Next year sees the tenth anniversary of publishing house Burning Eye Books, who’ve produced the collections of some of my favourite UK performance poets. Their focus has been consistently on platforming the work of word-wranglers who inhabit that interesting place between poetry, theatre, music, and stand-up. The sort of people who used to be traditionally, well, invisible to standard page publishers.
People like me, I suppose.
Imposter Syndrome is a funny thing – it can have you thinking you’re cheating and faking, especially when you do well, especially if it’s taken a while for other people who at least look like arbiters of success, to recognise your achievements and skills. Especially if you’ve ever been given grief for your endeavours. It makes it difficult to put yourself forward for opportunities because, well, they’d never pick me.
Last September someone told me that the next window for submissions to Burning Eye Books would give specific emphasis to welcoming artists inhabiting that interesting place between male and female. The sort of people who used to be traditionally, well, invisible to standard institutions.
People like me, in other words.
So I, high on the adrenalin of an excellent night of slam poetry, vowed (in front of witnesses) that this time, I’d actually apply. And in the new year, having moved into a different phase of my life on several fronts, persistently encouraged by a bunch of lovely people, I made a spreadsheet (obviously) for all the poems I felt folk would want to read, and started cataloguing them. And then I got ill. And then I hurled myself during the final 48 hours before the deadline into writing a proper submission for a grown-up version of the kind of stuff I’d been producing (a sample, a bio, and a proposal for the shape of the book; why will people buy this? who are you? what makes this – and you – special?). And, for once, I wrote that down and told them. (And got friends who know their stuff to check it, and they reminded me about other things I could say, so I said them too.)
Writing poetry is easy. Delineating your literary worth in an online form? Bit more of an ask.
Anyway, you may have seen this on social media already, in much pithier, more confident-seeming formats. But, in short: Clive and Bridget looked at the proposal, and in March, they said yes…
|(Author image by Matt Widgery at the SHINDIG Storytelling Special.)|
The book is currently called Spectral. It’s going to have a very specific concept underpinning its construction, and very beautiful cover art by local Cambridge artist Sa’adiah Khan, and I’ll be producing an audiobook version to match the current release date for the physical book in March 2022. You’ll be able to buy it in bookshops and online and did I mention that I’m still freaking out about this?
Today the knowledge that this is actually happening sinks that bit further into my psyche, and I’m abruptly grateful that the process of publication takes a lot longer with big publishers than with my own platform. (Oddly enough, my label, Allographic Press, has seen other of our writers ’graduate’ to Burning Eye and… I guess I’m one too, now…?)
The tenth anniversary publications list for BE looks like a grand mixture between some of my favourite poets (including people I’ve acted with, which is an interesting bit of world-collision!), people I’ve only heard of, and others I’m really looking forward to getting to know:
So I’ll be keeping you up-to-date with progress as it goes, in between small bouts of freaking out and rushing to complete deadlines at the last minute because really… that’s not going to change any time soon, let’s face it… Expect to see at least hints of art and contents pages, and possibly the occasional flail about audiobook production and other such fun stuff. I’ll be posting on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and possibly Soundcloud about All This, but expect the longer rambles to turn up here. And yes, this may be the final impetus I need to actually update my website for the first time in… okay, I’m not going to work out how long it’s been, just crack my knuckles and get on with it!
To everyone who’s encouraged, proofread, witnessed vows, made space for me to write in, squeaked with glee, and/ or shown absolutely no surprise whatsoever when I’ve told them this news… thanks! And if you’ve read this far, thank you too!
See, it’s important to have good friends around you. Folk who’ll gently (or not-so-gently) nudge you toward the things that make your life brighter, remind you that there’s space in which you can make and grow and thrive. That there are chances for those who might have considered themselves invisible to standards they think unattainable.
People like you. And me.