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#ReadIndies – the index, 2022 version!

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As a final coda to the amazing #ReadIndies event, my wonderful co-host Lizzy has prepared a most excellent index of all of the posts celebrating the world of independent publishers and the marvellous books they publish!

You can find the results of her hard work here – do go over and check out all of the posts linked! It will be very bad for your TBR, but you’re guaranteed some very good reading. Thanks so much to everyone who’s taken part and to Lizzy for coming up with the idea – such a great event! 😀

#ReadIndies 2022 – what a reading event that was!

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Well, yesterday saw the final day of our extended #ReadIndies month, and what a wonderful event it was! I had a blast reading some marvellous books from a great array of indie publishers and as always, it’s just lovely to be able to support them and their authors. There wasn’t a dud amongst them, and it just goes to prove that some of the best books are coming from the indies.

I’m certainly not going to try to pick out favourites, as there were so many brilliant and very different reads. But what I’m most pleased about is how this event pushed me to grab lots of titles off the TBR and apart from a few review titles which came in, most of the books were ones I already owned. So a useful and extremely enjoyable exercise!

Don’t forget to leave details of your posts on the Mr. Linky Lizzy set up here – and we hope you’ve had as much fun with #ReadIndies 2022 as we have! 😀

A little #ReadIndies update!

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In response to queries, which have arisen from various quarters:

  1. Lizzy and I have too many titles we want to review. So we’re extending until 15.3.2022.
  2. Use the hashtags #ReadIndies or #ReadIndies2. Contributions using either, and published between 01.02.2022 and 15.03.2022, will be collated into the master event index.
  3. The definition of an independent publisher? There’s been some confusion particularly around US publishers. Here are two updated lists to consult, if you’re in any doubt that the book you’re reading is published independently. A) American Presses B) Independent Publishers Caucus These are in addition to the lists on the event introduction post.
  4. Titles should be chosen from the catalogues of current independent publishers.
  5. Self-published titles are not eligible for this event.

Because we have not explicitly clarified items 4 and 5 before, “rule-bending” posts, already published, will be included in this year’s master index as rule-breakers.

Don’t forget to use the Mr. Linky set up by Lizzy, which you can find here, to leave details of your posts – look forward to hearing what you read! 😀

“If death’s the merest accident, is life another?” (Peter Bennet) #mordentower @BloodaxeBooks #ReadIndies2

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One of my hopes for #ReadIndies2 is to cover a range of writing and publishing; and poetry is definitely a form which often benefits from independent publishing. In fact, one of my favourite indies is Bloodaxe Books. Founded in 1978 in Newcastle upon Tyne, and now based in Hexham, they’re a renowned publisher of poetry and a quick look over the list of names they’ve published is a real eye-opener. Simon Armitage, R.S. Thomas, Anna Akmatova, Marina Tsvetaeva, Edith Sodergran, Paul Valery, Frieda Hughes, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Benjamin Zephaniah, Mary Oliver, Denise Levertov – well, I could go on, but you get the picture… Just check out their range and you’ll be impressed!

The Newcastle connection is relevant, for as I discussed in this post back in 2019, Bloodaxe publish not only Basil Bunting’s great work “Briggflatts” but also “High on the Walls: The Morden Tower Anthology”. The latter was issued in 1990 to celebrate 25 years of poetry at the Tower, and it rather alarms me to realise that that’s longer ago now than it was from the start of the readings when it was issued in 1990… Time really does fly! Anyway, I felt this would be a good way to explore some indie-published poetry, and I wasn’t wrong. “High…” turned out to be a great way to start the month!

The anthology is constructed to house contributions from many of the poets who’d read at the Tower since the first reading in 1964. Arranged alphabetically, there is a photo (in most cases), some words from the poet and a new work by them. And the list is impressive: Bunting features, of course, and Tom Pickard (who was instrumental in starting the readings, alongside wife Connie who continues to support the Tower up until today); there’s Allan Ginsberg, Anne Stevenson, Fleur Adcock, Carol Ann Duffy, Adrian Mitchell, Liz Lochhead, Hugh MacDiarmid, Seamus Heaney, Anne Waldman – well, that’s just a few of the names I know, and there are many, many more! Connie Pickard provides a piece about the start of the readings, Tom Pickard also offers his thoughts and the cumulative effect of reading these poems is just stunning!

Morden Tower, Newcastle Town Wall cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Andrew Curtis – geograph.org.uk/p/2183976

In truth, with an anthology like this it’s best not to gulp it down all in one go, and so I didn’t. Instead, I read two or three poets between other works and it was a lovely way to approach the book – and also one which allowed me to really enjoy the poems and ponder on them. There really is an impressive range of work on show here and athough I hate picking favourites, I will highlight a few which really stood out ! For example, Bob Cobbing’s “Square Poem” was exactly what it said and stated clearly what it was!! Alistair Elliot’s “Old Bewick” was rooted in the north, exploring the Debatable Land (which I wrote about here) and the wild country away from cities and towns. Ginsberg’s generous introduction to his own poem acknowledges the importance of his visit to Morden Tower and his meeting with Basil Bunting, as well as admitting that his reading at the Tower had caused him to alter his own poetic practice.

There’s a theory that emotion is imprinted on walls like music on vinyl. If this is so, the walls of the Morden Tower must bear one of the most beautiful symphonies of passion and life. (Henry Normal)

Carole Rumens’ “Jarrow” is short, moving and beautifully written. And Ken Smith’s “Running on Empty” contained lines which resonate…

My country is falling off the back of a lorry
but I bear you no malice, Alice.
What I’m in is chargrin. It’s late,
I’m out on the road, running on empty.

Really, I could fill this post with so many quotes as “High…” is an anthology full of riches. As well as paying tribute to a place which nurtured the poetic tradition in the North East, the book is a simply wonderful introduction to a wide range of fascinating poets. The poems are powerful, often moving, funny, sad, evocative – everything poetry should be. Many of the names featured are no longer with us, or have become better known since, but all are worth reading. If you fancy exploring a fabulous collection of poems, as well as finding out a little about Morden Tower’s history, I can highly recommend this anthology; unfortunately, I think it’s out of print, but it’s definitely worth searching out if you enjoy reading verse! And do take a look at Bloodaxe’s website – they have such a great range!

Welcome to #ReadIndies 2022 :D

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#ReadIndies 2021 was such a blast, Lizzy and I decided to do it all over again. Please join us, if you can, and add your review to this year’s linky at https://readindies2022.blogspot.com/2022/01/our-indie-bookshelf.html. There’s only one rule – read anything you like, in any language you like, as long as it was published by an independent publisher.

Ah, there’s always a snag, isn’t there? Determining if a publisher is an indie is not always easy. So here’s a recap of the advice we gave last year. It’s not comprehensive but it is a start.

“In the run up to the month, the question has arisen as to what in reality counts as an Independent Publisher. That’s actually a difficult question to answer; some are obvious, when we’re talking about a smaller outfit printing and issuing their own works, like Renard Press. However, what about University presses? How can you tell whether a publisher is part of a bigger conglomerate. It *isn’t* straightforward, and so we thought we would offer a few hints or guidelines.

First off, here are some useful links:

Independent Publishers list: http://www.indiepublishers.co.uk/independent-publishers
The Independent Alliance: https://www.faber.co.uk/independent-alliance
Northern Fiction Alliance: http://northernfictionalliance.com
List of Scottish Independent Publishers: https://booksfromscotland.com/publishers
A small press directory: https://contemporarysmallpress.com/press
International Sites: https://www.alliance-editeurs.org/-reseaux-linguistiques,017-?lang=en
Publishers from Germany, Austria, Switzerland: https://www.indiebook.de
American Presses: https://medium.com/the-nonconformist/the-big-big-list-of-indie-publishers-and-small-presses-5e83e9522b5c

It’s worth noting that none of these are a complete listing, and some may contain publishers who aren’t indies! But they may well provide guidelines, particularly if you have a particular book in mind.

Another way to check is to have a look at a publisher’s website – many will proudly proclaim their independence, and their About page may give you more info on their status.

However, none of this is necessarily definitive, so we guess the best advice is to go with your gut. If a book is from a name which doesn’t seem to be connected with one of the main publishing giants, and you want to read it, go for it! The main point of this month is to read as many wonderful books as you can as well as supporting the smaller publishers who produce them.”

So what am I planning to read? I am determined to reduce the TBR if I can this year, so I’ve dug around in the stacks to find unread books from indie publishers, and my goodness am I spoiled for choice!

Here’s a good range of indies, from the political angles of Zero and Verso, through translated fiction, poetry and essays – all very appealing.

Then more non fiction, poetry and travel, including works from real indies like Confingo and Renard and Sublunary and Little Toller. Really I’d be happy to read any of those right now. And I had assembled those two piles, when some lovely review books arrived from other indies:

Fitzcarraldo were, of course, one of the catalysts of this month, and Deep Vellum a recent discovery for me. Looking forward to dipping into these!

And finally some chapbooks from Nightjar Press! They specialise in spooky short works and I’m very much hoping to get to these two!

So having looked at those piles I’ve decided that I’m going to do what I’m intending to do mostly this year – follow my reading moods and whims, and just pick up from the stacks the ones I fancy the most! After all, there’s such a variety to choose from already in my library of unread volumes that I shall certainly not be bored!

So we hope you can all join in and look forward to hearing what you all read this month – here goes with #ReadIndies 2022! 😀

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