In contrast to my recent post on a fascinating novel in translation from Verso, today I want to focus on an independent publisher closer to home – Salt Publishing, who hail from the East of England. They’re an imprint I wanted to feature during #ReadIndies month as I’m a great fan of their poetry releases, and that’s what I’ll be posting about here.

I’ve previously reviewed a couple of Salt books here on the Ramblings – Marina Warner’s excellent collection of short stories, “Fly Away Home“, and an unexpectedly wonderful book of poetry, “Appearances in the Bentinck Hotel” by Tim Cockburn. I loved both of these, and today’s offerings were equally impressive. Both slim collections were issued in the Salt Modern Voices range (as, I think, was the Cockburn) and they made excellent reading.

“natural histories” by Emily Hasler

Hasler’s volume was first released in 2011, so I guess any biographical information might not be up to date. However, it seems she’s also indiginous to the East of England, and has published her poetry widely as well as winning prizes for it. Since releasing NH, she seems to have issued another collection and on the strength of the Salt volume I’d be very keen on exploring this.

The poetry featured here is very much rooted in nature; but using nature as a jumping off point to explore life and emotions more deeply. There’s an immediacy to this verse which I loved, and many of the poems resonated with me. I was particularly taken with a sequence entitled “The Safe Harbour” which explored the life of Flora McDonald, known of course for her connection with Bonnie Prince Charlie; a very moving series of verses.

She blows out the stars clumps at a time
as though a dandelion clock.

Another poem which struck home was “Snow”, focusing the mind on the changes that weather condition brings, in just a few lines. Nature and the land runs through the words, and interestingly, Hasler uses a quote from Basil Bunting’s great “Briggflatts” as the epigraph to her collection. An impressive and thoughtful book of poetry and worth picking up from Salt if they still have copies.

“The Ophelia Letters” by Rebecca Tamás

Another older release from Salt, Tamás’ collection was issued in 2013 and at that point she was also publishing in journals as well as receiving the Grierson Verse Prize. Like Hasler she’s also released another collection since this one, again sounding most interesting.

As with Hasler’s collection, in Tamas’ work nature and landscape is often to the fore, although she explores more visceral territory – this is nature red in tooth and claw as they say. Meaning is not always obvious, but there is still an immediacy about the writing and some startling, vivid imagery.

There is no road to run down,
no tunnel that leads in or out.

Central to the collection (well, actually at the end of the book, and making up most of the page count!) is the long title poem; and this is a particularly powerful piece of work. Made up of nineteen sections, the verses explore a possible life of Shakespeare’s Ophelia – or possibly an amalgam of Ophelia and the poet herself. Obsession, frozen weather, sex in the snow and dark landscapes appear, while the narrator declares “Clarity, that’s what I keep looking for”. As rain and water begin to appear as motifs towards the end of the work, it’s impossible not to think that this may be prefiguring Ophelia’s eventual fate.

Tamás is another poet whose work I’d love to explore further, and indeed both of these writers have such strong individual voices that it’s not hard to see why Salt published them. Slightly annoyingly, I notice that both poets’ more recent books are rather lazily labelled by the Internet as their debut collections. That’s obvs not the case as these Salt volumes were around long before…

But that’s by the by. Both of these poetry collections were wonderful reads, full of beautifully composed words and vivid imagery. Salt Publishing are definitely one of the indies I’d recommend trying out if you can – they publish a wonderful array of titles and for poetry alone are definitely worth your time and money! 😀