut pamphlet is the perfect present for those dragons who ‘read / they were dinosaurs and became / conservative’. Technically rigorous stuff that handles neuroscience with learned ease and is still generous enough to let you in. Read the review here.
  2. Jon Mitchell, March and After: poems from Tsunami Country, Printed Matter Press. Christmas is all about giving, so what could be better than to offer a limited-edition pamphlet with proceeds going towards Peace Boat operations in Tohoku?
  3. Emily Hasler, Natural Histories, Tim Cockburn, Appearances in the Bentick Hotel, and Mark Burnhope, The Snowboy, all from the Salt Modern Voices pamphlet series. A special mention goes out to JT Welsch’s Orchids and Amy De’Ath’s Eric & Enide whose pamphlets, published in December of last year, narrowly miss out from the narrow criteria of a year-by-year list, but are also excellent. The whole series is worth investigating and I am cheating a little by mentioning so many as a single offering but this is in part because they look wonderful together (as well as separately).
  4. Sarah Dawson, Anatomically Incorrect Sketches of Marine Animals . For those people out there who can only read on their Kindle, Dawson’s short collection is the perfect present. Created especially for electronic consumption, the usual hindrances of reading poetry on a screen are avoided.
  5. Angus Sinclair, Another Use of Canvas, Gatehouse Press. Who said poetry can’t be butch? When the world of wrestling and poetry combine, the reader is treated to a glimpse into a new exciting world. Read the review here.
  6. Deborah Tyler-Bennett , Mytton…Dyer…Sweet Billy Gibson, Nine Arches Press. Nine Arches produce beautiful pamphlets too and the content of this one, with its larger than life personalities, is sure to be the perfect present. Hand it out, read it out loud and enjoy.
  7. Luke Kennard, Planet-Shaped HorseNine Arches Press. Many have tried to imitate Kennard’s wonderful mixture of absurdist, acerbic wit and seeming off-handedness, but very few have succeeded (a trend that’s perhaps worse than Bukowski imitations). This poem-play is a gift you should give at all times of the year. Read the review here.
  8. Kirsten Irving, What To Do, Happenstance Press. Irving needs no introduction to regular readers of Sabotage, we loved her numerous collaborative projects with Jon Stone, while this pamphlet got an excellent review from Chris Emslie here. Buy this while stocks still last because Irving is a poet to watch.
  9. James McGonigal, Cloud Pibroch, Mariscat Press. McGonigal’s pamphlet was the winner of the Michael Marks award and was also a PBS choice. Don’t let the accolades put you off, this pamphlet is a quietly impressive work that’ll make you look at nature afresh. Read the review here.
  10. Wayne Holloway-Smith, Beloved in Case You’ve Been Wondering, Donut Press. If aesthetics are your primary concerns then Donut Press should be one of your first points of call – they make thick, well-crafted objects with beautifully designed covers. Holloway-Smith’s is no exception, but the content is decadently wonderful too. Holloway-Smith gives us a world full of masks, sleeze and burlesque dancers, but of strange beauty too. It must sound like someone you know, give it to them.

A Pamphlet that I Have Not Read but Which I Am Told is Excellent

I have not read Roisin Tierney, Dream Endings (Rack Press) but it has been nominated several times so I put it forward as a Wild Card Bonus. According to the internet, it begins with the poet’s dying sister and ends with an exuberant funeral. Having read Tierney’s poetry in The Art of Wiring I can only expect this pamphlet to be an excellent & well-crafted pamphlet.

4 thoughts on “Poetry Pamphlets: A 2011 Top Ten

  • December 12, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    I wouldn’t normally throw in suggestions from our own press at this point, but as Caroline Squire’s prizewinning pamphlet An Apple Tree Spouts Philosophy is sold with the full £3 cover price going to the Cold Weather Shelters charity I think I can justify it. It was published by wardwoodpublishing.co.uk as the prize in the first Lumen/Camden Poetry Competition with all entry fees going to the same charity, and Caroline was chosen as the winner by Carol Ann Duffy, so I think the pamphlet is worth a look. I’d be happy to send a review copy. The competition is now open for the second year running, and again all proceeds are going to the homeless with no commission taken off by anybody working on the contest.

  • December 12, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    Hi Adele,
    It sounds fantastic, do send us a review copy (drop me a line at editor at sabotagereviews.com and I’ll give you my address) & thanks for the tip!

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